Local Commentary

Delegate Simon’s Richmond Report

simon-mug4webI was always the crazy one

Who broke into the stadium…

How do you like me now

How do you like me now

Now that I’m on my way

Do you still think I’m crazy standing here today?

— Toby Keith, “How Do You Like Me Now?”

All the votes have been cast, most of the ballots counted, and in addition to a Democratic sweep of all three statewide offices, as it currently stands the Virginia House of Delegates will have 49 Democrats and 48 Republicans next year, with three races still too close to call. Although the outcome of the state sponsored recounts is not certain, Democrats are favored to win one and Republicans appear poised to hold off challengers in the other two.

That would result in a House of Delegates evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, 50-50. This has only happened once before in recent memory, after the 1999 elections. During my four years in the House of Delegates, Republican have held a 2-1 margin with Democrats having no more than 34 seats.

What a difference a year makes.

Things look much brighter today than they did in November of 2016, as we all wondered how bad a President Trump could be, and whether Democrats could ever win anything ever again. Many of us took solace in the fact that Hillary Clinton carried Virginia.

Most everyone agrees that Virginia is no longer a “purple” state up for grabs by either party. No, after this week we’re as blue as the ocean.

How did it happen? What drove it? Well, in addition to wanting to send a message to Donald Trump, Virginians decided to embrace our diversity. As a result, the House of Delegates will look a lot more like Virginia in 2018.

All 15 of the seats we have flipped or may flip are seats that were held by white men. Eleven of those were won by women. That will bring the total number of women in the General Assembly to 26. We’ve also elected our first transgender delegate, our first two Latina delegates, our first lesbian delegate, and our first Asian American woman delegate.

Now, about those recounts.

In the 28th House District in Stafford there is an 84 vote margin and in the 40th House District in Fairfax a 115 vote margin. In the 94th House District race in Newport News, we trail by only TEN (10) votes. Never let anyone tell you that your vote doesn’t count.

As I said before, one likely scenario is a 50-50 split. That said, there are other possibilities.

Even if the Republicans retain control of the House, they will be spread pretty thin. They’ve lost chairs for four committees: Militia, Police & Public Safety, Science & Technology, Transportation, and Courts of Justice. Their near supermajority of delegates will have dwindled to at most a single vote. With such a small majority, they will have to relearn how to work with Democrats. It won’t be easy to steamroll the things that they don’t like anymore.

If the Democrats win complete control of the House, it will be the first time since 1999. It also means that one third of our caucus will be brand new. We’ll go from being the opposition party playing defense against the worst legislative proposals to the party that governs.

A 50-50 split in the House also has huge implications for the upcoming 2018 Session and beyond. It will be a cage match, figuring out power-sharing, electing a Speaker we can all agree on, and possibly even a new Clerk of the House.

All these scenarios mean change is coming to the General Assembly. That change should be good for Falls Church and the values of our community. It will mean you have a Delegate who can’t be ignored, not anymore. A Delegate who will finally get on some good committees, and may even chair one of them. There is a lot still to unfold, but all of it is good — much better than a year ago. That’s for sure.

 


Delegate Simon represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at DelMSimon@house.virginia.gov