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Warren faces redistricting shakeup

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County's representation would be split among trio of delegates if proposal passes

By Ben Orcutt -- borcutt@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- If a proposed redistricting plan is approved by state legislators next week, Warren County will be split into three House of Delegates districts.

Under the current alignment, Del. Clifford L. "Clay" Athey Jr.'s 18th District includes all of Warren County and portions of Frederick and Fauquier counties.

Athey, R-Front Royal, announced on Tuesday he would not seek a sixth term in office due to family reasons. He said Wednesday that the redistricting had nothing to do with his decision not to seek re-election.

Under the pending plan before the House, the 18th District would include all of Rappahannock County and portions of Culpeper, Fauquier and Warren counties.
The precincts in Warren County that would remain in the 18th District are East Shenandoah, Happy Creek, Linden and South River.

Under the new redistricting plan, the 15th District, now represented by Republican Del. Todd Gilbert, would have all of Page and Shenandoah counties, a portion of Rockingham County and a portion of Warren County.

Gilbert's Warren County precincts under the new plan would be Bentonville, Browntown, Fork Town, Otterburn and Waterlick.

If the plan is approved, Republican Del. Beverly J. Sherwood's 29th District would include all of the city of Winchester, portions of Frederick County and the remaining precincts in Warren County.

Sherwood's Warren County precincts would be North River, Reliance, Riverton and West Shenandoah.

Under the proposed plan, a new 10th District would take in portions of Clarke, Frederick and Loudoun counties.

"That is all the proposed language of the bill that was filed by Del. Chris Jones [R-Suffolk], who is spearheading the House redistricting effort," Gilbert said Wednesday.

Gilbert said that Frederick County would also be split into three different legislative districts under the new plan, and Clarke County into two.

"So you know Warren is not unique, nor is it unique in the rest of the state," Gilbert said. "Some counties are kept whole and others are not able to be based on the population issues they have to deal with in trying to create districts that are fair and even and balanced.

"The problem is that you have to create districts that are within a certain margin of error in terms of population, and the target is somewhere just above 80,000 people. My district, even though the core of it I guess is still Shenandoah and Page counties, they can't get me up to that target population without having me go into other counties as well, so it's just the way it works out."

"I'm sort of lucky that I have West Virginia on one side that they can't do too much to us," Gilbert added.

Gilbert said he has mixed feelings about his new district because he forged good relationships in Rappahannock County. However, he said he is looking forward to serving portions of Warren County, where he was an assistant commonwealth's attorney for two years.

Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, said his district would be relatively unchanged under the proposed Democratic plan, but there would be some change in Rockingham County under the Republican plan pending before the Senate.

His current district includes Harrisonburg and all of Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren counties, and about half of Rockingham County.

"I am comfortable with the parameters of my district under either of those plans," Obenshain said. "With respect to my district there's very little that changes under either of those plans from the status quo."

Obenshain said if approved, the new House and Senate redistricting plans would be in effect for the upcoming November election.

It appears that Republican Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel's 27th District will not be changed that much, either. Vogel did not return a telephone message left for her on Wednesday.
Sherwood said redistricting would make her district more "rural than it was, although I've gained back some of Frederick County that I represented at one time, so that's very good."

Sherwood said she was a farmer for 30 years "so representing a rural area is what it's all about. I love representing the valley. ... It has added some new precincts, so I have new people to get to know and I think that's rather exciting."

Sherwood said that she is comfortable with Del. Joe May, R-Leesburg, representing current constituents east of Interstate 81 who would be in the proposed realigned 33rd District.

"And as far as the new areas that I'm picking up, because I have been a conferee and on appropriations, I've been looking out for the precincts in Warren County even though Del. Athey had certainly been the representative," Sherwood said. "So we have worked together over the years in that regard, so it's not totally a new experience for me, but there will be people to meet and that's exciting."

Sherwood predicts that the Jones plan for redistricting will pass.

"The Jones plan was worked on by a great many people and they had guidelines that they had to go by, numbers that they had to deal with," Sherwood said. "I would assume that all their work will be passed probably at this coming redistricting session."

1 Comment

"Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall".

Re-districting took away Athey' s throne, carved his kingdom into three pieces and gave those spoils to the neighbors. He was left holding his bag of UDA tricks and slowly twisting in the wind. This is the political thanks he gets for the Richmond reputation he created. Those flowery words of empty praise from Gov. McConnell and Speaker Howell were the political kiss-off equivalent to 'Hey kid, get off our lawn'. A few loyal Good Ol' Boy supporters will shed crocodile tears; everybody else will dance in the streets, stomping mud-holes into the Athey legacy.

To the re-districting victors go the spoils; now comes the loser claiming he will spend more time tottering around the romper room playing with the grandkids (and perhaps reciting nursery rhymes too?).

And the lawyer business won't be what it used to be. Warren County's rural heritage has a chance for survival.

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