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Sears' Win is Historic, But Tuesday Leaves the General Assembly with Fewer Black Members

Virginia State Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, is joined by Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, (far left), and other members of the state's Legislative Black Caucus in November 2019. On Wednesday, the VLBC sent a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam opposing his plans to start reopening the state on May 15.
AP Photo / Steve Helber
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Virginia State Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, is joined by Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, (far left), and other members of the state's Legislative Black Caucus in November 2019.

Winsome Sears’ win Tuesday as the Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate was historic. Sears is the first Black woman elected to a statewide office. But, one of the other outcomes of Tuesday's elections will be fewer Black members in the General Assembly.

When Democrats won control of the General Assembly two years ago, one of the outcomes was an increased profile for the Legislative Black Caucus. Now that group is expected to lose four members in the House, although the final results are still being confirmed.

Jatia Wrighten at Virginia Commonwealth University says it reminds her that history has cycles.

"Segregation, Jim Crow policies, voter suppression, violence against Blacks, white supremacy; all of these things came right after a decade of progress and progression ushering in diversity a backlash or in some Black communities a ‘Blacklash,’" Wrighten says.

Sean Perryman is former head of the Fairfax NAACP, and a former candidate for lieutenant governor. He says given the racial undertones of much of the campaign, ousting members of the Legislative Black Caucus must have seemed like even sweeter victory to Republicans.

"If you're talking about critical race theory and you're pushing back against what you see as a social shift and you see these people as emblematic or representative of that, then yes it would be a sweeter victory," explains Perryman.

If Democrats end up losing their majority as expected, many remaining members of the Legislative Black Caucus will end up losing their positions as chairman or chairwoman of some of the most important committees in the House.

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