Virginia Redistricting Commission to fill vacancy after Republican citizen member resigns; three on the list from southwest, central VA

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Virginia Redistricting Commission meets in person for the first time on Tuesday, July 6, 2021. (Photo: Snapshot of Va. Senate livestream)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – One of the four Republican citizen members on the Virginia Redistricting Commission is stepping down Wednesday, leaving the bipartisan panel with the task of finding his replacement as it moves forward with a series of public hearings.  

Marvin W. Gilliam, Jr. of Bristol, the former vice president of Cumberla and Resources Corporation, a family-owned coal mining company acquired by Massey Energy in 2010, did not share the reason for his resignation but thanked other members at the commission’s first in-person meeting on Tuesday, July 6.   

“I do wish everyone good luck moving forward,” Gilliam, who joined the meeting virtually, said. “You have a difficult task ahead of you and I wish you nothing but the best.”  

Gilliam did not immediately respond to WFXR’s sister station’s request for comment.  

The procedure for filling a vacancy on the commission differs from how the citizen members were initially selected. Instead of five retired judges selecting the finalists, state law authorizes the commission to fill vacancies.

Leaders from both parties in the General Assembly, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), and Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City), each submitted a list of finalists after narrowing down a pool of more than 1,200 applicants.

Since Gilliam was selected from Norment’s list, the commission will have to pick a citizen from the same list. Amigo Wade, the director of Virginia’s Division of Legislative Services, informed the commission Tuesday that his staff would go back to those nominees to gauge their interest on possibly joining the panel.

Here are the citizens brought forward by Norment — excluding Gilliam and two others selected — that the commission could appoint to fill the vacancy:

  • Jeffrey Wayne Bolander (McGaheysville)
  • Eric Fletcher (Spotsylvania)
  • Thomas Douglas Heffernan (Elkton)     
  • Ben Hudson (Montross)    
  • Thomas H. Hueg (Fairfax Station)      
  • Charles Johnson (Williamsburg)      
  • Joni Organ (Lynchburg)      
  • Christian Ortego (Williamsburg)      
  • Mark G. Rinaldi (Williamsburg)      
  • Mary Catherine Slusher (Rockingham)      
  • Shelly Smith (Powhatan)      
  • John Thomas (Roanoke)     
  • Virginia Trost-Thornton (Forest)     
  • Robert West (Norfolk) 

Virginia voters passed a constitutional amendment creating the bipartisan group to redraw the legislative boundaries following the 2020 Census. The referendum mandated that the 16-member group be made up of eight state legislators, four Democrats and four Republicans, and eight citizen members.

Districts used in 2019 were redrawn by a court-appointed expert and approved by the U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Virginia after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the maps created under the GOP-led state legislature in 2011 were racially gerrymandered.

The announcement of Gilliam’s resignation comes a week before the redistricting commission holds its first in-person public hearing at Longwood University for residents in the state’s Southside region. A total of eight hearings – four in-person and four virtual — will take place across Virginia in July and August.

Also on Tuesday, the redistricting commission agreed to select members from the panel’s finance and budget subcommittee to negotiate with the law firms seeking to advise members during the map-drawing process. The bipartisan commission voted to hire separate firms to advise the Democrats and Republicans on the panel.

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