Earlier this week, Virginia politics occupied the national spotlight, with condemnation pouring in far and wide for a controversial late term abortion bill introduced by Del. Kathy Tran (D-Springfield), which would have substantially loosened restrictions on third trimester abortions, up until the moment of birth.
Video of Tran’s committee testimony has since gone viral, garnering millions of views from voters — including those who identify as pro-choice — who responded with shock and outrage, at the thought of terminating a baby for mental health reasons at any point until birth.
Tran, however, was not the only politician to back the measure. At a January 17th press conference, Governor Ralph Northam, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, and Attorney General Mark Herring all threw their support behind the bill, calling its passage a priority should Democrats win legislative majorities in the November 2019 General Assembly elections.
Tran’s House bill earned the support of 22 co-patrons, all Democrats. 20 of those serve with Tran in the House of Delegates, while 2 Senators also lent their support. Added to those who supported an identical senate measure, a total of 35 Democrats joined Tran’s push, constituting 54% — a majority — of all Democratic lawmakers.
The legislators who backed Tran’s bill include:
Delegate Dawn Adams (D-Henrico), a first-term lawmaker representing Richmond’s moderate suburbs, who withdrew her support after the controversy erupted. Adams said in an e-mail to constituents that she failed to read the bill before signing on. Adams won her seat in 2017 by 336 votes, earning 50.4% to her opponent’s 49.5%.
Delegate Hala Ayala (D-Woodbridge), another first-term lawmaker who represents a moderate suburban district in Prince William County. In 2017, Ayala beat longtime Republican Delegate Rich Anderson by 1768 votes, winning 53.0% to Anderson’s 46.8%. The failed abortion bill could prove toxic to Ayala, whose seat is considered a top pickup opportunity for House Republicans.
Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-Woodbridge), another first-term lawmaker from Prince William County. Foy won 63% of the vote in 2017, making her district less of a pickup opportunity than those of others who backed the toxic bill.
Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas), a first-term lawmaker who made headlines for being the first self-avowed “socialist” elected to Virginia’s General Assembly with 54.3% of the vote, defeating Jackson Miller, a member of the GOP leadership team. Despite his moderate suburban district, and despite personal scandal, Carter remains committed to aggressively left-wing priorities, such as repealing Virginia’s Right to Work law. After the abortion controversy erupted, Carter doubled down in support of Tran’s bill, writing “I’m proud to be a co-patron of #HB2491.”
Delegate Wendy Gooditis (D-Clarke), another first-term lawmaker, who beat sitting GOP Delegate Randy Minchew by 1136 votes in 2017, earning 51.9% of the vote to her opponent’s 48%. Largely based in Loudoun County, Gooditis’s tenth House district becomes a stronger pickup opportunity for House Republicans following her support of the widely-criticized legislation.
Delegate Elizabeth Guzman (D-Dale City), who first won in 2017, beating former Delegate Scott Lingamfelter by 2808 votes, or 54.0% to the army colonel’s 44.2%. Guzman, who legislates well to the left of her moderate Prince William County district, faces a strong GOP challenge from an opponent who condemned Tran’s legislation.
Delegate Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), who hails from a safely Democratic district inside the Northern Virginia Beltway.
Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk), who, considering his safely Democratic district, is unlikely to be unseated over his support for the bill.
Delegate Kaye Kory (D-Falls Church), who represents a Northern Virginia district where Democrats outvote Republicans 3 to 1.
Delegate Paul Krizek (D-Alexandria), who has little to worry about in his Northern Virginia district where Ralph Northam won 69% of the vote in 2017.
Delegate Mark Levine (D-Alexandria), whose deep-blue district is also widely considered safe in 2019.
Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington), whose district routinely favors Democrats by 4 to 1.
Delegate Delores McQuinn (D-Richmond), whose co-sponsorship of the legislation is unlikely to move the needle in her deep-blue Richmond city district.
Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke), who represents a safer blue city district in otherwise deep-red Southwest Virginia.
Delegate David Reid (D-Loudon), a first-term lawmaker who defeated sitting Republican Delegate Tag Greason 58.5% to 41.4% in 2017. Reid’s blue-trending district could be a reach for Republicans, with his co-sponsorship of the widely-condemned abortion bill unlikely to strengthen his case for reelection.
Delegate Debra Rodman (D-Henrico), whose moderate suburban district will present a reelection challenge for the first-term lawmaker, now dragged down by Tran’s bill, which many call too extreme for this district. In 2017, Rodman won by 894 votes, beating Republican physician John O’Bannon 51.5% to 48.4%. Notably, Rodman stood next to Tran as the abortion bill was presented in subcommittee, giving her eventual GOP opponent a powerful visual in making the case for new leadership.
Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church), who like many of his Northern Virginia colleagues, has little to worry about in his deep-blue district.
Delegate Cheryl Turpin (D-Virginia Beach), who faces a serious rematch from Rocky Holcomb, the first-term GOP lawmaker she defeated in 2017, 50.7% to 49%. Her 389 vote margin of victory makes this district winnable for the GOP, with Tran’s abortion bill likely to factor heavily in Holcomb making the case to moderate suburban voters turned off by an expansion of third trimester abortion in Virginia.
Delegate Roslyn Tyler (D-Jarratt), who despite having not faced substantial GOP opposition in years, represents a district where Northam won only 56% of the vote in 2017. Between off-year turnout changes and the impact of the widely-criticized abortion bill, Tyler could face credible Republican opposition in the fall.
Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg (D-Henrico), whose moderate district in the Richmond suburbs gave him only 52.7% of the vote for what was then an open seat. VanValkenburg’s small margin of victory, 1786 votes, puts his seat at serious risk of a loss to the GOP, in light of his support for abortion until birth and willingness to go along with the party’s left-wing priorities on issues ranging from taxes to guns.
Senator Jennifer Boysko (D-Herndon), whose 2 to 1 Democratic district is unlikely to shift against the former NARAL board member.
Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), who represents a deep blue district where Governor Northam won 75% of the vote for Democrats in 2017.
Democrats sponsoring McClellan’s version, who did not co-sponsor Tran’s as listed above, include:
Senator Janet Howell (D-Reston), who hails from a safely blue district concentrated in suburban Loudoun County, where Northam won 71% of the vote in 2017.
Senator Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomac), who represents Virginia’s Eastern Shore and parts of Norfolk. Northam won 58% of this district in 2017, while Lewis won his last election in 2015 with 59.5% of the vote. While a reach for the GOP, Lewis could face trouble with constituents for signing on to the unpopular measure.
Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), who has little be concerned about in a district carried by Northam with 72% of the vote.
Senator Dave Marsden (D-Burke), who represents a moderate, suburban area of Fairfax County. In 2015, Marsden carried 55.5% of the vote to his opponent’s 44.5%, setting him up for a tougher than expected fight if a challenger emerges and the issue remains electorally potent.
Senator Monty Mason (D-Williamsburg), who represents Newport News and the surrounding area. In 2015, Mason’s Democratic predecessor John Miller, won 59.4% of the vote.
Senator Dick Saslaw (D-Springfield), who has little to worry about from Republicans in a district Northam carried 3 to 1. Saslaw’s support for the abortion bill may actually help him in his Democratic primary fight, burnishing his liberal credentials against challenger Yasmine Taeb, who says Saslaw isn’t liberal enough.
Senator Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon), who like many of his Northern Virginia colleagues, has little to worry about in a solidly Democratic district concentrated in Prince William and Fairfax Counties.
Delegate Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond), whose district was carried by Northam with 88% of the vote.
Delegate Betsy Carr (D-Richmond), whose House district in Richmond is routinely carried with Democratic margins exceeding 80%.
Delegate Ken Plum (D-Reston), who is safe in a seat where Democrats outvote Republicans 3 to 1.
Delegate Cia Price (D-Newport News), whose deep-blue district in Newport News and Hampton is beyond the reach of the GOP.
Delegate Jeion Ward (D-Hampton), whose deep blue district routinely favors Democrats 4 to 1.
Delegate Vivian Watts (D-Annandale), who is safely entrenched in her Northern Virginia district where Democrats exceed two thirds of the vote.
On Friday, Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) reminded his colleagues that they still had a chance to remove their names as co-sponsors.
“It is now Friday,” said Bell. “I would encourage all of my friends to take this chance to not let this week end without making it crystal clear where you stand on this law that we now all understand what it says.”
“If you’re a co-patron and wish to get off, you still can. You can walk down the aisle, talk to Mr. Nardo, and he will take you off as a co-patron of the bill.”
As of Sunday afternoon, none had done so, even after former Governor Terry McAuliffe and US Senator Tim Kaine, both pro-choice Democrats, distanced themselves from the failed legislation.
As controversy continues to swirl, it remains to be seen how many among the majority of Democratic lawmakers who co-sponsoreed the measure will request their name be removed.
While most requests for co-sponsorship are processed electronically, a number of Democratic lawmakers signaled their support by signing paperwork requesting to be added as a co-patron. Everyone who co-sponsored the measure, whether electronically or by signature, is listed above.
Those who signed the physical sheet are as follows: