The balance of power in Virginia’s legislature turned on a single vote in a recount Tuesday that flipped a seat in the House of Delegates from Republican to Democratic, leaving control of the lower chamber evenly split.
The outcome, which reverberated across Virginia, ends 17 years of GOP control of the House and forces Republicans into a rare episode of power sharing with Democrats that will refashion the political landscape in Richmond.
It was the culmination of last month’s Democratic wave that had diminished Republican power in purple Virginia.
Democrat Shelly Simonds emerged from the recount as the apparent winner in the 94th House District, seizing the seat from Republican David Yancey. A three-judge panel still must certify the results, an event scheduled for Wednesday.
Of the 23,215 votes cast in the district on Election Day, Yancey held a lead of just 10 votes going into Tuesday’s recount.
But five hours later, after a painstaking counting overseen by local elections officials and the clerk of court, Yancey’s lead narrowed — and then reversed.
The final tally: 11,608 for Simonds to 11,607 for Yancey.
Power sharing in the House of Delegates is an awkward exercise; the last such arrangement was in 1998. Committee chairs have to be negotiated, as does the person who will serve as speaker. With the parties split 50-50, there is no mechanism to break ties, and any legislation short of 51 votes does not advance.
Republicans hold a slight 21-to-19 edge in the state Senate, but with a Democratic lieutenant governor to break ties and a Democratic governor with veto power, Republicans may be forced to advance a more bipartisan agenda.
It’s a dramatic shift that caught even top Democrats by surprise. Republicans have controlled the 100-seat House since 2000; even outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), a cheerleader for his party, had thought the Republican edge was insurmountable.
The final makeup of the legislature is not settled. Recounts in two additional races are taking place this week: on Wednesday in Richmond’s District 68, where the Democrat leads by 336 votes, and on Thursday in Fredericksburg’s District 28, where the Republican leads by 82 votes. Democrats are seeking a new election in the latter because more than 100 voters were mistakenly given ballots for the wrong legislative district.
My bad, it appears that Ralph Northam, the Governor elect, appears to be determined to kowtow to Republicans as a part of any implementation of Medicaid expansion, despite his promises on the campaign trail.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory since 1976: The mainstream Democratic Party.