Power shifted dramatically this week after a recount in the 94th Virginia House Direct shifted a 10-vote win by Republican incumbent David Yancey to a loss by 1 vote to Democrat Shelly Simons.
The change leaves the the state house died 50-50 in seats and forces the Republican Party to learn to share and compromise after 17 years of pile-driver control of the legislature’s lower body.
The state Senate remains in control of the Senate by a thin 21-19 edge but that margin gives a Democratic lieutenant governor a chance to break ties and a Democratic governor veto control of legislation.
In the House, not party controls committee chairmanships. Each has to be negotiated. Even the speaker’s choice is up for grabs. Legislation with less than 51 votes goes nowhere.
The recount win of the Newport News house seat caps a dramatic turnaround in Virginia, where the once-massive GOP lead in the house vanished and Democrats kept the governor, lt. governor and attorney general’s office in their party.
This year’s state and local elections hit the party of the elephant hard, not only in Democratic strongholds in Northern Virginia and Tidewater, but even in conservative Southwestern Virginia.
Even in normally rock-solid Floyd County, Republican county board supervisor chairman Casey Clinger lost to former Democratic supervisor Jerry Boothe, who ran this year as an independent. Boothe’s win gives the county board two independent members and three Republicans in a body that once was all GOP.
In the nearby 12t District, former TV anchor Chris Hurst knocked off longtime incumbent Joseph Yost in what was the most expensive house race in Virginia history and doubles the number of Democrats representing Southwestern Virignia in the house.
Lt. Gov. Ralph Nordham beat GOP wannabe governor Ed Gillespie in what was his second straight loss statewide. Sen. Mark Warner beet Gillespie in the heated Senate race, leaving both Virginia seats in Democratic hands in the senate.
As a Republican political operative in Washington from 1981-87, I sadly had to deal with Gillespie too often. He, and still is, a major pain in the ass. Of course, as an operative for the GOP, I could be a bigger one.
Virginia’s turn against the GOP in November is hailed as a sign of the declining influence, popularity and power of Donald Trump and his escalating scandals, criminal probes and shrinking base.
Hold onto your hats. The upheaval is just beginning.