Oliver North said yesterday he’s resigned to remaining a radio talk- show host given that the congressional redistricting proposals now before the General Assembly leave him without a seat to run for.
State lawmakers convened in Richmond yesterday to redraw the state’s 11 congressional districts based on the 2000 census numbers. Some Republicans had tossed around the idea that Mr. North could run for the 9th District seat currently held by Rep. Rick Boucher, a Democrat.
But none of the proposed maps draws the 9th, which covers the state’s southwestern corner, far enough north to include Mr. North’s home in Clarke County, west of Loudoun County. Without that, Mr. North said he won’t run.
“This is not my call. This is apparently the call of the people in the House of Delegates and the Senate. They’re the ones that get to decide,” said Mr. North, the Iran-Contra figure who lost the state’s most expensive race ever in 1994 to Sen. Charles S. Robb.
Mr. North had welcomed the idea and encouraged supporters, even traveling to a 9th Congressional District Republican committee meeting, where members voted 23-3 to endorse redrawing the district to include him. But he also said he didn’t want to disturb other solidly Republican districts that lie between the 9th and his home.
He said he won’t move to run and won’t run for the seat if he doesn’t live in the district.
“That’s the kind of thing the Kennedys do and the Hillary Clintons do,” he said. “It’s not right.”
He also said he’s happy to be hosting his political talk show.
“I’m having a lot of fun, I’m very successful at it, I’ve got a lot to do, so I’m not hurting for work,” he said. “But I would also have given that up to be a congressman, and there’s no doubt in my mind I could beat Boucher.”
Virginia is represented in the U.S. House by seven Republicans, three Democrats and one Republican-leaning independent.
Yesterday was the first day of the General Assembly’s congressional redistricting session, which is controlled by Republicans for the first time.
A House committee is expected to vote today on a Republican-backed plan, sponsored by Delegate Jeannemarie A. Devolites of Fairfax, that would create safer seats for all GOP incumbents and add a third Republican to the Northern Virginia delegation.
Several members of the House Committee on Privileges and Elections, which went over the plan yesterday, said they expected to approve it, barring any substantial changes.
“It will pass, assuming the Republican coalition will stay with it,” said Delegate Marian Van Landingham, Alexandria Democrat and committee co-chairman. “They’ve got the votes they need to pass it.”
However, a member of the Coalition for Equal Justice, which represents black interest groups, called Mrs. Devolites’ plan “racially motivated” and “segregated,” and warned of race riots if it is approved.
“People are angry, and Virginia now sits on a spark of a race riot,” said Roy Perry-Bey, a coalition member who made the comments at yesterday’s committee meeting. “This is not the best our government can do. We object to all plans. You just can’t go into a district and pluck a few blacks from here and a few blacks from there and put them over here. It’s a segregated plan and it’s about exclusion.”
Delegate John S. Reid, Richmond Republican, defended his party’s proposed plan.
“Only one state has elected a black governor, and that’s the state of Virginia,” Mr. Reid said.
Under the proposal, all three Northern Virginia U.S. representatives — Republican Thomas M. Davis III and Frank R. Wolf, and Democrat James P. Moran Jr. — would keep their constituent bases.
Mr. Davis would pick up constituents in Mount Vernon and several precincts from Mr. Moran and Mr. Wolf. In return, Mr. Moran’s district, which includes several areas in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church, would pick up Democratic-leaning voters in Reston.
Mr. Wolf will lose the upper part of Shenandoah Valley, which is predominantly Republican, but will keep Winchester and Loudoun and Fauquier counties.
Rep. Jo Ann Davis, Stafford Republican, would become the fourth Northern Virginia representative under the proposed bill. Mrs. Davis, who currently represents the 1st District, which covers all counties southeast of Stafford County, would now represent the southern part of Prince William County.
The plan would also help two of the state’s three Democratic congressmen: Mr. Boucher and Robert C. Scott, the state’s only black congressman.
Mr. Boucher’s 9th District would become slightly more Republican, but he would not have to run against Mr. North.
Mr. Scott’s 3rd District, which currently stretches from the southeastern part of Richmond to Norfolk, would now include the northeastern part of Richmond and the city of Portsmouth, which is just south of Norfolk.
In an effort to prevent the packing of minorities into Mr. Scott’s revised district, Mrs. Devolites’ plan places additional black precincts from Chesapeake into the 4th District, where last month former state Sen. J. Randy Forbes, a Republican, beat out Democratic state Sen. L. Louise Lucas for the congressional seat.
If the General Assembly approves the proposal, it will go before the Justice Department, which will review the plan to determine if it has an adverse effect on minorities under the federal Voting Rights Act.
* Ellen Sorokin contributed to this report from Richmond.