When the final recount of votes in the two districts that were within a percentage point difference between the candidates are finally certified, it appears that in the House of Delegates the Republicans will have a 53 to 47 majority. Such a shift in partisan control is often referred to as “flipping the House” or “turning the House from blue to red.” Democrats who took control of the House in 2019 were not able to withstand the shifting winds as the string of Democratic governors was broken when former Governor Terry McAuliffe who had been out of office for a term as required by the State Constitution was not able to win a second term. Some have observed that the Virginia governorship election that is held the year after the presidential election is most often won by the candidate of the party opposite that of the president. The Youngkin win to be governor after the Biden win followed that pattern.
With the change in partisan control of the House of Delegates, members will find themselves having different roles. The Democratic Speaker of the House and the first woman and first Jewish person to be speaker will lose her position to a new speaker elected by the majority Republican caucus. At the time of writing this column the rumor is that Delegate Todd Gilbert who represents a part of the Shenandoah Valley will be the new speaker. The Speaker of the House has total control over appointing members to committees. Too often including in the recent past the practice has been to take members of the minority party off the key committees on which they may have had the most influence. The shuffling of members on committees has been a way for the majority to solidify its power.
The way in which the transition of power has been handled in the past by both parties has led to many inefficiencies in the legislative process. Rather than a continuous process responding to the needs of the Commonwealth there have been many fits and starts that delay needed legislative action.
Of course, the winning party always wants to assert its power. I understand that to the victors go the spoils. But much of what the legislature does should not be partisan. Virginians showed again in this election cycle that they are not clearly blue or red. No Democrat celebrated more than I did the transformative actions taken by the legislature over the past two years. Hopefully the new governor and the new House leadership will not throw out all that work and start over. We can build on those things for which there are areas of agreement.
I will be pleading with the new administration that we view the next several months as time to look at reforms in the process on which we can agree. We need not spend time on seeking revenge on those who have been in office in the past. The winners in such an approach will be the people of Virginia and not a single political party.
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It’s going to be a cold and rainy weekend in Fairfax County, thanks to Tropical Storm Ophelia. Tracking to make landfall in North Carolina today (Friday), the storm is expected to reach Northern Virginia tonight.