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What impacts could special elections have on this year's General Assembly session?


Voters in three parts of Virginia will be heading to the polls Tuesday to select new members of the General Assembly.

One state Senate seat in Hampton Roads opened up when Jen Kiggans was elected to Congress. A House seat in northern Virginia opened up when Mark Keam resigned to take a job in the Biden administration. And, another House seat in western Virginia opened up when Ronnie Campbell died.

So those two House seats are not expected to be competitive, but former Republican Delegate David Ramadan, now at George Mason University's Schar School, says Democrats might be able to flip that Senate seat in Hampton Roads.

"If the Democrat wins," Ramadan says. "It gives the Democratic majority a bigger cushion on the floor on bills such as casinos, such as abortion should those bills make it to the floor."

Senate Democrats have one member of their caucus who is opposed to abortion rights, and so far, leadership has been able to prevent abortion bills from going to the floor. But, Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett says having that extra cushion could be a really significant development.

"The governor in Virginia can send down amendments directly to the floor in the Senate that can bypass the committee structure," explains Tribbett. "And so, if one Democratic senator breaks and supports the governor, the Republicans are essentially in complete control of the state."

The Senate currently has 21 Democrats and 19 Republicans, and Republican Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears gets to break the tie when senators are evenly divided.

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

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.