Republicans will enter session in the House of Delegates today with a 51-49 seat majority, despite Virginia Democrats trying every trick in the book to try and erase nearly twenty years of Republican control. A last minute challenge on the results in the 28th District failed, and Shelly Simonds finally conceded in the 94th, showing that her continued fight had little to do with principle and everything to do with politics and power in Richmond.
Hopes for the Democrats dimmed last week after challenges in the 28th and 94th districts went the Republicans’ way.
Last Thursday, Republican Delegate David Yancy was declared the winner in the tied 94th District race after having his name chosen by lot by the State Board of Elections. At the time, Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds refused to concede, declaring that it wasn’t fair that every vote counted:
Still stunned by the decision yesterday. My team played by the rules of the recount from the court order but Yancey did not. It was unfair that we couldn’t contest ballots but they were allowed to.
— Shelly Simonds (@shelly_simonds) December 21, 2017
The Yancey win gave Republicans a 51-49 seat majority if the results of the 28th District held. They did.
On Friday, a federal judge denied a request to to keep Republican Bob Thomas from being seated after he was declared the winner in the race. Democrats wanted a special election declared, challenging the results because more than 100 voters were placed in the wrong district and may not have voted in the election they intended to. They immediately filed an appeal.
Simonds spent the weekend refusing to outright concede, telling the Washington Post:
“This seat is mine; I am running again,” Simonds said.
“It was ‘Every vote counts,’ a beautiful story, and then it morphs into a darker story — you can play tricks and a judge can decide an election,” she said between forkfuls of pasta. “I am part of the Democratic blue wave. We’re fed up with the old boys network, and the judges represent that. They can’t do business as usual in Richmond from here on out.”
Yet she had not filed any challenges to the results, which a principled stand would have dictated.
Instead, she saved her concession for today. In a tweet at 11:18am, 42 minutes before session began, Simonds officially conceded in the race for delegate in the 94th District:
I have conceded because I do not see any legal pathways forward and I want representation for the 94th district today.
— Shelly Simonds (@shelly_simonds) January 10, 2018
The pathways (or lack thereof) are the same as they were Thursday. So what changed?
The political calculation.
An hour before Simonds tweet, that 4th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion to not seat Republican Thomas as delegate in Virginia’s 28th District.
This ensured Republicans had a 51-49 majority going into session. A Simonds challenge would have brought this to 50-49, still enough to allow Republicans to hold the majority, elect Kirk Cox speaker, and control committees.
Had the 28th been thrown into doubt, the majority would be 50-49, opening the POLITICAL path for Simonds to challenge the results in the 94th, even knowing full well the legal pathway wasn’t there – just a challenge would have meant Yancy would not be seated, creating a 49-49 tie and forcing power sharing.
Democrats have and will continue to try and paint the loss in the 94th as a “stolen election”. Simonds refusal to concede last week and assertion that it is “her seat” speaks volumes. But today’s actions show the last week’s circus has been an effort to bide time to see if there was any chance for Democrats to gain power in Richmond today. That wasn’t a decision based on principle, it was pure “good old boys network” political calculation for that toyed with the voters in the 94th District, the same voters Simonds is going to ask for the support of again in 2019.