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Marsden: GOP Redistricting Attempt a 'Sad Day for the Commonwealth'

Narrowly passed surprise legislation would shift Marsden's 37th District, mainly into Prince William County.

The surprise legislation proposed and passed Monday by Virginia's Senate — which would redraw some of state senate district lines in favor of Republicans — is "a sad day for the Commonwealth," State Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37th) said Tuesday morning.

Virginia's Senate Republicans tacked on the redistricting proposal as an amendment to a larger bill, saying the move would help better represent African Americans in some of the state's districts.

But opponents of the measure — introduced by Sen. John Watkins (R-10th), who represents a district west of Richmond — say it was an "underhanded" way to give Republicans a senate majority: The state Senate is currently split between Democrats and Republicans; some say the end result would leave Democrats only 13 Senate districts.

The 20-19 vote was taken while Democratic State Sen. Harry Marsh, a 79-year-old civil rights leader, traveled to Washington for President Obama's second inauguration. 

"It was a complete surprise," Marsden told Patch on Tuesday morning. "They're calling it 'technical adjustments,' but you can only make changes [to districts] in years ending in '1'. I don't understand why they're going down this unconstitutional path."

As it's drawn now, the 37th District wiggles through parts of Annandale, Burke, Fairfax Station, Centreville and Chantilly.

The proposed legislation redraws those lines so Marsden would represent more of Prince William County, and much less of Fairfax County. It makes George Barker's district highly difficult" for a Democrat to win, Marsden points out.

Four other senate districts would see lines significantly change under the bill, which was reportedly also a surprise to Gov. Bob McDonnell.

The governor "is not happy about it," Marsden said. "He wanted to concentrate on transportation."

The legislation now goes to the Republican-controlled House.

"I don't know what the House is going to do," Marsden said. "It will go to the House for them to approve. If they approve it, there's a chance the governor could veto it."

"I love this job. It's a real honor serving, but it takes a good bit of the edge off when you don't feel proud to serve with some of the people you're serving with," he added.

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