Sen. Garrett Won't Explain Redistricting Vote

Published 5:03 pm Tuesday, January 29, 2013

FARMVILLE – State Senator Tom Garrett jokes that his car is so familiar with the 22nd District he doesn't have to steer, but when asked why he voted for a surprise redistricting plan that splits the district up he said, “I'm not even going to go down that road…”

The senator refused last Thursday afternoon to explain to The Herald his vote supporting a Senate redistricting plan that would split the Farmville area and much of his current 22nd district into three districts, with Prince Edward County divided into two districts, one that includes part of the City of Richmond and Henrico and Chesterfield, the other including the City of Martinsville and part of the City of Danville.

The controversial plan, criticized by Governor McDonnell and Lieutenant Governor Bolling, was pushed through the State Senate on a strict 20-19 party line vote taken when Democratic Senator Henry Marsh was in Washington, D.C. attending the inauguration of President Obama.

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The exchange between The Herald and Sen. Garrett went like this:

Herald: I want to get some feedback, analysis and thoughts from you on the Senate redistricting plan. Obviously this really has a massive impact here in our community.

Sen. Garrett: Yeah. I mean, you know, essentially I have spent three years getting to know the 22nd district as it exists right now and it's funny, I even joke with people that my car even knows where to go. I don't even have to steer. That goes for Appomattox all the way up through Buckingham and down into Lynchburg. And I love the district. I find incredible shared values from one end to the other, as it relates to the type of people that I've been honored to have the opportunity to serve. And so, that's, that's where I am. Now anything, given the fact that what the process here is, anything is speculative at this point as to what's going to happen ultimately. Because obviously we've got to go through the House of Delegates and across the governor's desk, etcetera, etcetera.

Herald: Why did you support the plan?

Sen. Garrett: I'm not even going to go down that road, on the record…I, I, I can give you to, I can give you to the press guy and let him talk to you about it but I can tell you one thing-I got no complaints about my 22nd district, just like it is now.

Herald: You're not going to explain your vote?

Sen. Garrett: No, I'm not going to explain my vote; I'm not going to comment on that.

Herald: And, and why is that?

Sen. Garrett-Why am I not going to comment? I don't even know how to answer that question. I can give you the (phone) number for the caucus's press secretary, if you like…

Herald: I'm not asking why the caucus press secretary does or doesn't like the plan. You know, the people are going to want to know why you voted for a redistricting plan that, you know, does the things that it does.

Sen. Garrett: Well, all I know is I don't know what's going to happen with the plan. And so there's a whole lot-I mean anything else going forward is speculative.

Herald: How is the plan, if the constitution prescribes redistricting once every 10 years, why is doing it a second time…how would that be constitutional?

Sen. Garrett: Not my area of expertise.

Herald: What would you like to say to your constituents here?

Sen. Garrett: I've said it. I'm delighted with my district just like it is right now. I have no crystal ball to tell me where this process is going to end up.

Herald: If the plan does become law-and if I were betting I'd say it's much more likely that it won't than will-then you'll continue to represent the district and a number of people are going to say 'Hey, you voted to split us into three different districts' and do you think what's happened so far, and if the redistricting plan does not become law and the districts remain as they are now, that your vote will affect your relationship with the people in this community?

Sen. Garrett: I think my service to the district and the constituents who've given me the opportunity to serve will be what we're ultimately judged on in conjunction with our record and I feel pretty good about that.

Herald: Anything else you want to say?

Sen. Garrett: No, not really. You got anything else? Is there anything else going on down here that you're interested in?

Herald: Not to the degree of this because this surprised the hell out of everybody.

Senator Garrett then went on, unprompted, to discuss prospects for transportation funding and Governor McDonnell's proposal to eliminate the gas tax and raise the sales tax for transportation funding instead.

Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward, currently all in the 22nd Senate district, are split into three different State Senate districts in the surprise redistricting plan.

Prince Edward County would be divided between two Senate districts, one of them including part of the City of Richmond and Henrico County, the other including the City of Martinsville and part of Danville.

“Wow, that sounds like fun. I just don't understand what they're doing. It just doesn't make sense,” said Farmville Town Manager Gerald Spates, when informed of the plan's details on Wednesday.

“I don't want to be put in with the City of Richmond, not that I dislike Richmond but we'll just get thrown into the backseat,” he said regarding his fears the community's rural voice will be diminished in a district that also includes parts of the City of Richmond, Henrico County, and Chesterfield County.

The Virginia Constitution states that redistricting will occur once every ten years, following the national Census, and the General Assembly performed that duty in 2011, passing a redistricting plan that was signed into law by the governor and approved by the U.S. Department of Justice. The local result was a compact Senate district that included the core localities in the Farmville area.

The redistricting plan passed by the Senate on Monday would put all of Sen. Garrett's home county of Louisa in his 22nd district. Louisa is currently split between the 22nd and the 17th districts.

The plan must be passed by the House of Delegates, signed by the governor and approved by the United States Department of Justice before it becomes law. The House of Delegates was expected to address the plan on Tuesday.

If the redistricting plan does take effect the local impact would be:

Buckingham-seven precincts in the 10th Senate District represented by Sen. Watkins: Curdsville, Gold Hill, Maysville, New Canton, New Store, Slate River and White Hall; and then two precincts in the 22nd Senate District represented by Sen. Garrett: Glenmore and Wrights. The Georgia Creek precinct is omitted in the redistricting plan, which was based on precincts that existed as of April 1, 2011. Georgia Creek became a precinct effective June 1, 2011. Prior to that, Georgia Creek precinct's residents were included in the New Canton precinct.

Cumberland-the entire county is in the 10th Senate District, represented by Sen. Watkins.

Prince Edward-six precincts in the 10th Senate District of Sen. Watkins: Buffalo Heights, Center, Farmville, Lockett, Prospect and West End; and then four precincts in the 15th Senate District of Sen. Ruff: Darlington Heights, Hampden, Leigh, and Mount Pleasant.

Reacting to the vote being taken when Sen. Marsh was at the inauguration, Spates observed, “I think the way they did it was, I don't know all the particulars, but I don't know if that was the proper way to do it.”

Farmville's town manager compared it with Town Council “waiting until two or three of your council members are gone to vote on some critical issue that they had an interest in.”