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Virginia Democrats flip both houses of General Assembly from red to blue

Democrats will now have total control of reapportionment after 2020 census

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

RICHMOND (CFP) — Democrats have won majorities in the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates for the first time in 24 years, completing a takeover of state government that will give them total control of the reapportionment process after the 2020 census.

Democrats won 21 of the 40 seats in the Senate and 54 of the 100 seats in the House in the November 5 vote.

Coupled with the Democratic sweep of all three statewide offices in 2017 and flipping three U.S. House seats in 2018, Tuesday’s result is the latest evidence that political control Old Dominion has slipped away from the GOP and into Democratic hands.

The two legislative chambers in Virginia will also be the only two under Democratic control anywhere in the South; Republicans control the other 26.

Heading into the election, Republicans held a 21-to-19 majority in the Senate and a 51-to-49 majority in the House. Democrats needed to flip two seats to control the House and one seat to control the Senate, where Democratic Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax holds the tie-breaking vote.

Their gain in the House was five seats, while they picked up two in the Senate.

As they did in 2017 and 2018, Democrats picked up seats in suburbs of Washington, D.C., Richmond and Hampton Roads. Among the casualties was last Republican left representing a district in the inner D.C. suburbs, Delegate Tim Hugo from Fairfax County, who has been in the legislature for the last 17 years.

The top ranking Republican in the House, Speaker Kirk Cox from Colonial Heights, had to battle to keep his seat, surviving with a narrow 4-point victory that will return him to Richmond, though not to the speaker’s chair.

Republicans  retained House control after the 2017 election only after one of their candidates, David Yancey, won a drawing by lot after his race against Democrat Shelly Simonds ended in a tie. This time around in a rematch, Simonds easily beat Yancey, taking nearly 57 percent of the vote.

In addition to now controlling the legislature, Democrats also hold both of Virginia’s U.S. Senate seats, the governorship, and seven out of 11 seats in the congressional delegation. Democrats have also won the last three presidential elections in the state.

With control of the legislature and governorship, Democrats will be in complete control of reapportionment after the 2020 census, allowing them to protect the gains they have made by drawing favorable maps for the next decade.

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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.

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