By TYLER ARNOLD
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER
(The Center Square) — As the final absentee ballots were counted Friday, Virginia House Democrats conceded they lost the chamber’s majority to Republicans.
Republicans held on to all 45 of their seats and flipped seven Democrat-held seats to gain a 52-48 majority. Republicans claimed victory Wednesday, but Democrats waited until the final absentee ballots trickled in before conceding some of the closer races.
“While the results of the election were not in our favor, our work for the people of Virginia goes on,” House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, said in a statement. The new speaker will be selected after the new General Assembly is sworn in this January.
“I will work to provide a smooth transition for the incoming speaker, and our Democratic caucus will work with the new majority in the House of Delegates and the governor’s administration to serve the best interests of all Virginians,” Ms. Filler-Corn said. “But make no mistake — we will hold them accountable if and when they attempt to reverse the progress we have made and move our Commonwealth backward. Our fight is far from over, and House Democrats will continue to work hard to build a better Virginia for our constituents and for everyone who calls our Commonwealth home.”
The Republican victory will end the Democrats’ brief two-year majority in the House, which they secured in the 2019 election. This was the first Democratic majority in the commonwealth since the 1990s. It also reverses a trend of Republicans losing seats in three straight House elections.
During that time, House Democrats, along with a Democratic Senate and governor, helped pass marijuana legalization, criminal justice reform legislation, looser voting rules, stricter gun control laws, broader tax authority for localities and the option for localities to allow their workers to enter into collective bargaining agreements. Republicans criticized most of these reforms, but some of the criminal justice reforms had bipartisan support.
Ms. Filler-Corn said the legislative districts drawn by Republican leadership presented a challenge to Democrats maintaining their majority; however, some of the lines had been redrawn by a court. Republicans also won all three statewide elections: Glenn Youngkin for governor, Winsome Sears for lieutenant governor and Jason Miyares for attorney general.
House Republican leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenendoah, said the Republican victory showed a rebuke of Democratic policies over the past two years.
“We are grateful to Virginians who place their trust in us, and we look forward to immediately going to work with Governor-elect Youngkin and his administration to restore fiscal order, give parents the voice they deserve in education and keep our Commonwealth safe,” Rep. Gilbert said. “Our work begins now.”
Although Republicans have the House and the governor’s mansion, Democrats still maintain a 21-19 majority in the Senate. None of the Senate seats were on the ballot in this year’s election.
Tyler Arnold covers Virginia for The Center Square.