Roanoke Del. Onzlee Ware ended the suspense about his position on a controversial Senate redistricting plan today, announcing on the floor of the House of Delegates that he opposes Republican-drawn blueprint.
Ware, a Democrat, created a buzz earlier this week when he said he would consider voting for the plan because it creates a sixth black majority Senate district. Senate Democrats angrily denounced Republicans when they forced the redistricting plan through the evenly-divided chamber on Jan. 21, exploiting the absence of a single Democratic senator to pass new district boundaries favorable to the GOP.
The Senate plan was attached as an amendment to bill making minor adjustments to House of Delegates districts. The House has yet to act on the plan and Democrats hope Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford County, will rule that the Senate amendment is not germane to the original House bill. Such a ruling would kill the Senate redistricting plan.
Ware took the House floor during the morning hour of today’s session and said he could not support the plan “because it has a significant impact on my constituents.”
Ware said he did not like the fact that Republican-engineered plan would split Roanoke and Montgomery County into separate Senate districts. Both localities are now in a district represented by Roanoke Democrat John Edwards. Montgomery County “has a common interest with the Roanoke Valley,” Ware said.
Ware said he hopes Howell will rule that the Senate plan is not germane to the underlying House bill. The House has put off action on the bill until Feb. 6.
Ware said in an interview that he has received calls from constituents urging him to oppose the Republican redistricting plan because it would Montgomery County and Roanoke into different Senate districts.
But, he added, “I’ve had just as many, if not more, call and say, ‘Onzlee, I appreciate your willingness to speak up for African Americans.”
In his floor speech, Ware took exception to an editorial in today’s Roanoke Times criticizing him for flirting with supporting the Republican plan.
“It’s been suggested , Mr. Speaker, that I’m gullible,” Ware said.” I’ve been called a lot of things, but never gullible. I’m gullible because I took the opportunity to not react to emotions and not make a knee-jerk decision. I looked at the entire plan. Yes, Mr. Speaker, I looked at the map, I looked at the newly drawn, possible sixth majority-minority Senate district, and I took all of those things into consideration.”
– Michael Sluss