- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 4, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is helping lead a new national effort to give Democrats a greater say in drawing future congressional boundaries.

The Democratic Governors Association announced Tuesday that McAuliffe will co-chair a new redistricting fund aimed at ensuring Democratic governors in key states hold power in 2020, when states will begin redrawing congressional maps.

State legislatures are the main drivers on redistricting matters in most states, but governors have a say in 35, according to the association. Some states have independent redistricting commissions.

McAuliffe will partner with EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock on fundraising and promoting the association’s effort at putting Democrats in governor’s mansions where they can influence the redistricting process.

The Democratic Governors Association said the aim of the initiative was to prevent gerrymandered congressional districts.

“Democratic governors can assure that bad maps don’t get passed,” said Jared Leopold, a spokesman for the group.

Leopold said the association plans to raise and spend “tens of millions” of dollars on the new initiative, which is being called the 2020 Redistricting Fund.

Before becoming governor, McAuliffe spent much of his career as a top fundraiser for national Democrats and has close ties to many major donors.

Republicans ran similar redistricting-focused effort in 2010 with much success, which has helped the GOP maintain a sizeable majority in the U.S. House. In Virginia, Republicans control 8 out of 11 congressional districts, despite the fact that GOP candidates haven’t won statewide office since 2009.

State lawmakers are due back in Richmond Aug. 17 for a special session on redistricting because a federal court found legislators illegally packed black voters into one district in order to make adjacent districts safer for Republican incumbents in a 2012 redistricting plan.

McAuliffe and state Republicans have been sparring in recent months over redistricting, and Republicans said Tuesday’s announcement was a sign of the governor’s true motives.

“Redistricting is inherently part of the political process,” said Republican House Speaker William J. Howell’s spokesman Matthew Moran, “but the governor is browbeating Republicans on a regular basis and sanctimoniously calling for so-called independent redistricting while leading the charge on national partisan redistricting efforts for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.”

But McAuliffe’s spokesman Brian Coy said the governor’s efforts with the Democratic Governors Association are an extension of his actions on the state level.

“Unlike his Republican’s colleagues, the governor believes that legislative lines should reflect the true makeup of this commonwealth not the political ambitions of the politicians who draw them,” Coy said.

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