‘Political gamesmanship’ could come into play in battle for control of Va. House of Delegates

The Virginia State Capitol

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — More than a week after Virginia’s election, there is still talk about which party will officially control the House of Delegates.

Though not yet certified, Republicans lead with a 51-to-49 majority.

After provisional ballots were counted, Republicans remain on top in three close races — HD-40 (Fairfax and Prince William counties), HD-94 (Newport News) and HD-28 (Stafford County and Fredericksburg). The difference is 106, 10 and 82 votes respectively.

On Wednesday, House Democratic Leader David Toscano said recounts are likely in “two or three” of those races.

Democrats have also announced a federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of their candidate vying for HD-28, Joshua Cole.

The suit asks that 55 ballots that were excluded in that district be counted.

Democrats are also raising questions about precincts split between the 28th and 88th districts, saying as many as 668 voters might have been given wrong ballots.

But beyond suits and recounts, political analyst Richard Meagher said this is when “political gamesmanship” can enter the fight for chamber control.

“There’s been instances in the past, even in the recent past, where parties have tried to influence the numbers,” said Meagher.

He said they can do that by encouraging lawmakers to vacate their positions through retirement or other work. In turn, freeing up that spot for special election and potentially putting the balance at swing yet again.

“There’ll be immense pressure on the Republicans in the House of Delegates to stay where they are, while at the same time, there could be really enticing opportunities offered to one or two key legislators to come and join the Northam administration,” he said.

Meagher said a full-time administrative position can be a big lure.

“Remember, the House of Delegates, it’s a part-time job. It’s people who are getting paid $20,000 a year — less than that — to do a lot of work,” he said.

Meagher said private sector jobs could be offered, too.

“I don’t know that it’s going to be a free-for-all of bribery and corruption, but it certainly creates an environment where the motives and the incentives and career paths of everyone in the House of Delegates are going to be very closely watched,” he said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Governor-elect Ralph Northam announced the members of his bipartisan Transition Committee. One Republican delegate was on the list — Del. Todd Pillion of Abingdon.