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Random drawing gives GOP control of Virginia House of Delegates

Republican Delegate David Yancey declared winner in race tied after disputed recount

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

RICHMOND (CFP) — Republicans have retained control of the Virginia House of Delegates after a random drawing to settle a race in Newport News that remained tied after a disputed recount.

Va. Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News

Republican Delegate David Yancey will get to keep his seat after his name was drawn from a bowl by James Alcorn, chairman of the State Board of Elections, as Yancey’s Democratic challenger, Shelly Simonds, looked on.

With Yancey’s win, Republicans will hold 51 seats in the House of Delegates, to 49 for Democrats, although Democrats have gone to federal court to overturn another race in which their candidate lost narrowly in a recount.

Speaking to reporters after the January 4 drawing, Simonds refused to concede and said “all options are on the table,” including possible legal action to contest the outcome in District 94.

Yancey, who didn’t attend the drawing, issued a statement saluting Simonds on running a “great campaign.”

“The election is behind us, the outcome is clear, and my responsibility now is to begin the work I was re-elected to do,” he said.

Despite falling short of control, Democrats made an astonishing breakthrough in the November vote in Virginia, nearly overturning a 66-34 Republican House majority by flipping 15 seats and taking out 12 GOP incumbents, including many veteran lawmakers in the Washington, D.C. suburbs.

Democrats also carried all three statewide races, including a win by Governor-elect Ralph Northam, and only trail Republicans by one vote in the Senate, where the GOP holds a 21-19 majority. Northam takes office January 13.

The drawing to settle the contest in District 94 was the latest bizarre twist in the seesaw battle between Yancey and Simonds that has roiled Virginia politics for more than eight weeks.

Shelly Simonds

After the initial results were reported, Yancey held a 10-vote lead. Then, a December 19 recount overturned Yancey’s margin and showed Simonds ahead by one vote. But when a panel of judges met to certify the results the next day, they decided to count a ballot for Yancey in which the bubbles for both candidates had been filled in but the bubble for Simonds was crossed off.

With that ballot counted, Simond’s single vote lead became a tie, which, under Virginia law, had to be settled by drawing lots.

Simonds asked the judges who counted the disputed ballot to reconsider, but they refused, saying they had complied with state law in determining the intention of the voter who filled out the ballot, who had voted for the Republican candidates in all of the other races.

The unusual circumstances of the drawing drew a large crowd to the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond, despite a snow storm. Slips of paper with the names of both candidates were put inside film canisters and then placed in a large bowl and mixed, with Alcorn selecting the winner.

Democrats, GOP will likely tie for control of Virginia House of Delegates

Democrat wins recount by a single vote to give party parity

RICHMOND (CFP) — By the margin of a single vote in a single race, Virginia Democrats are poised to do what was unthinkable before November’s House of Delegates election — gain enough seats to share control with Republicans come January.

Virginia Delegate-elect Shelly Simonds

A December 19 recount in District 94 in Newport News gave Democrat Shelly Simonds a one-vote victory over Republican Delegate David Yancey, out of nearly 24,000 votes cast. Before the recount, Yancy had a 10-vote lead.

Simonds’s win means Democrats and Republicans both have 49 seats in the 100-seat chamber, with recounts pending in two other races. The Democrat has a 336-vote lead in one of those races, while the Republican leads by 82 votes in the other, making a 50-50 tie the most likely scenario.

Heading into the November election, Republicans held a commanding 66-34 lead in the House of Delegates. But Democrats, riding a surge of suburban support, flipped 16 seats and took out 13 Republican incumbents to end 18 years of GOP control.

While the recount result in District 94 still has to be certified by a judicial panel, GOP House leaders issued a statement conceding both Simonds’s victory and their loss of control.

“As we have said for the last six weeks, we are committed to leading and governing alongside our colleagues,” the GOP leaders said. “We stand ready to establish a bipartisan framework under which the House can operate efficiently and effectively over the next two years.”

Governor-elect Ralph Northam took to Twitter to congratulate Simonds, observing that her one-vote win proves “(e)very vote matters.”

Democrats have filed a federal lawsuit seeking a new election in District 28 in Fredericksburg, where the GOP candidate has an 82-vote lead pending a recount. If successful, Democrats would have a shot at winning an outright majority in the election rerun.

Republicans hold a narrow 21-19 lead in the Virginia Senate. Democrats carried all three statewide posts in November, led by Northam’s 9-point win in the governor’s race.

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