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New General Assembly maps pair plenty of incumbents

State Senate Redistricting Map
Supreme Court of Virginia
A map of the adopted state Senate districts

Imagine the scenario for Republican Senator Emmett Hanger. If he decided to run in the newly created Senate District 2. He might have to run in a primary against longtime Republican Senator Mark Obenshain and then in a general election against longtime Democratic Senator Creigh Deeds. That might happen under new political maps drawn by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

"Imagine that, facing an incumbent member to win the party primary and then facing another incumbent," says Mark Rozell. Rozell is dean of the Schar School at George Mason University.

He says the maps that the Supreme Court justices have come up with are much better than the old gerrymandered districts. "What they've created are remarkably compact and contiguous districts, which is the constitutional standard without regard to incumbency status and who's likely to keep their seat or who's likely to lose it."

More than 50 members of the General Assembly are now in districts that include another incumbent. A dozen members are in districts that now have three incumbents. Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says this is unprecedented, at least in modern times. "Incumbent versus incumbent because both of the candidates or in some cases all three of the candidates have already demonstrated they can win elections."

Unlike members of Congress, members of the General Assembly are required to live in districts that they represent. That means almost half of the existing members will soon face a difficult choice: run against an incumbent, move to a new district or find some way to gracefully bow out.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.