When it came down to the final precinct, Democrat and Newport News School Board member Shelly Simonds was declared the apparent winner of a recount for the 94th District House of Delegates seat by just one vote.
Tuesday’s results are not official until a three-judge panel certifies them at a hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday in Newport News Circuit Court. And state law says that incumbent Del. David Yancey can file a notice of intent to contest the election within 10 days after the end of the recount.
However, if the judges do certify Simonds as the winner, it will be the first time since 1998 that an election brought a balance of power to the Virginia House, when it was split between 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans and one independent who caucused with the Republicans, according to a report in The Daily Press. Republicans have held control since gaining it in 2000. Prior to the Nov. 7 election, Republicans held 66 seats.
The recount was one of four scheduled for Virginia House races that finished with extremely tight margins.
Last week, Republican Del. Tim Hugo held onto his seat in Fairfax County after a recount had a marginal impact on his 100-plus vote lead. Two more recounts are set to take place on Wednesday and Thursday for districts in and around Richmond and in the Fredericksburg area, according to a report from Fox News.
The danger lies in an even split, which could cause contentious fights between the parties.
“Politics is a lot more partisan today than the last time we were in a comparable situation,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. “It’s probably a recipe for gridlock.”
Simonds said that she thinks lawmakers will be able to reach a compromise and get things done in Richmond despite a split chamber.
“I’m an optimistic person,” she said. “We can work with Republicans.”
She referenced common ground issues such as increasing teacher pay, expanding maternity leave for state employees and criminal justice reform that would lead to fewer people being in prison.
During the campaign, Simonds took a stand against private school vouchers while Yancey called for pay raises for teachers. They disagreed when it came to expanding Medicaid in Virginia.
“I think this is a really historic moment, and I just want to thank all of my supporters that have been with me and all the voters that have been turning out,” Simonds said right after Newport News Electoral Board Chairman Sean Devlin announced the results.
A legislative aide for Yancey said the delegate would not comment Tuesday night and has not yet conceded. He will wait for the hearing Wednesday morning, according to the Daily Press.
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