Whether Virginia’s deep-red House of Delegates turns blue, or an awkward purple, comes down to a few dozen votes and potential handshake deals. Republicans, who held 66 of 100 seats in the lower house of the state legislature, saw their majority melt away Tuesday in a Democratic wave that felled at least 12 GOP incumbents and flipped three open seats to the Democrats — an unprecedented shift. With four races still too close to call, both parties are bracing for the messiest of all outcomes: a dead-even 50-50 split that requires power-sharing and a potentially ugly fight for the speakership. That would be triggered if Democrats pick up one of the four races that are close enough for a state-funded recount. Republicans have leads difficult to overcome in three of them, including Del. Timothy D. Hugo (R-Fairfax), who narrowly pulled ahead of his challenger after unofficial results were tallied. Del. David Yancey (R-Newport News) is just 12 votes ahead of Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds, with provisional ballots still being counted through Monday.
Control of the chamber has implications for policy decisions affecting large swaths of Virginians, including whether Medicaid is expanded to an estimated 400,000 low-income residents and new gun control measures are implemented.
Even if Democrats fall short, they have other options to take control of the legislature. They can lure Republican lawmakers to their side with the promise of plush committee assignments, or government jobs or Cabinet positions offered by Governor-elect Ralph Northam (D).