On Oct. 4, Sen. David Suetterlein, who represents part of the Smith Mountain Lake area, addressed the Redistricting Commission at its 10 a.m. Southwest Regional Virtual Hearing and made the following remarks (in italic) regarding the latest Democratic redistricting-drawn proposal for Southwest Virginia:
Thank you. Good morning. I’m David Suetterlein, I live in Roanoke County, and if you could all direct your attention to map B4, that’s what I would like to address this morning.
All right thank you, I’m one of the two primary presumed beneficiaries of the proposed gerrymander that was introduced on Saturday. As you look at map B4 you can see an area called Cave Spring in southern Roanoke County, it is not usually considered a peninsula, but that is what it would be under this gerrymander. By including that peninsula that splits my neighborhood, it puts me two blocks from the line in that Senate district and it puts me in this district that won’t include my children’s elementary school classmates but will include tens of thousands of very Republican voters that live pretty far from me in Giles County and Bath County. Not folks that we would regularly run into at the grocery store or have that quick of access to those of us nearby. Instead (those neighbors are in a district that) cuts through Cave Spring and jets through Vinton, up Bent Mountain, and through a very narrow portion of Montgomery County to connect in a serpentine fashion to Roanoke city to the Riner community in Montgomery and Radford and Blacksburg in the adjacent district, which is very Democratic.
The gerrymander creates a district that I would now be a resident of that has two Congressional constituents, and also substantial constituencies across three state judicial circuits, three community college service areas, and within four planning districts. It also splits up in the Roanoke valley, the Cave Spring and Hidden Valley school pyramids, three of Roanoke counties five magisterial districts, and Montgomery county manages to divide up three of their four school pyramids. This district makes no sense except to serve partisan purposes. I currently represent a district that was similarly drawn 10 years ago and makes it much more difficult for folks to access their legislature, so I would hope that this commission that was bound to prevent gerrymandering that happened in years past, would reject this map.
Also, I think it is very unfair to include a small county like Bath County, with a smaller population so far away from the population centers of the district, instead of placing them with their logical neighboring jurisdictions in Augusta and Highland.
I think this basically represents a political smash-and-grab, trying to divide the Roanoke Valley needlessly, and unnecessarily distancing candidates from the likely voters that they would be seeking, and worst of all from the constituents from their likely legislators. No matter where the legislators come from in this proposed 38th district, it is very hard for a significant number of them to live close to their legislator. And so needlessly.
I thank you for your time, and I hope you will reject this partisan gerrymander, even though it would be a political benefit to myself and another incumbent senator and hope you will instead draw the lines to the benefits of the 400,000 people in the Roanoke Valley, New River Valley and Alleghany Highlands that would be affected.
The Redistricting Commission’s Southwest Region Virtual Hearing can be viewed by visiting the “VA Redistricting” channel on YouTube.
Suetterlein was elected to a second term in November 2019 to a second term representing Salem and Bedford, Carroll, Floyd, Franklin, Montgomery, Roanoke and Wythe counties in the Virginia Senate. He lives in Roanoke County with his wife where their children attend public schools. He is a realtor with the Roanoke Valley owned and operated MKB, Realtors.
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