Republicans flip seven House seats, winning chamber control

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 11/4/2021, 6 p.m.
The red tide on Election Night washed away Democratic control of the House of Delegates after a brief two years ...
The statewide Democratic ticket, from left, incumbent Attorney General Mark R. Herring; Delegate Hala S. Ayala, lieutenant governor candidate; and former Gov. Terry R. McAuliffe, seeking a second term, stumped together one last time Monday afternoon at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond’s North Side. Photo by Regina H. Boone

The red tide on Election Night washed away Democratic control of the House of Delegates after a brief two years of progressive reform.

Republicans appear to have flipped seven House seats, including four currently held by members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus – Delegates Lashrecse D. Aird of Petersburg, Alex Q. Askew of Virginia Beach, Joshua G. Cole of Fredericksburg and Roslyn C. Tyler of Sussex County.

Though results are still unofficial, the tallies appear to show that Republicans will hold 52 seats to 48 for Democrats when the next General Assembly session convenes in January.

Analysts already are predicting that GOP control will dim prospects for further increases in the minimum wage and additional police reforms while opening the door to Texas-style proposals to limit abortion and tax rebates.

If the results are confirmed, Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, the first woman to serve as speaker, the highest post in the chamber, will return to being a regular member. She was chosen Speaker of the House when Democrats gained their first majority of 55 seats in 2019 after nearly two decades of Republican rule in the House of Delegates.

Democrats still will hold a narrow 21-19 margin in the state Senate, but the margin is razor thin. Democrats also no longer will have a lieutenant governor to cast a tie-breaking vote in their favor, with Republican Winsome E. Sears poised to replace current Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax, a Democrat, as presiding officer.

Ninety-one of the 100 House seats were contested during this election. However, Republicans did not lose a single one of the 45 seats they already held, a contrast with Democratic losses.

The Richmond area was generally a bright spot for Democrats.

Voters awarded new terms to the Richmond area House contingent of Delegates Dawn M. Adams, Betsy B. Carr, Delores L. McQuinn, Jeffrey M. Bourne and Lamont Bagby.

Two Henrico Democratic delegates, Schuyler T. VanValkenberg and Rodney T. Willett, who were GOP targets, also beat back well-funded Republican opponents.

Another bright spot for Democrats was the election of 26-year-old Nadarius E. Clark in the 79th House District.

Mr. Clark, who had ousted a three-term white incumbent in the Democratic primary, will make history as the youngest person to represent a House district and the first Black person to represent the 79th, which includes parts of Norfolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake.

But Democrats also suffered excruciatingly close losses.

Delegate Tyler, 60, who had represented the sprawling 75th House District that extends from just below Petersburg to Emporia since 2006, won four of the localities in the district. But her GOP rival H. Otto Wachsmann Jr. appeared to prevail with a big win in Southampton County and victories in Sussex and Lunenburg counties.

Delegate Aird, 35, who has served the 63rd House District since 2016, has not conceded as she waits for all votes to be counted, but her Republican rival, Kim A. Taylor, was lead- ing by 741 votes in the unofficial results and claiming victory.

Part of the class of 2019, Delegate Askew, 36, trailed his GOP opponent, Karen S. Greenhalgh, by 202 votes in unofficial results, according to results posted on the state Department of Elections website.

Delegate Cole, 31, who had in 2019 flipped the seat in the Fredericksburg-Stafford County area held by a former Republican House Speaker William J. Howell, was losing to Republican Tara A. Durant by 696 votes, preliminary re- sults show.

The three other incumbent Democrats who appear to have been upset include Nancy D. Guy of Virginia Beach, Chris A. Hurst of the Blacks- burg area and Martha M. Mugler of Hampton. Delegate Hurst had won in 2017, while the two women both won their first terms in 2019.