“I can support either one of them. I know that Virginia Trost is from the Forest area, she is a chemical engineer and a lawyer and a math major and a pretty smart lady,” Senator Stephen Newman (R-Bedford) told the commission.
Gilliam was the only citizen member from Southwest Virginia or from west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, according to The Virginia Public Access Project. Commission members emphasized the importance of making sure Southwestern Virginia was represented by the commission.
Senator George Barker (D-Fairfax) also spoke in favor of Trost-Thornton.
“I also think it’s very important that we try to get someone who’s as close to Southwest Virginia as we can to replace Mr. Gilliam, because we’ll now be lacking a citizen member from that area,” Barker said.
He said initial population estimates suggest that Southern Virginia will lose representation in the redistricting process, making it especially important to have the area represented in the commission.
Republican Co-Chair Mackenzie Babichenko told the commission that there had been discussions by email and phone with commission members over their preference from the 12 potential replacements remaining on a list from Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City.) Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax) and other citizen member Sean Kumar said they hadn’t been fully involved in those conversations.
Babichenko said two candidates had received support from multiple members. The other, Jeff Bolander, only received seven votes, short of the eight-vote majority needed to nominate him. Trost-Thornton received 13 votes with two abstentions.
The commission voted to hold its next meeting in two weeks on August 3. Members also discussed details including criteria for the new districts and how involved the commission will be with map-drawing — whether members will be intimately involved with map-drawing or just approve maps drawn by professional map-drawers.
After the main part of the agenda was completed, several members left the meeting, breaking quorum even though several public speakers were scheduled. The speakers gave their comments to the remaining members.
The commission’s next meeting is the day after the General Assembly convenes its special session. That complicates the schedule for the legislator members of the commission.
Halfway through August, the commission is expected to receive the U.S. Census data needed. That will trigger a 45-day deadline for the commission to send its proposed maps to the General Assembly for approval.
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