RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Republicans secured control of the commonwealth’s House of Delegates Friday, after a narrow recount in Virginia Beach delivered a defeat to incumbent Del. Alex Askew (D) by 115 votes.
The result, sending Republican challenger Karen Greenhalgh to Richmond, tilts the balance of power in the House to a new GOP majority.
A second recount in Hampton Roads next week is expected to affirm an additional Republican victory, sealing a 52-48 GOP advantage in the lower chamber.
But can Virginians expect conservative priorities to now sail through the General Assembly? Action on abortion and education promised by Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin to become reality in Richmond?
The answer is no. Because there’s a new chapter of gridlocked government likely for the commonwealth, courtesy of the still Democratic-controlled state Senate (21-19).
Elections for all of Virginia’s 40 Senate seats are not until November 7, 2023.
Democrats in Mr. Jefferson’s Capitol will likely block all of Mr. Youngkin’s signature campaign promises, at least, for the first half of the term.
“To put it simply, Trump voters who expected a radical change in Virginia because of Glenn Youngkin’s election are going to be disappointed,” said Dr. Stephen J. Farnsworth, political science professor and director of the University of Mary Washington’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies. "The idea that there’s going to be some wholesale conservative reversal in Virginia, that’s just not in the cards.”
Virginians have seen this movie before: a charismatic governor elected, promising a roadmap of radical changes coming to Richmond. The most recent remake was between 2014 and 2018 – the McAuliffe years.
“During Terry McAuliffe’s four years as governor, his top priority was Medicaid expansion,” Farnsworth said. “There were Republican majorities in the House of Delegates, usually large ones, and it just simply got no traction.”
Observers assess both parties may be able to find common ground over lowering certain taxes – among them, the grocery tax, a significant Youngkin campaign promise.
“But this really means, there will be gridlock on any controversial issue,” Farnsworth added. “Issues that are really hot-button topics, including abortion, are not going to see a lot of legislative change.”