Del. Chris Jones’ surprise redistricting plan maintains status quo, but with some Democratic support

Republican Del. Chris Jones put forward a surprise redistricting proposal Wednesday that, like a Republican plan that came before it, intentionally avoids skewing the current balance in the House of Delegates, where Republicans are hanging on to a 51-49 majority.

“This bill does not advantage one side versus the other,” Jones told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

But unlike the previous plan Republicans put forward, Jones’ proposal comes with a handful of Democrats already on board.

“I believe that the focus in 2019 will be a more permanent solution – to create a system that fairly draws political lines,” Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler, D-Virginia Beach, told the Times-Dispatch. “But at this time, this is something that the legislature is required to address, and Hampton Roads can lead these efforts and bring everyone to the table.”

It remains unclear how the larger body of Democrats will receive Jones’ plan, but Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox has signaled he supports Jones’ proposal.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jones’ proposal leaves his own seat in Suffolk virtually unchanged in terms of political make up — a major departure from the proposal put forward by Democrats last month that would have shifted a huge number of the party’s voters into his district. It also leaves four other seats targeted by Democrats in their proposal more-or-less unscathed.

Like the Republican plan already put forward by Del. Rob Bell, it makes minor concessions to Democrats in the form of modest gains in two Richmond-area seats they nabbed from Republicans last year: The 68th District, which Democrat Dawn Adams won in a surprise victory over longtime Republican Manoli Loupassi; and the 72nd District, which Democrat Schuyler VanValkenburg picked up after Republican Del. Jimmie Massie retired.

The proposal comes a day before the House elections committee is set to take up two redistricting plans: one by House Republicans and one by House Democrats. The General Assembly is up against an Oct. 30 deadline to pass a proposal that corrects unconstitutional gerrymandering in 11 majority black districts.