There is no rest for the election weary.
Goochlanders have one more opportunity to go to the polls before the 2016 election season is over. A special election on January 10 will select a successor to Tom Garrett, who won the 5th District seat the United States Congress in November, leaves the 22nd State Senate seat vacant.
Garrett was first elected to the state senate in 2011, as the 22nd District was reconfigured to include all of Goochland. Previously, the eastern third of the county was part of a senate district that included western Henrico precincts, and the remainder of the county was in a state senate district that included Powhatan County.
The boundaries of the new and improved 22nd district changed as the General Assembly wrangled with the United States Justice Department about the appropriate voter composition of the District. It was supposedly drawn as a safe republican district. The current and former 22nd Districts, according to the Virginia Public Access Page(http://www.vpap.org/offices/state-senate-22/redistricting/), have no common territory. Before 2011, the 22nd District included Roanoke and Blacksburg and surrounding territory. The new 22nd stretches from north of Lynchburg, to the Goochland/Henrico line and includes an odd-shaped chunk of Louisa County.
While we will probably never know all the machinations involved in creating the 22nd District, it seems clear that joining communities with common interests and challenges was not high on the priority list.
Garrett, elected Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney in 2007, was chosen to carry the GOP banner following a contentious 2011 primary battle, and won the seat in the general election. He eventually moved to Buckingham, which is roughly in the center of the District.
Garrett got his start in politics as an aide to our former Delegate Bill Janis, who was succeeded by Peter Farrell. Until recently, Garrett kept a law office in Goochland Courthouse. During his time in the General Assembly, Garrett worked with the other members of our delegation to sponsor and shepherd bills beneficial to Goochland through the legislative process.
The current 22nd Senate district is huge, by some estimates taking more than two hours to drive from one end to the other. The candidate that prevails on January 10 will have a challenge keeping up with his 196,185 constituents. Goochland has approximately 22,000 people.
Goochland is the sole jurisdiction in the 22nd District that is attitudinally and economically in Richmond’s orbit. The remainder of the district “faces” west toward Charlottesville, Farmville, and Lynchburg.
Right now, state politicians are concentrating on the balance power in the 40-seat senate. Representing their constituents has moved to the back burner. Currently, the republicans hold a 21-19 lead, but that could change after the two special elections on January 10. (Democrat Donald McEachin of Henrico was also elected to Congress, leaving his state senate seat also vacant.)
We can only hope that all our state legislators work hard, and together, to address challenges facing the Commonwealth. We do not need any more unfunded mandates passed down the food chain to localities or poorly drafted laws that are impossible to interpret.
Goochlanders have a good record of turning out to vote. The January 10 election should be no exception. We need to make whoever wins this contest understand that Goochland expects to be well represented in the Virginia Senate, and we know how to impose term limits. (Ask Eric Cantor is this is in doubt.)
January 3 is the last day to register for this special election. All polling places will be open on that day from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Go vote!