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by Brandon Jarvis

State Senate Democrats sent a letter to the Virginia Supreme Court asking them to disqualify the Republican special master nominees who are being vetted for the job to draw Virginia’s legislative districts.

The state Supreme Court is choosing special masters to draw the legislative lines after the bipartisan Redistricting Commission collapsed leaving the task at the feet of Virginia’s highest court. Leadership from both parties in the General Assembly submitted three names for consideration. The court will choose one person from each list to draw the maps. 

The Senate Democrats have a problem with all three Republican nominees, however. 

“On behalf of the Senate Democratic Caucus, I write to advise the Court of the significant, disqualifying conflicts of interest of the three special master nominees offered by the minority caucuses of the Senate and House of Delegates,” Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw wrote in a letter that was sent to the Supreme Court of Virginia Monday. 

The Senate Democrats cite Section 30-399(F) of the Virginia Code and the Virginia Supreme Court’s Redistricting Rule 2(b), which says “the persons appointed to serve as special masters should have the requisite qualifications and experience to serve as a special master and should have no conflicts of interest.” 

Thomas Bryan, one of the Republican nominees was paid $20,000 by Virginia Senate Republicans for consultant fees in September. Another Republican nominee is Adam Kincaid, the current Executive Director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust. He has previously worked for the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the Republican Governors Association. The final Republican special master nominee is Adam Foltz; he is a Republican operative who worked on the map-drawing in Wisconsin in 2010 where a federal court found partisan gerrymandering.

“Courts are supposed to be free of politics—which is why we enacted conflict of interest provisions in the enabling legislation for the nonpartisan redistricting constitutional amendment, and the Republican caucuses have asked the Supreme Court of Virginia to effectively sanction partisan map drawing,” said Senate Democratic Vice-Chair Scott Surovell.

Senate Republican spokesperson Jeff Ryer said Democratic nominees are “all extreme-left academics with well-demonstrated records of considering one and only one criteria when it comes to drawing district lines: What will benefit Democrats most.”

House Republicans provided no immediate response to Virginia Scope.

The special masters will be tasked with creating the district boundaries for Virginia’s House of Delegates, Senate, and congressional delegation. Virginia has already missed having one election under new lines, last week, with the delays in redistricting that first began under the Trump administration. There is currently a federal lawsuit from Paul Goldman seeking to force House of Delegates candidates to run again next year. It is unclear where that lawsuit stands at this time, but if successful, it would mean House of Delegates candidates in Virginia would have to run three years in a row; 2021, 2022, and 2023.

It is not clear what the court will consider a conflict of interest.

This is a developing story.

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By vascope

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