Democrats creeping toward control of Virginia Senate

HE'S IN ... FOR NOW: Democrat Lynwood Lewis beat Republican Wayne Coleman to represent the 6th Senate District on Virginia's Eastern Shore. Lewis' 22-vote victory could be contested in a recount.

HE’S IN … FOR NOW: Democrat Lynwood Lewis beat Republican Wayne Coleman by 22 votes Tuesday to represent the 6th Senate District on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Coleman had not conceded as of Wednesday morning, and a recount appears likely.

By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau

RICHMOND, Va. — Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, and, inch by inch, Republicans are slipping toward irrelevance in the Virginia Senate.

Assuming his 22-vote victory holds up beyond Tuesday night, “Landslide” Lynwood Lewis will keep the Eastern Shore’s 6th District Democratic. If Democrats win the Jan. 21 special election for Mark Herring‘s seat, they will take effective control of the Senate.

That scenario, which seems likely at this point, means Richmond will look a lot like Washington, D.C.: Democrats in charge of the executive branch and the Senate while Republicans hold the House.

Whether Senate Democratic leader Dick Saslaw behaves like Harry Reid and Terry McAuliffe governs like Barack Obama cannot be known. But the prospects for political gridlock are obvious.

After four years of being voted down (mostly) by GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, Senate Democrats would hold the tie-breaking vote with incoming LG Ralph Northam serving as the body’s president.

To cite just one policy difference, Virginia would not have a photo-ID voting law today if Democrats had their way last year.

Saslaw & Co. signaled they’re ready to put their stamp on ethics “reform” by anointing hyper-partisan Sen. Janet Howell to head the Privileges and Elections Committee, which handles such matters. Howell (Virginia’s Dick Durbin?) created ethics problems of her own last year when she threatened – in writing – to retaliate against a business group for endorsing McAuliffe’s Republican opponent.

A key Senate Democrat has already skewered a bipartisan House ethics bill as riddled with loopholes.

So, if Lewis’ victory stands, and Democrat Jennifer Wexton defeats Republican John Whitbeck and Republican-turned-independent Joe May in the Fairfax-Loudoun district election later this month, the stage is set for legislative battle.

Will the House, under the leadership of Speaker Bill Howell, stand as a bulwark against the multibillion-dollar tax-and-spend agenda McAuliffe campaigned on? In light of the General Assembly’s passage of outgoing GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell‘s massive transportation tax increase last session, it’s an open question.

Political gridlock may be the best Virginia taxpayers can hope for in 2014.

Kenric Ward is chief of Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau. Contact him at kenric@watchdogvirginia.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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