Mass exodus of General Assembly could usher in generation of new leaders

Ned Oliver
An illustration of the Virginia State Capitol and lines radiating from it.

Illustrated by Brendan Lynch/Axios

It’s been a retirement party at the state capitol since lawmakers adjourned last month.

what’s happening: An astonishing 22 lawmakers, many of whom have been long-time leaders, have announced that they will not be seeking re-election this year.

Line spacing: The turnover was largely the result of the state’s new nonpartisan re-election process, which reorganized legislative districts for the first time without regard to protecting incumbents.

  • As a result, many legislators have found themselves paired with other incumbents in their constituencies or drawn into unfamiliar (and often unfriendly) political spheres.
  • Moreover, many of the resigning MPs were already seniors and already had their sights set on exit.

Important reasons: Especially in the Senate, retirements have created vacancies in various leadership posts and created opportunities for new generations to step up.

  • The resignations also include more moderate lawmakers from both parties, including Republican Jill Vogel and Democrat Lynnwood Lewis, making it harder for the tightly-divided House to reach a compromise in the years to come. there’s a possibility that.

By numbers: The nine senators who have said they will not seek re-election make up just under a quarter of all members of the House of Representatives and have served in the House of Representatives for 231 years.

  • The oldest (both by age and class) is Democratic Majority Leader Dick Suslow, who was 83 and first elected in 1976.

What we see: Who will step up to fill the Senate leadership void?

  • On the Democratic side, the second and third highest Democrats are Senators Mamie Locke and Scott Throbell, both said to be interested in replacing Suslow.
  • On the Republican side, Senators Ryan McDougle and Senator Mark Obenshine are seen as likely to succeed minority leader Tommy Noment.

What’s next: More departures, and not necessarily spontaneous.

  • Moderate Republican Senator Emmett Hunger has yet to finalize his plan, which could include moving and major challenges.
  • And two of the oldest remaining Democratic senators, Louise Lucas and Lionel Spruill, look set to face off in the primary after being drawn into the same constituency.
  • Unlike the other pair, neither has so far chosen to move or retire.


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