Despite judges ruling, Senate democrats plead for power sharing
It has been a rough couple of weeks for democrats hoping to hold on to power in the Virginia Senate. First, on election night they lost two seats and were within a razor-thin margin in a third. That third seat, once held by Sen. Edd Houck, meant the difference between a 21-19 majority and a 20-20 tie. Instead of Houck asking for a recount and hoping for a different outcome, the veteran lawmaker conceded guaranteeing a 20-20 tie in the Senate.
That meant that Lt. Governor Bill Bolling held the tie breaking vote and that democrats were now in the minority. But democrats were not ready to give up. Led by Sen. Don McEachin (D-Henrico), they filed a lawsuit in Richmond Circuit Court, requesting that they be given the opportunity to share power with the GOP. Today, Judge Beverly W. Snukals denied that request.
Now with the elections over and an unsuccessful legal challenge behind them, the democrats are left with only one option. Beg the now official majority party to share power.
“I call on the Republicans to respect the will of the voters and past history,” said McEachin. “The senate is evenly divided, 20-20 so committees and responsibilities and power should be divided to reflect that even split, just as the Republicans said in 1996.”
Not surprisingly, the republicans don’t appear to be interested in offering democrats committee chairmanships and evenly distributing members of both parties in those committees.
“It is my hope that Senator McEachin and the Senate Democratic Caucus will realize the futility of pursuing this matter further and begin to prepare appropriately for the important work of the upcoming session,” said the incoming Senate Majority leader Sen. Tommy Norment (R-James City)
McEachin has not ruled out further moves, “both legal and procedural”, but did not go into specifics. He even pointed to a recent Public Policy Polling survey that he claims shows that Virginians want power sharing in the Virginia Senate.
“Over half of respondents, 55%, believe that power should be shared in the Virginia State Senate,” said McEachin. “These voters, constituents of both Democrats and Republicans, recognize that the Election day results created an evenly divided Senate and, therefore, the Senate should organize in a way reflective of those results.
Republicans, though don’t seem moved by McEachin’s argument. Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins welcomed the Circuit Court’s ruling and told the democrats to back off what he called their “sore loser suit”.
“Hopefully, Democrats will accept the judgement of Virginia’s voters – and now the courts – with a measure of grace,” said Mullins.
Despite McEachin’s persistence, the leader of the Virginia Senate democrats appeared to agree with republicans in the days after the election results came in. Sen. Dick Saslaw admitted in a conference call that all the decisions regarding who runs in the Senate were in the republican’s hands.
“They got a tie breaking vote,” said Saslaw. “If you got 20 plus 1 on a vote you pretty much don’t have to share anything!”