Change May Be On the Way for Virginia Democrats

Aug 3, 2018

Democratic Leader David Toscano of Charlottesville. Some Democrats are hoping to install a new party leader before next year's General Assembly session begins.
Credit AP Photo / Steve Helber

The retirement of a Republican in the House of Delegates is prompting a new wave of soul searching among Democrats.

Shortly after Republican Delegate Greg Habeeb announced his unexpected resignation last month, Democratic Leader David Toscano issued a statement calling for a special election to coincide with the general election in November. Republican Speaker Kirk Cox agreed and set the election date for November 6th — thanking Toscano for his suggestion.

So was this a smart move for Democrats? Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says it depends.

“If your motivation is to try to pick a seat up, yeah it was a mistake. If you think that it would be impossible no matter what to pick the seat up and you then don’t want to waste the time or the money, then it might not have been a mistake.”

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says many Democrats are frustrated with how their party is being run.

“There’s some resentment, of course, on the part of some lawmakers I suspect because they didn’t feel like their own elections were all that well supported by the Democratic Party last year. And so you are talking about a Democratic leader who is walking a tightrope.”

That tightrope will be tested in the coming weeks as members of the General Assembly return to Richmond to vote on judges. Some House Democrats are hoping to force a leadership vote and install a new leader before the next General Assembly session in January.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.