General Assembly Update
January 23, 2014
WHO WILL CONTROL THE SENATE OF VIRGINIA?
In the race to fill Attorney General Mark Herring’s vacant Senate seat, Attorney Jennifer Wexton (D) defeated Republican John Whitbeck and former Republican Delegate turned Independent Joe May. Wexton collected approximately 53% of the vote to Whitbeck’s 38% and Joe May’s 10%. Given the fact that this was a special election with three candidates in the race and a significant winter storm impacting the turnout, Wexton’s victory was surprisingly easy. The margin of victory should ensure that she will take her seat in the Senate very quickly (perhaps as early as tomorrow).
With Wexton’s victory, the Democrats are now at 19 seats with the Republicans at 20 seats. Both Republicans and Democrats are eagerly awaiting the results of the recount in Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam’s vacant Norfolk based seat where Delegate Lynwood Lewis holds a slim 9 vote lead over Republican Wayne Coleman. If Lewis can manage to hold on, the Senate will be once again tied at 20, with Lieutenant Governor Northam giving the Senate Democrats the crucial 21st vote, giving them control of the chamber. Such a scenario could lead to major upheaval in terms of the partisan make-up and the chairmanship of the body’s standing committees. The situation in the Senate will remain unsettled and unpredictable in the near term.