Virginia's 1st District Rep. Rob Wittman announced over the weekend that he's running for the GOP nomination for governor in 2017.
“Obviously our focus is on winning in 2016, but I am preparing for 2017,” Wittman told The Washington Post on Dec. 12.
His decision wasn't unexpected and doesn't reflect any threat to his congressional seat, one Republican operative who lives in the 1st District told Roll Call on Monday.
"Rob has been a lot more active over the last year or so. It was clear he was interested," the GOP source said.
In his Safe Republican district, the source added, Wittman gets credit for meeting with right-wing insurgents and so far, hasn't attracted the same kind of antagonism that former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor did before he was defeated in a 2014 primary by Dave Brat.
The configuration of Wittman's 1st District in 2016, though, is still up in the air.
Redistricting proposals from a special master appointed by a federal three-judge court move Hanover, typically a conservative bastion, from Brat's 7th District into the 1st District.
In a two-hour hearing on those redistricting proposals Monday, the three-judge panel hinted it might adopt a new map for 2016, with final implementation subject to the decision of the Supreme Court next year, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch .
But lawyers for the GOP congressional delegation are against any implementation of a new map before the Supreme Court has a chance to rule on its appeal to the lower court's ruling. The lower court has twice ruled that the GOP legislature illegally packed the 3rd District with blacks, thereby diluting their influence in the rest of the state.
Citing "the substantial overhaul of their districts," GOP lawyers have argued that Wittman, 2nd District Rep. Scott Rigell, 4th District Rep. J. Randy Forbes and Brat “might lose a primary election under the remedial plan and, therefore, a congressional seat" if a new plan were enacted now and the Supreme Court put the existing lines back in place later.
Democrats, who currently hold only three of the states 11 House seats, have been hoping to pick up at least one seat from the redraw. In the weeks since the special master unveiled his two proposals, most attention has focused on the 4th District , which under the proposed plans, would include Petersburg and Richmond.
The black voting age population in the 4th District would rise from 31.3 percent to 40.9 or 42 percent, while the 3rd’s would fall from over 56 percent to 42.3 or 45.3 percent, according to the proposals.
The maps below show how the two proposals compare against the existing congressional map and against each other.
As The Washington Post reports , taking Hanover out of the 7th District could buoy an establishment Republican challenge to Brat. Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade told the Post he is "strongly considering" challenging Brat in 2016.
Assuming Wittman wins re-election in the 1st District, winning the GOP nomination for governor will still be a taller order. He enters a potentially crowded GOP gubernatorial field, which already includes former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie .
Should Wittman win the gubernatorial nomination, the party would convene a convention to select a GOP nominee for a special election to fill his congressional seat.