He joins Del. Sam Rasoul as the second Muslim — they are both Democrats — in Virginia’s General Assembly, according to a press release from his campaign.
Samirah, who is the son of Palestinian refugees, was separated from his father in middle school when his father was barred from re-entering the U.S.
The special election yesterday (Feb. 19) to fill now-State Sen. Jennifer Boysko’s former seat was the first time Virginia voters took to the polls after a series of scandals erupted in the state, starting with unearthed racist photos on Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook.
The scandals continued with sexual assault allegations against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and with Attorney General Mark Herring’s admission that he wore blackface. News reports revealed that Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City County) was a top editor of a yearbook that included photos of people in blackface and racial slurs.
Before the special election, Samirah faced attacks after a conservative website published two of his social media posts from five years ago, including one where he said sending money to Israel was worse than sending it to the Ku Klux Klan, according to news reports.
Samirah apologized for the posts, which he said were used in “a slander campaign questioning my views on Israel and my Jewish friends,” in a two-page statement posted on Facebook.
“I am so sorry that my ill-chosen words added to the pain of the Jewish community and I seek your understanding and compassion as I prove to you our common humanity,” the statement said.
Samirah was just shy of receiving 60 percent of the votes, according to unofficial results from Virginia’s Department of Elections.
Republican Gregg Nelson, a U.S. Air Force veteran, received 34 percent of the votes and Connie Haines Hutchinson, a former vice mayor of the Herndon Town Council who ran as an Independent, received almost 6 percent of the votes.
In total, 6,283 people voted in the special election.
Boysko took to Twitter to congratulate Samirah on his win.
— Jennifer Boysko (@JenniferBoysko) February 20, 2019
Samirah ran a campaign focused on healthcare, transportation and education.
Now in office, Samirah is planning “to build on the 2018 Virginia Medicaid expansion and bringing healthcare costs down across the state by ensuring that the healthcare marketplace is competitive and accessible to all,” according to the press release.
Photos from the Virginia House Democrats on Twitter show Samirah being sworn in today.
— VA House Democrats (@VAHouseDems) February 20, 2019
Photo via Samirah for Delegate/Facebook
Fatal Herndon car crash on Saturday — “Detectives are asking for the public’s help in identifying two victims from this morning’s [Feb. 16] fatal single vehicle crash. Officers responded to the crash around 4:26 a.m. on southbound Route 28 near the McLearen Road exit.” [Fairfax County Police Department]
Winter storm on its way — Heads up for tomorrow: expect sleet, ice and several inches of snow. The National Weather Service’s Winter Storm Warning will be in effect from 1 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday (Feb. 20). [National Weather Service]
Bus meeting tonight — The rescheduled meeting for public input on local bus service provided by Fairfax Connector in the Herndon-Reston area will take place from 6-8 p.m. tonight at the Herndon Senior Center (873 Grace Street). [DC Commute Times]
Election for 86th District seat — Voting today will decide the replacement for now-State Sen. Jennifer Boysko’s former seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. The county has information about where, when and how to vote in the special election. [Fairfax County]
Interactive show at Great Falls Senior Center — The Great Falls Senior Center welcomes back Mary Ann Jung’s interactive show today. Jung, who has been recreating historical women for more than 30 years, will portray Margaret Brent, a colonial woman who was America’s first female landowner, lawyer and first to demand the vote in the 1640s. Lunch will be provided. [Great Falls Senior Center]
Rolling in the money — “[Reston-based] Sequoia Holdings Inc., a leading provider of software and cloud engineering services for the U.S. intelligence community, has received an equity investment from Chart National, L.P., a New York-based private equity fund with deep relationships within the intelligence community and the U.S. Department of Defense.” [Business Wire]
Happy Valentine’s Day — Hundreds of locals from Reston and Herndon recently created 10,000 handwritten valentines as part of volunteering efforts for two initiatives produced by the Barbara Foundation of Reston. [Connection Newspapers]
Girl Power! Book Club — Book lovers can share their love of reading and head to Scrawl Books to discuss “Into White” by Randi Pink at 7 p.m. [Scrawl Books]
Reston company nabs NASA IT contract — “Leidos Holdings Inc. has been awarded an information technology contract with NASA potentially worth almost $3 billion that it’s calling a ‘marquee’ win.” [Washington Business Journal]
Money and politics — The candidates vying for the 86th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates recently disclosed their campaign finances. Democrat Ibraheem Samirah has raised the most — $73,243 — followed by Republican Gregg Nelson, who has raised $23,359. [VAPAP]
Fire at Herndon home — Crews responded to a fire in the 2100 block of Oram Place around 2:30 a.m. The fire was in the basement and extended to parts of the upper floors. The fire is now out and no injuries have been reported. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]
P.S. — Reston Now recently rounded up several Valentine’s Day events this week. Some of them are happening today.
Photo via J. Sibiga Photography/Flickr pool
Hutchinson is running on a campaign to improve education, revamp transportation, lower medical costs and ensure Northern Virginia gets support from the Commonwealth.
Ever since she ran for the Herndon Town Council in 1990, Hutchinson said she is dedicated to “give my time and talents to improve the quality of life in my hometown,” according to her website, adding that her seven terms on the council gave her the background and knowledge to represent the area in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Hutchinson, who claims that her main issues are nonpartisan, decided to run as an Independent for the 86th District seat because elected officials in Herndon run as Independents “in order to allow cooperation and collaboration without divisive party politics,” her website says.
Currently, Hutchinson is the general manager at The Borenstein Group, according to her LinkedIn. She is also the treasurer of the Herndon Hospitality Association, a nonprofit she founded to assist Herndon’s hospitality industry.
In 1992, she became a member of the Herndon Town Council, and she served as vice mayor during the 2008-2010 term and again in 2012-2014. Prior to that, Hutchinson served on the town’s architectural and heritage preservation review boards.
She has also been involved with the Optimist Club of Herndon, Herndon Recreation, Inc., Herndon Youth Soccer and the parent-teacher associations for Herndon Elementary School and Herndon Middle School.
Hutchinson is a Herndon native, and her four children attended Herndon schools, according to her website.
Hutchinson will face Republican Gregg Nelson and Democrat Ibraheem Samirah in the special election set for Feb. 19.
Photo via Connie Haines Hutchinson/website
The General Assembly had not been in session for more than two weeks until the differences between the House of Delegates and the State Senate became obvious. The Founding Fathers who conceived the structure of government built-in safeguards and checks and balances to ensure that a runaway government would be less possible. Two houses in the legislature were part of that scheme.
The lower house would be elected by a popular vote, but in the federal model the so-called “upper house” was first elected by state legislatures before the popular vote was instituted. Another major difference in Virginia is that in the House of Delegates, 100 members were given two-year terms and smaller districts. The 40-member Senate was given four-year terms and districts two-and-a-half the size of delegate districts.
The result is that in some parts of the state there are election contests where the delegate and the senator reflect different values and positions on issues. That is not the case in my district where Sen. Janet Howell and I have taken the same position on every issue I can remember. These structural differences bring about different results as is being dramatically shown in the current General Assembly session.
In alternate election cycles, as is the case this year, senators and delegates all run for office. In light of the last election for House seats, I approached this legislative session with the hope that there might be more flexibility in the House leadership that might result in the consideration of bills that had been summarily defeated in past sessions. My hopes have already been dashed.
Even this early the session has demonstrated the differences that the two-house legislature presents. Certainly, there has been strong public support for Virginia being the 38th and final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The Senate passed a resolution for ratification, but was defeated in a subcommittee in the House.
This major struggle between the two houses is the same for establishing an impartial and nonpartisan system for legislative redistricting. The Senate has passed a bill to establish such a process while House leadership is expressing opposition. Since the legislation is a constitutional amendment, it is important that a resolution is passed this year and next to go to a popular referendum in 2020 in time for redistricting after the 2020 census results are known.
Sometimes differences between the two houses can be resolved in a conference committee if both houses pass bills on the same subject. If differences are not resolved, the bill dies. Legislation must be passed in identical form from both houses to be sent to the governor for signature. If the governor disagrees with the bill sent to him, he can send down amendments or veto the legislation. It takes a two-thirds vote of the legislature to override a veto.
Legislating with a two-house body can be cumbersome and difficult. Sometimes it seems to be easier to say how bills are defeated rather than how they pass. In either case, voters can be assured that the two-house legislature ensures full consideration of issues.
Nearly one month away from the special election for the 86th District seat, the Fairfax County Republican Committee will hold a meeting on Saturday (Jan. 19) to nominate a candidate.
Yesterday (Jan. 14), the committee put a call for a mass meeting to nominate a Republican candidate for the now-State Sen. Jennifer Boysko’s vacated seat, which represents parts of Fairfax County and Loudoun County.
The meeting is scheduled to take place at the Fairfax Christian School at 22870 Pacific Blvd in Dulles with a start time of 9 a.m. Only Republicans in the 86th District can participate in the mass meeting, according to the website.
Candidates have until 9 a.m. on Friday (Jan. 18) to provide a written statement of intent to Committee Chairman Amanda Morris.
The special election is set for Feb. 19.
On Saturday (Jan. 12), Ibraheem Samirah was nominated to represent the Democratic Party.
Voters have an upcoming special general election for the 86th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.
On Saturday (Jan. 12), Ibraheem Samirah was nominated to represent the Democratic Party to fill State Sen. Jennifer Boysko’s vacated seat.
Samirah will run in the special election set for Feb. 19 with a campaign focused on healthcare, transportation and education.
“I am deeply humbled that voters chose me to be their democratic nominee to represent them in the House of Delegates,” Samirah said in a press release. “I entered this race to fight for the progressive values we all share–such as affordable healthcare, decreased transportation costs and improved early-childhood education.”
Samirah is a first-generation Muslim American who is the son of Palestinian refugees. He was separated from his father in middle school when his father was barred from re-entering the U.S.
He is currently a dentist at District Smiles.
He faced three other Democratic candidates — Kofi Annan, Mike O’Reilly and Chad Thompson — for the nomination and won with a little more than 35 percent of the vote. More than 2,000 people voted in the primary.
“Ibraheem will be a tireless and effective advocate for Fairfax and Loudon counties, and we look forward to having him join our caucus and help us make Virginia better for everyone,” House Democratic Caucus Executive Director Trevor Southerland said in a statement.
Boysko also congratulated Samirah, saying she pledges her support to work with him in the Virginia General Assembly.
“I know Ibraheem will continue the great work we have done in working to reduce gun violence, supporting our schools and teachers, and building an economy that works for everyone,” she said in a statement.
Local Republicans have not announced plans to nominate a candidate, according to the Loudoun Times-Mirror.
Photo via Samirah for Delegate/Facebook
The Virginia House of Delegates has an opening for a seat that represents Herndon.
Del. Jennifer Boysko, a Democrat currently representing the 86th District, won the special election yesterday (Jan. 8) to take over the 33rd District seat in the State Senate vacated by Jennifer Wexton when she became a Congresswoman.
Boysko won with just under 70 percent of the vote, while her opponent, Republican Joe May, received about 30 percent. With Boysko moving to the State Senate, voters will get choose who will fill her district seat, which includes Herndon.
Several Democratic candidates announced they will vie for the seat, including:
- Chad Thompson — a public affairs consultant who lives in Herndon
- Kofi Annan — the president of the Fairfax County NAACP
- Ibraheem Samirah — a dentist at District Smiles who is a first-generation Muslim American
- Mike O’Reilly — a former Herndon mayor who is now a lawyer and the owner of the O’Reilly Law Firm
The Democratic candidates will vie for the spot at the primary on Saturday (Jan. 12).
Herndon residents who are registered voters in the 86th District can vote between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Dranesville Elementary School (1515 Powells Tavern Place).
Reston lawmakers are gearing up to tackle gun violence and criminal justice reform ahead of the General Assembly kicking off a new session on Wednesday (Jan. 9).
The delegate and state senator representing Reston have been crafting legislation for the 46-day “short session” of the state legislature.
A review of the General Assembly’s online database gives a glimpse into what they plan to address.
Del. Ken Plum (D-36th District) plans to introduce legislation for universal background checks for gun purchases, according to a press release from Plum’s office.
That bill is a part of a package of legislation that is meant to prevent gun violence and improve safety, which Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced.
Plum, who will be the bill’s chief patron in the Virginia House of Delegates, said the bill “will close a significant loophole in Virginia law and require background checks on all firearm sales including private or online sales.”
Additionally, Plum said in the press release that he agrees with Northam’s assertion that “this legislative package of reasonable gun violence reforms appropriately balances Second Amendment Rights with public safety.”
Meanwhile, state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) has prefiled several bills as a chief patron that address criminal justice. Howell wants to change the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony for any person who leaves a loaded and unsecured gun in a place that could endanger a minor.
In a separate move, she wants to allow evidence of prior statements that are inconsistent with testimony at a hearing or trial for a criminal case admissible.
Howell outlines three main criteria:
- If the testifying witness faces cross-examination
- If the prior statement was made under an oath at a trial, hearing or the proceeding
- If it narrates or explains the witness’s knowledge of the event
Howell also is trying to allow the local school board of a school division located in Planning District 8 — which includes Fairfax County — to set the school calendar and determine the opening day of the school year.
She also wants to require licensed assisted living facilities with six or more residents to have a temporary emergency electrical power source available on site in case of an interruption of the electric power supply. The temporary power supply must be enough to power necessary medical equipment and refrigerators, along with heating, cooling, lighting and at least one elevator.
Currently, assisted living facilities are not required to maintain a power source on site.
(Updated at 3:54 p.m.) Former Herndon Mayor Mike O’Reilly announced on Friday (Dec. 14) that he will vie for the Virginia House of Delegates seat representing the 86th District, which includes Herndon.
Del. Jennifer Boysko, who currently holds the seat, plans to run for the State Senate seat to replace Congresswoman-elect Jennifer Wexton in the special election on Jan. 8.
“I am running for the House of Delegates to fight for more affordable healthcare, more funding for education and transportation in Northern Virginia, protection of women’s rights, protection from gun violence and to protect the environment,” O’Reilly said in a press release.
O’Reilly was elected Mayor of Herndon in 2004. As mayor, he helped reduce the tax rate, opened a new police station, opened the Senior Center at Herndon Harbor House and completed a rewrite of Herndon’s zoning ordinance.
O’Reilly, who has lived in Herndon for more than 35 years, is married and has four children.
O’Reilly served five years as a member of the Board of Directors of the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority, where he negotiated the design, financing and construction of the first phase for the Silver Line project and the procurement and contract award for the second phase.
He chaired for ten years the Governing Board of the Fairfax Falls Church Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness and also chaired the Board for Arts Herndon.
Photo via Michael O’Reilly
Chad Thompson, a public affairs consultant who lives in Herndon, announced today (Dec. 11) that he will vie for the Virginia House of Delegates seat representing the 86th District, which includes Herndon.
Del. Jennifer Boysko, who currently represents the 86th District, announced last month plans to run for the State Senate seat to replace Congresswoman-elect Jennifer Wexton. The special election for that seat will take place on Jan. 8.
Thompson and his wife Elizabeth, a pre-school teacher at Floris United Methodist Church, live in the Floris community of Herndon with their four kids, aged 8 to 12.
Thompson points to education, transportation and the environment as a few of the reasons why he decided to seek the Democratic nomination in the Firehouse Primary.
“I got into this race because as a parent I care about the type of community we build for our children,” Thompson said in a press release. “Investing in our children, finding real transportation solutions and building Virginia’s renewable energy future are the foundation for growing our community and our economy.”
Currently, the senior director at Five Corners Strategies, a D.C.-based grassroots advocacy firm, Thompson advises companies in the real estate, waste and energy sectors on public affairs issues.
Thompson faces other Democratic contenders for the seat, including Kofi Annan and Ibraheem Samirah.
Annan and his wife started a rental property business in 2009 and founded the Veteran Career Counseling Services LLC, which remained in operation from 2012 to late 2018, to help more than 700 veterans find employment after transitioning out of the military, according to a fundraising page.
Samirah is a first-generation Muslim American who is the son of Palestinian refugees. He was separated from his father in middle school when his father was barred from re-entering the U.S., according to his campaign website.
The general election will be held on Nov. 5, 2019.
The proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex has had a long and tortuous history. With the almost daily unfolding stories of abuse of women from lower pay, discrimination in employment, physical and mental abuse and other degradation, it has become obvious that it is about time for the ERA.
Alice Paul of the women’s suffragist movement is credited with writing the first draft of the ERA that was introduced in Congress in 1921. An amendment for submission to the states for ratification as required by Article V of the Constitution did not pass both houses of Congress until 1972 with a deadline of March 22, 1979 for the states to act. That deadline has been extended twice as the required 38 state ratification has never been met.
Currently 37 states have ratified the ERA although several states have sought under questionable legality to rescind their ratification. Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have never ratified the ERA, but the State Senate has ratified it in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016. The Senate resolutions were never reported from the House Privileges and Elections Committee nor were resolutions introduced by House members ever reported from committee. I have been a supporter of the ERA during my entire tenure in the House of Delegates and co-patron of resolutions to ratify it; I have never had an opportunity to vote on it because the conservative House Privileges and Elections Committee has never had enough favorable votes to report it to the floor.
I am hopeful that the Virginia legislature will step up to be the state to finally ratify the ERA. Even with a favorable vote there are certain to be court challenges to the ratification because of the missed deadlines and because of efforts by some states to rescind their earlier ratifications. Even with these challenges the Virginia General Assembly should take action. The outcome of the 2016 state elections with the increased number of women in the House of Delegates should be enough to nudge Virginia forward. The phenomenal increase in activity by women in various political organizations in Virginia will send a signal to candidates for the House of Delegates in 2019 that they need to support the ERA.
The arguments of the past that women would be drafted into the armed services if the amendment was ratified no longer seem legitimate with women already providing outstanding service in the military. The high-profile stories of women being harassed and abused in work and social situations provide support for the ERA being part of the Constitution.
Virginia’s declaration of rights drafted by George Mason became the model for the Bill of Rights of our federal Constitution. Just as Virginia led in the fight to enumerate our rights, the Virginia General Assembly can lead again albeit a little tardy by being the final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. It’s about time!
On August 30, I and my colleagues in the General Assembly will return to the State Capitol in Richmond at the request of Governor Ralph Northam to un-gerrymander eleven House of Delegates districts that have been found by a panel of federal judges to be unconstitutional. The court’s action was based on a finding that the districts as drawn violated the equal protection of the law afforded to everyone by the United States Constitution.
In the redistricting of 2011, the Republicans who had a majority in the House of Delegates packed African Americans in the Richmond-Hampton Roads regions into the eleven districts that have been found unconstitutional. From a partisan perspective the packing resulted in African Americans who historically vote Democratic to be limited in their influence over voting outcomes throughout the region. From a legal perspective African Americans were denied their constitutional protection from the gerrymandering that put them into fewer districts over which they might have an influence.
The requirement to un-gerrymander legislative districts in Virginia is not new. Most recently and earlier this year the congressional districts in the Richmond-Hampton Roads region were found to be unconstitutional. When the districts were redrawn Democrats won an additional congressional seat with an African American candidate.
Unraveling a partisan gerrymander is not easy. With the congressional districts, the courts had to redraw them because the General Assembly could not come to an agreement as to how it should be done. There is serious concern as to whether the General Assembly will be able to redraw the district lines for the House of Delegates or whether it will revert to the courts for correction. With any of these revisions there are likely to be winners and losers, and legislative bodies have not shown the ability to draw lines that will disadvantage a member(s) in re-election. With the congressional redistricting, for example, one member of Congress lost a seat to the African American candidate who ran in a newly redrawn district.
To correct the clear racial discrimination in the eleven districts that have been found to be unconstitutional, it will be necessary to redraw more than thirty district lines as currently constituted. As the redrawing takes place some voters will find themselves in new districts as will some incumbent legislators. The election outcomes are likely to be different as the racial bias of how the districts have been drawn is removed.
The courts have not taken up cases of gerrymandering when allegations of partisan discrimination are alleged. The courts are interested in issues of constitutional protections most often found when racial discrimination can be shown. Issues of removing partisanship from the redistricting process, as some have expressed it–to have the people choose their elected representatives instead of legislators choosing their constituents–have been resolved in other places by having an independent, nonpartisan commission draw the lines. I first introduced a bill to establish such a commission in Virginia in 1982 and have introduced such a bill many times.
The General Assembly must carry out its responsibility to undo the racially discriminating districts that currently exist. Additionally, it should take the next step to put an independent non-partisan commission in place.
As the General Assembly heads back into Special Session on May 23 to continue work on the biennium budget impasse, I looked back at how long we’ve been fighting to expand Medicaid–the major sticking point in our current budget standoff. Here’s what I wrote in September 2014 — nearly four years ago!
Recently the New York Times editorial board wrote about the “health care showdown in Virginia.” Their comments were not favorable. “In Virginia, there are 400,000 low-income people who can’t afford health care coverage but don’t qualify for federal subsidies,” they wrote. “If they lived across the state line in Maryland, West Virginia or Kentucky, which have expanded their Medicaid programs, they could get the coverage they need.” The reason they cannot; “a group of recalcitrant Republicans in the House of Delegates” have blocked Medicaid expansion at every opportunity.
Highly regarded retired editorial writer for the Virginia Pilot, Margaret Edds, wrote about the current impasse in Virginia two weeks ago. Drawing on her extensive command of Virginia’s history, Edds points out that Virginia was the last state to join Social Security in the 1930s.
She argues that there is a moral imperative that “we cannot afford to take this risk” of not expanding Medicaid. She writes that “designing a health care system that embraces everyone is the right thing to do.” Reston resident, Elliot Wicks, in a recent letter to the editor makes the same argument that closing the coverage gap morally is the right thing to do.
In an unprecedented move, the Virginia Chapter of the American Association of Retired People (AARP) called a press conference to announce that letters sent by the Speaker of the House and other Republican lawmakers to their constituents over age 60 contained “inaccurate information about changes in Medicare.”
These letters from Speaker Howell and other lawmakers implied that expanding Medicaid in Virginia would hurt Medicare beneficiaries. “Expanding Medicaid to uninsured Virginians won’t harm the Medicare program or its beneficiaries,” the AARP spokesperson said.
Revenues for the Commonwealth are expected to fall short of projection for this year by as much as $300 million. Ironically, Virginia is losing $5 million a day amounting now to three-fourths of a billion dollars paid by Virginians that could be returned to the state through Medicaid expansion. The money could not be used to balance the budget in the current year, but in future years more than $200 million that Virginia pays for indigent care from its general tax revenue could be paid by Medicaid.
State and local chambers of commerce, medical and healthcare associations, and editorial boards of the major newspapers in the state have endorsed Medicaid expansion. A major compromise in the form of Marketplace Virginia, proposed by three Republican senators and endorsed by all Democratic legislators, has been introduced. The compromise proposed in Marketplace Virginia addresses the Republicans’ stated concerns by including a provision to discontinue the program if the federal government reneges on its commitments.
It is time for Republicans in the House of Delegates to agree to the compromise. Their insistence on separating Medicaid from the state budget is a costly stalling tactic that is hurting a large number of Virginians and threatens to hurt even more if the budget stalemate continues.
While the players have changed — it’s now Senate Republicans resisting Medicaid expansion — the song remains the same.
Last week Democrats in the House of Delegates were able largely to sit on the sidelines as Republicans debated among themselves whether Virginia should expand access to medical care through the federal Medicaid program. Arguments that had been used by Democrats to support Medicaid in the past were now being used by Republicans to support their newly found support for expansion.
The news is good since Medicaid expansion could only come about with bipartisan support. When the final vote was taken on the issue, only 31 Republicans voted “nay” and all Democrats voting “aye” with 20 Republicans making the total for passage 69 votes. There was a sense of relief as a goal for which we had been working for more than a half dozen years moved closer to realization.
The news was not so good on the other side of the Capitol. The Senate passed a budget that did not include further Medicaid expansion. While there was an effort to amend the Senate bill to include the expansion of access to health care, it failed along a straight party line vote. Final passage of a budget for the next two years requires that the bills passed in each house be identical. A conference committee made up of House and Senate members must resolve the largest imbalance in the budget that I have ever seen before its final adoption.
If I had predicted before the session where we would be at this point I would have said that the Senate would have passed a version of Medicaid expansion but the Republicans in the House were maintaining their opposition. At least that’s what the public pronouncements and the rumor mill suggested.
How could we have been so wrong? I believe that the predictions on the outcome of the session left out one very important consideration: the results of the 2016 elections. The House’s 66 to 34 Republican control was diminished to a close margin of 51 to 49. For weeks it appeared that Democrats might take control. Among the losses were senior members and committee chairs who were opponents of Medicaid expansion and were expected to win re-election easily. The Speaker who opposed expansion retired.
The voters in 2016 sent a clear message that they supported Medicaid expansion. For most it simply did not make sense to leave more than ten billion federal dollars on the table when there were so many people without access to health care. Many more people went to the polls than usual to send the message to legislators. Whether it was public opinion polling or common sense that showed the Republican majority they were in trouble and needed to change the stance on issues, the public speaking through the ballot box brought about this very important change for Virginia.
How to explain the Senate vote? Senators with four-year terms have not been before the voters since 2014. They have not had a recent message from the electorate and could be in for a big surprise if they do not re-evaluate their positions. The real heroes in all this are the Indivisibles and other groups that mobilized voters in 2016 to elect responsive candidates. These new members are bringing balance to public policy as well as to the budget.