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Democrats Interested in Virginia's Fuzzy 4th District Bide Their Time

Democrats are hoping that a redrawn 4th District will allow them to take on Forbes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Calls to political operatives on both sides of the aisle about Virginia's congressional redistricting yield a similar response: uncertainty and confusion.  

"I've told my members to sit tight and see where this thing goes with the courts," 4th District Democratic Committee Chair Susan Rowland told Roll Call.  Two Democrats — state Rep. Donald McEachin and Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney — have expressed interest in running should the district become more Democratic because of redistricting.  

Stoney also harbors Richmond mayoral ambitions.  

But both are keeping quiet about their congressional plans. And perhaps with good reason. Virginia's 2016 map is still very much in limbo.  

Last month, a court-appointed special master released two proposals for a new configuration , both of which would make the 4th District, currently held by eight-term Republican Rep. J. Randy Forbes, significantly more Democratic.  

Neither Forbes' congressional nor his campaign office returned requests for comment on redistricting.  

But days before the special master released his proposals, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from the GOP members of the state's congressional delegation (plus former Rep. Eric Cantor) contesting the lower court's finding that the 3rd District had been unconstitutionally packed with blacks.  

The GOP delegation wants the lower court to halt its redistricting process until the Supreme Court has ruled on its case next year. The Eastern District Court of Virginia will be holding a hearing on Dec. 14 on the special master's proposals and on the objections to them.  

For now, Democrats are waiting to see whether they'll even have a shot at picking up an additional House seat from the redraw or whether the prolonged litigation will require the state to use the existing map for the 2016 elections.  

Rowland said the uncertainty has fueled talk of pushing the primary back from June to September 2016.  

Virginia voted for President Barack Obama twice, but Democrats only hold three of the state's 11 congressional seats, so the party expects a lot of interest in a redrawn 4th District.  

Elliot Fausz, who lost to Forbes by more than 20 points in 2014, told Roll Call Monday that he hasn't made up his mind about running again yet.  

Other Democrats who could consider entering the race include Chesapeake City Council Member Ella Ward, whom Forbes defeated by 14 points in 2012, and state Del. Lionell Spruill Sr.  

"I'm keeping all my options open. I've got to see what the lines are," Spruill said, explaining that one of the special master's proposals puts him in the 4th District while the other puts him in the 3rd District.  

"The worst thing you can do in this game is jump too soon and show your hand too soon," said Rowland, who also serves as chief of staff to Spruill.  

"When you live in a very Republican district and you’re a Democrat and you do make a move too soon, you’re going to live with the consequences on a daily basis," Rowland said.  Correction 4:45 p.m.  An earlier version of this story contained the wrong date for Virginia's June primary.  

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