Commentary, Local Commentary, National Commentary

Delegate Marcus Simon’s Richmond Report

Last week’s election brought a wave of change to the General Assembly. There are 34 new delegates-elect – 20 new Democrats and 14 new Republicans. With a new ruling Democratic majority of 51 to 49 in the House and 21 to 19 in the Senate. 

Let me take this opportunity to thank those who helped make this happen – my constituents and supporters. With all the 13th District ballots counted, I earned 82 percent of the vote in Falls Church. It’s clear I wouldn’t be where I am without you and I can’t express how honored I am to continue representing the Little City and the new 13th District. 

With City Councilmember retirements, including my good friend Phil Duncan, this paved the way for some new members of the Falls Church City Council. Letty Hardi handily won re-election and will now be working with the newest councilmembers, Justine Underhill and Erin Flynn. On the School Board, Jerrod Anderson won reelection and we can welcome Bethany Henderson and Amie Murphy as the newest members. I also want to congratulate our new state senator, Saddam Salim. He and his campaign team worked diligently to earn the votes and support of our mutual constituents this past year. 

And the winning doesn’t stop there. Congratulations to Andres Jiminez for winning the Mason District Supervisor race, Jimmy Bierman for the Dranesville District Supervisor race, and to Dalia Palchik for winning reelection as Providence District Supervisor. However, the biggest headline is that Democrats took control of the House of Delegates again with a slim majority of 51 to 49 AND we will have the first person of color ever to be Speaker of the House of Delegates. We also maintained control of the state Senate. 

This was a major rebuke to Governor Glenn Younkin and a setback for his presidential ambitions. Hopefully, he’ll be humbled by the result and step back from some of the incendiary actions he took during his early years, with executive orders establishing a teacher snitch line, and attempting to limit teaching of history under the guise of a ban on divisive concepts in the classroom. Virginians were clear that they trusted Democrats running for state legislative offices to protect their fundamental rights, including the right to access abortion as medical care.

After two years of the Governor’s antics, I think parents in Virginia saw what the parents’ rights slogan meant to MAGA Republicans and realized it wasn’t what they had in mind when they heard that term. Voters chose candidates who promised to promote and protect public education and allow local school districts, with robust parental involvement, to make decisions about how to run schools in their communities.

One of the most striking things about this year’s elections, some would call it eye-popping, was the amount of money spent. We saw multi-million-dollar campaigns waged on both sides for legislative seats of only about 80,000 constituents with about 25-30 thousand voters. The massive amount of campaign cash plus the time and effort required to raise it is becoming almost absurd.

This election proved the most expensive yet in Virginia. In the final stretch to Election Day, Democrats outraised Republicans, particularly in the House races — $14.2 million compared to $8.4 million. Consequently, I think this is an area where both parties might be willing to take a fresh look at Virginia’s anything goes approach to campaign finance.

With a divided Government with Democrats firmly in control of the legislature and a Republican Governor, the opportunities to pass transformative legislation on any topic will be limited for the next two years. One area that may be ripe for compromise though, given what we just witnessed in this year’s cycle, is the issue of Campaign Finance Reform. Even the mega-donors may be interested in being able to tighten up the purse strings, as long as the rules of the road apply to everyone the same way. 

Every year that I have been in office, I have introduced a form of campaign finance legislation, whether it’s to require independent audits, banning personal use of campaign funds, or strengthening our campaign ethics laws – just to name a few. The only thing different in 2024 is that this issue is one that can work within the confines of the new makeup of the General Assembly and with our current Governor.

So, let’s see what we can do in 2024.