- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2001

RICHMOND — The Virginia General Assembly approved a Republican-backed congressional-redistricting plan yesterday, despite complaints from Democrats who say the new boundaries will dilute minority-voting strength.
The plan — authored by Republican Delegate Jeannemarie A. Devolites — increases re-election chances for seven GOP incumbents, helps two Democratic incumbents keep their seats and adds a third Republican to the Northern Virginia congressional delegation.
Democrats argue the plan also packs black voters in the 3rd District, which is represented by the state's only black congressman.
"The voters in [the Tidewater area] have been dealt a grave injustice," said state Sen. L. Louise Lucas, Portsmouth Democrat, whose constituents will be affected by the plan. "They lose the ability to elect a candidate of their choice."
Republicans said the plan will work and will fight any resistance to it. "This was a good compromise," said Delegate John H. "Jack" Rust Jr., Fairfax Republican, who supported the Devolites plan. "There's still some complaints and there will be more, so we've got a long way to go."
The House voted 61-31 to adopt the plan. The Senate approved it 20-16.
The plan now goes before Gov. James S. Gilmore III, who is expected to approve it. It will then be reviewed by the Justice Department, which will determine whether it has an adverse effect on minorities under the federal Voting Rights Act. Delegate Kenneth R. Plum, Fairfax Democrat, said it will damage black-white relations. "It's a step back in terms of race relations in Virginia. We try to go forward on this issue and, sadly, we've taken a step back," he said.
Under the plan, the 4th District will see its black population reduced from 39 percent to 33.6 percent, a move some Democrats contend would increase re-election chances for Rep. J. Randy Forbes, Chesapeake Republican.
Mr. Forbes, who is white, narrowly defeated Mrs. Lucas, who is black, in a special congressional election last month.
The 4th District will now include all of Chesapeake and Isle of Wight, but will no longer cover the western section of Portsmouth, which is predominantly black. Portsmouth will now become part of Rep. Robert C. Scott's 3rd District, which keeps the mostly black precincts in Hampton and Newport News. Mr. Scott is the state's only black congressman.
"I hate to see packing and diluting minorities," said state Sen. Leslie L. Byrne, Fairfax Democrat, who voted against the plan.
Republicans refuted the argument that minorities would be crammed into one district.
State Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle, a Virginia Beach Republican who sponsored an identical bill in the Senate, said his plan actually reduces black voter representation in the 3rd District, though he added it will still have a high minority population. "The allegations don't make any sense," he said.
State Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., Fauquier Republican, said he was proud of the work Mr. Stolle and Mrs. Devolites had done on the plan.
"It's not a perfect plan, but there's no way to come up with a perfect plan," said Mr. Potts, whose legislative district will be split in two under the plan. "You do the best you can, and at the end of the day, I'm proud."
In Northern Virginia, the plan will slightly rearrange the area's three congressional districts, in which all three incumbent U.S. representatives will see their constituent bases expand along their respective party lines.
Republican Rep. Thomas M. Davis III picks up constituents in Mount Vernon and several precincts in districts currently represented by Reps. James P. Moran, a Democrat, and Frank R. Wolf, a Republican.
In return, Mr. Moran's district, which includes several areas in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church, picks up Democratic-leaning voters in Reston.
Mr. Wolf loses the upper part of Shenandoah Valley, which is predominantly Republican, but keeps Winchester and Loudoun and Fauquier counties.
Rep. Jo Ann Davis, Stafford Republican, will become the fourth Northern Virginia representative under the plan, which expands her 1st Congressional District all the way into southern Prince William County.

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