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GOP redistricting: what was Hanger thinking?

One of the questions being asked around the state Capitol this week is why Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, would vote for a redistricting plan that combines his district with another senator’s.

The state Senate Republicans surprised most of Capitol Square Monday — and infuriated Democrats — by introducing a plan to redraw the 40 state Senate districts, after the legislature had already finished its decennial redistricting in 2011.

The Republican plan would create a new majority-minority Senate district in Southside, but also combines two existing districts: Hanger’s and the district held by Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath.

It took all 20 Republican votes ,including Hanger’s, to pass the new plan through the Senate.

Today Hanger said he supported the plan — even though if passed, it would require him to run against Deeds, if they both run for re-election — because he felt that overall, it was a better district map than the one drawn by Democrats in 2011.

“I was convinced that the overall work product was better … for me, not so good, I was content with what I had,” Hanger said. His current district includes part of Culpeper County.

But, he said, he didn’t want to be the “fly in the ointment” for his colleague’s plans. He felt that if the plan was good, it would pass, and if it wasn’t, the legislative process would take care of it in the end.

Hanger said he was troubled by how he and his fellow Republicans pushed through their proposal — by waiting for a day when a Democratic senator in the evenly-split chamber was absent.

As it turned out, that happened on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when a civil rights attorney, Sen. Henry Marsh, was absent to attend the inauguration.

While Hanger said that bothered him, he still voted with his caucus against a Democratic motion to hold the bill until a day when all senators were present.

Why? “I have asked myself that question,” Hanger said.

But, he said, he was supporting his caucus.

“At that moment I was comfortable advancing that,” Hanger said. “If it has merit, it will survive the process.”

He said he and Deeds have talked about a potential future in which they’re opponents on the campaign trail.

“Neither of us feel we’re in an adversarial position,” Hanger said.

Asked if he’s planning to run again for state Senate in 2015 — when the proposed new districts would take effect — Hanger laughed.

“Hadn’t thought that far ahead,” he said. “I have no reason not to.”

The Senate’s plan has been sitting in the House for several days, awaiting action. It was an amendment to an already-passed House bill, so it goes straight to the full House without detouring through a committee. So far House leaders have passed it by for the past two days. It’s on today’s calendar as well; the House convenes today at noon.


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