Republicans would have to wait for the right opportunity.
It presented itself on Inauguration Day, when Virginia Democrats basked in their second straight presidential win and one in particular traveled to Washington to witness President Obama’s swearing-in: Sen. Henry L. Marsh III (D-Richmond).
With the civil rights lawyer, who decades ago argued school desegregation cases and served as Richmond’s first black mayor, away in the District on Monday, Republicans saw their chance. They took up a bill that had been on the calendar for days, only to be passed over every time, and gave it the legislative equivalent of an extreme makeover.
Democrats accused Republicans of trying to “pack and crack
” black voting power and of exploiting the absence of a civil rights leader, on the occasion of the second inauguration of the nation’s first black president, to do it. That Monday also happened to be Martin Luther King Day only added to their anger.
“We’ve witnessed a redistricting bill thrust upon us without any notice . . . done under the guise of being good to black folk,” Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) said on the floor Tuesday.
Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) compared the move to the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.
“I realize the introduction of this particular amendment may be a surprise,” Watkins said as he addressed Senate colleagues.
“World War II was a surprise,” Saslaw shot back.