Local Commentary

Delegate Scott’s Richmond Report

My seatmate moves on (up?)

Before President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden are sworn in on Jan.20, the Virginia House of Delegates will have two new members

Delegate Terrie Suit and Delegate Dwight Jones will have taken new positions.

Delegate Suit, a Republican, resigned in October to take a position with the law firm of Williams Mullen. Williams Mullen’s practice includes representing clients before state and Federal governmental agencies. Delegate Suit will not represent clients before state agencies until one year after her departure from the House.

Delegate Suit’s seat in the House representing Virginia Beach will be filled by a special election scheduled to be held on January 6. Since her district is reliably Republican, she will probably be replaced by the winner of the Republican primary, Barry Knight, a Virginia Beach farmer, who won the three-way race handily. No Democrat has filed for the seat. If one were to file and win, the House dynamics could change significantly.

Delegate Jones was elected Mayor of Richmond to replace former Governor, and now Mayor, Doug Wilder. Jones’ replacement will also be elected on Jan.6. Two Democrats have filed to replace Delegate Jones, a Baptist Minister, and my seatmate on the floor of the House of Delegates Chamber.

So far no Republican aspirants have filed. Richmond Councilwoman Delores Quinn and Carlos Brown, an attorney with Dominion Resources, appear to be the only Democrats. The district includes a portion of Henrico County as well as a portion of Richmond, and is heavily Democratic.

If both of these seats were to be filled by Democrats, it would benefit the Democrats far beyond the replacement of delegates. Seats held by Democrats would increase from 45 to 46, and by the formula agreed to by both Caucuses, the Republicans would lose one seat on each committee. The normal committee size is 22 members. 46 Democrats would result in an increase in Democrats on 22-member committees from 9 to 10.

I served for a term when Democrats had 12 members and Republicans had 10 members in the late 1990’s. One defection in supposedly party-line votes would result in a tie in those days. Since almost all House committees now have 13 Republicans and 9 Democrats, an election of a Democrat to replace Del. Suit would create the same situation in the House in reverse: 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats.