Daily Press: Control of Senate of Virginia Uncertain

daily pressWith lawmakers running for higher office, who will control the State Senate?

By Michael Welles Shapiro, Daily Press

September 2, 2013

A typical description of Sen. Ralph Northam's campaign to become Virginia's lieutenant governor calls it a quest to gain for the Democrats the tie-breaking vote in the evenly split state Senate.

The lieutenant governor in Virginia presides over the upper chamber and, in the event of a deadlock, chooses whether a bill passes or fails when necessary. For the current Senate, in which Northam represents a Hampton Roads district, the composition of 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans has left Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling the final arbiter in case of a tie.

But even if Northam defeats Republican candidate E.W. Jackson in November, it's not a given that a Democrat would win the ensuing special election to replace him. In other words, a victorious Northam could preside over a Senate where Republicans have the numerical advantage.

"So the Democrats may win the battle and lose the war if Northam is elected lieutenant governor," said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington.

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