The Virginia Redistricting Commission was thrown another curve at its first in-person meeting July 6 when it was announced that Republican Marvin Gilliam, co-chair of its Budget and Finance Subcommittee, had submitted his resignation, effective the next day.
Under the commission’s enabling legislation, the full commission, rather than the Commission Selection Committee of appeals court justices, is designated to select Gilliam’s replacement. The member must come from the list of potential commission members submitted by Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment because he was the legislator who nominated Gilliam. The Division of Legislative Services staff said it would reach out to the remaining names on Norment’s list (page eight of this document) and forward the applications of those who were still willing to serve to commission members for their consideration. It was expected that the commission would make a decision at its next meeting, scheduled for July 19 at 10 a.m.
The names of Norment’s nominees and a zip file that includes their applications is still available for public review on the commission’s website, under materials for the January 6 meeting of the selection committee. The commission’s Republican co-chair, Mackenzie Babichenko of Mechanicsville, and Richard Harrell, co-chair of the commission’s Public Outreach and Communications Subcommittee, both were appointed from Norment’s list, leaving a maximum of 14 names, four women and 10 men, for consideration, assuming all are still interested. One of the women is Black and one, Hispanic. The applicants live in six of the state’s eight regions; none, however, is from the Southwest, where Gilliam lives. Gilliam’s inclusion on the list of nominees drew attention after it was reported that the former coal-mining executive from Bristol had donated more than $900,000 to Republican candidates in the state.
Gilliam’s resignation comes as the commission faces new requirements to meet in-person and as it is about to begin a busy month of in-person and virtual public hearings, four of each, directed to eight designated regions. More times and locations of those hearings were announced at the meeting; the commission committed itself to having in-person representation at every hearing from both citizens and legislators and from both parties; under a tentative schedule posted by DLS, Gilliam had committed only to attending the September 24 in-person hearing scheduled for his region of the state.
Without a communications consultant in place yet, DLS staff said it had been placing ads in print media and distributing press releases to alert the public to the schedule of upcoming hearings. Staff have also made use of a Twitter account, and a listserve that sends out notifications to persons who provide their e-mail address on the commission’s website. In response to a question from a legislator, the staff said that all of the hearings would be covered by public broadcasting outlets and would be recorded for later viewing.