Northam’s election could have effect on balance in Virginia Senate

by Sam Isaacs, VCU Capital News Service - Posted on Nov 06, 2013 - 12:06 PM

Although the campaigns for Virginia’s governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general are barely over, another race is already being fought more quietly—one that could have a deciding effect on Virginia’s legislative system.

Now that Ralph Northam has been elected lieutenant governor, Republicans and Democrats are angling to fill his seat in the now-evenly-divided Virginia Senate—opening the door for Republicans to capture an outright majority in that chamber.

A special election will be called to fill the seat representing the 6th Senate District, which includes parts of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, as well as Mathews County and the Eastern Shore.

Norman Leahy, author of the politically conservative blog "Bearing Drift," said the vacancy in the Senate is something neither party should take lightly.

"I would hope that both parties have been thinking about this for a long time. They would be fools not to," Leahy said. "If a Republican were to win Northam’s seat, which I think is possible, it would drastically change the way the General Assembly works up until 2015, when the next Senate election is held."

In Virginia, the lieutenant governor presides over the 40-member Senate and casts tie-breaking votes in that chamber. Bill Bolling, the current lieutenant governor, has been able to capitalize on that role because of the 20-20 party split in the Senate.

If a Republican wins Northam’s seat, the numbers would tilt 21-19 in favor of the Republicans.