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Looking Back at Virginia Politics in 2023: Highlights…and Lowlights






2023 was certainly an eventful year – for better or for worse – in the world, country, and here in Virginia. For Virginia Democrats, it was a year during which Democrats held – albeit barely – control of their “brick wall” (against Youngkin’s godawful, mostly right-wing policy proposals) in the State Senate, with their already-narrow 22-18 majority shrinking to just 21-19. Fortunately, Democrats also managed to take back control of the House of Delegates, although again by a slim (51-49) margin. Still, it’s a majority, and it means that on January 10, 2024, Del. Don Scott will become the first African-American Speaker in Virginia history. Great news!  A few other big news items in 2023 included (just a very short/quick/non-comprehensive list here):

  • On January 10, Democrat Aaron Rouse “prevailed in Virginia’s 7th Senate District over anti-abortion opponent Kevin Adams.” It was a close election (50.8%-49.1%), but “a win’s a win,” and Adams’ victory gave Democrats a 22-18 majority in the State Senate.
  • On January 20, Sen. Tim Kaine announced that he would run for reelection, having first been elected in 2012, then reelected in 2018. I’m looking forward to Sen. Kaine’s reelection – hopefully by a large (10 or more points?) margin over whichever MAGA extremist nutjob (Hung Cao? Scott Parkinson? Chuck Smith? Other?) Republicans end up nominating.
  • On January 30, State Sen. Jill Vogel (R) announced that she wouldn’t be running for reelection, with newcomer Juan Pablo Segura (R) announcing (with a bunch of far-right blather) for the Loudoun-centered SD31. Fortunately, in the end, Segura lost to Democrat Russet Perry.
  • On February 13, after Youngkin killed a $3.5 billion, 2,500-jobs investment in Southside, Ford announced ” plans to build a $3.5 billion factory in Michigan that would employ at least 2,500 people to make lower-cost batteries for a variety of new and existing electric vehicles.” Great job by Youngkin, huh?
  • On February 21, Jennifer McClellan made history, becoming the first African-American Congresswoman from Virginia, trouncing Republican Leon Benjamin by a 74%-26% margin.
  • On February 26, Democrats nominated Del. Lamont Bagby for the State Senate being vacated by Jennifer McClellan, after her win for the VA04 Congressional seat. Bagby was then elected, by a huge (88%-12%) margin, on March 28.
  • On March 7, former Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn announced that she would not be seeking reelection to the House of Delegates. Instead, Filler-Corn announced a few months later – on October 18 – that she’d be running for the VA10 congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Jennifer Wexton (see below for more on that story).
  • On June 20, Democrats held primaries for House of Delegates, State Senate and local offices; here are some “winners” – Saddam Salim, Lachrecse Aird, Deshundra Jefferson, Jennifer Carroll Foy, Stella Pekarsky, Dave Marsden, Creigh Deeds, etc, etc. – and “losers” – Joe Morrissey, Ann Wheeler, Chap Petersen, George Barker, etc.
  • On August 10, the WaPo reported that Republican House of Delegates candidate John Stirrup admitted in secretly recorded video, “I would support a 100 percent ban” and “I’d like to see, you know, [a] total ban.” Virginia House Democrats, unsurprisingly, pounced on this story, arguing: “We know that if the extremist John Stirrup and the rest of the MAGA Virginia Republicans take the majority in the House of Delegates, they will absolutely ban access to abortion in the Commonwealth. The GOP continues to show us who they are and we cannot allow them full control. Women’s lives are at stake.” In the end, Stirrup lost that race to Democrat Josh Thomas, while arguably damaging other Republican House of Delegates candidates, helping boost Democrats to a narrow 51-49 majority.
  • On September 6, Democrat Missy Cotter Smasal announced her candidacy for the VA02 Democratic nomination to hopefully defeat the godawful Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-VA02). Recall that in November 22, Kiggans narrowly defeated the superb Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA02), marking a HUGE downgrade in representation for the district…
  • On September 18, Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA10) announced the very sad news that, “amid receiving treatment and regular medical evaluations for Parkinson’s Disease over the course of the past several months, she has received a modified diagnosis of Progressive Supra-nuclear Palsy, type-p (PSP-P), a form of Atypical Parkinsonism. As a result, she will serve the remainder of her term in the 118th Congress and not seek reelection.” Following Rep. Wexton’s announcement, a dozen Democrats –  Krystle Kaul, Travis Nembhard, Del. Michelle Maldonado, State Senator-elect Suhas Subramanyan, Del. Dan Helmer, former VA House of Delegates Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, State Sen. Jennifer Boysko, Del. David Reid, former VA Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, Mark Leighton, Brandon Garay and Adrian Pokharel – have announced for the VA10 seat.
  • On October 2, the majority of Virginia Republicans in the U.S. House voted AGAINST keeping the government open. Leading the charge to shut the government down was far-right-extremist Rep. Bob Good (R-VA05), who also was one of the leading “Freedom Caucus” loons who helped destroy Kevin McCarthy’s Speakership (not that any tears should be shed for THAT guy!)…after McCarthy (as Rep. Don Beyer put it on September 30) “folded and finally allowed a bipartisan vote…to stop Republicans’ rush to a disastrous shutdown.”
  • On November 6, Democrat Susanna Gibson argued that “It’s easier to talk about my body than it is to defend a party platform that dehumanizes people, threatens women and their providers, and makes raising a family in the Commonwealth more difficult.” This came after months of Republican attacks on Gibson for video of “consensual acts with her husband.“
  • On November 7, Virginians voted in crucial elections for control of the Virginia General Assembly, holding the State Senate and taking back the House of Delegates. For some “winners” (e.g., Virginia House Democratic Leader Don Scott, abortion rights, Virginia women, Clean Virginia, the DLCC, etc.) and “losers” (Glenn Youngkin – who became a “lame-duck” governor and also saw his presidential aspirations, which already were mostly an illusion/delusion, completely evaporate!), Todd Gilbert, Dominion Energy, the Richmond casino, etc.) from these elections, see here.
  • On November 11, as expected, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA07) formally announced that she would NOT be running for reelection to Congress, but instead would be running for governor of Virginia in 2025. In the aftermath of Spanberger’s announcement, several Democrats – Margaret Angela Franklin, Yevgeny Vindman, Del. Briana Sewell, Del. Elizabeth Guzman,  – declared their candidacies for the VA07 nomination.
  • Also on November 11, Virginia House Democrats nominated Don Scott for Speaker, while electing Charniele Herring as Majority Leader and Kathy Tran as Caucus Chair.
  • On November 15, Virginia Senate Democrats elected Scott Surovell as their new Majority Leader, replacing Dick Saslaw, who is retiring after many years as Senate Democratic Leader. Senate Dems also elected Mamie Locke as Caucus Chair, Adam Ebbin as Vice Chair, Aaron Rouse as Secretary, Ghazala Hashmi as Treasurer, Barbara Favola as Whip and Lamont Bagby as Whip. (For their part, Senate Republicans elected right wingers Ryan McDougle as Minority Leader and Mark Obenshain as Caucus Chair)
  • On December 4, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced his candidacy for governor of Virginia in 2025, stating, “If elected, Levar will be the first Black Governor in Virginia in over three decades.”
  • On December 13, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced plans to move the Washington Wizards/Washington Capitols to a new arena at Potomac Yard in Alexandria. In response, incoming VA Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell said: “I’m cautiously thinking it might go through. But I’m telling you, we’ve got a lot of issues with this governor. The governor’s tried to make an issue of Metro funding and how Metro operates, which is ironic to me given that this entire project is dependent on Metro. We have to get the Metro funding piece done. I know our finance chairman Senator Lucas has said there’s some things that are important for her. You’ve got to remember, this deal has to be passed by the entire legislature, not just the northern Virginia delegation, and we have to show that there’s benefit for the entire state in this project and not just our Northern Virginia region in order for all them be able to vote for it. And so we have some work to do with folks, and we also have some work to do with the governor, because the governor needs to come to our position on some things like Metro funding.”
  • On December 20, Gov. Glenn Youngkin presented a regressive, harmful budget which Democrats proceeded to rip into, with the new Chairman of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, Sen. Louise Lucas, declaring Youngkin’s proposed “lining the pockets of billionaires” budget “dead on arrival”; and with Virginia Senate Democrats stating, “Today, Governor Glenn Youngkin has unveiled an absolutely disgraceful budget proposal for the next two years. This budget is a slap in the face of our most vulnerable individuals who call our Commonwealth home.”

Again, that’s just a short list of some of the top Virginia political stories of 2023. What would you add to list? What were you focused on regarding Virginia politics in 2023?

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