Tuesday the citizens of Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District reminded Eric Cantor of he’s only human. They also reminded us of the potentially unintended consequences of Gerrymandering. As we should have learned in high school, Gerrymandering is that grand old American practice of manipulating election district borders to assure my party has more safe seats than your party.
Virginia is a purple state: apt to go Republican or Democrat in any particular election based on a single issue or the personality of a candidate. Therefore every ten years the Virginia Assembly members try to assure their party the maximum number of safe seats from among its current eleven Representatives. The practical result has been conceding the Third District (most of Richmond and liberal enclaves along the James River—see map) to the Democrats and the Seventh District (encompassing the conservative areas west and north of Richmond) to the Republicans.
There Eric Cantor was safely elected year after year since 2000. In recent elections the Democrats have wasted little effort (read here: money) on opposing him. Ah, but there in lies the rub. The Seventh District is so conservative that this year a political neophyte successfully challenged Cantor for not being conservative enough!
So, Republicans find themselves with Dr. Dave Brat as their candidate for this year’s election. As a result, if Democrat candidate Jack Trammell is moderate enough, Republicans could lose their “safe seat.” If not, Democrats may find Cantor replaced with an even more conservative representative.
Be careful what you wish for.