It’s the political fight everyone in at the Virginia State Capitol is talking about.
No — I’m not talking about the ongoing effort by Democrats to litigate their way to victory in the 94th House of Delegates seat.
I’m talking about the now months long battle between Democrat David Toscano and Democrat Ken Plum to be the party’s nominee for Speaker — should the House end up 50/50 and Plum rally the House Democrats — a regional party if there ever was one — to his battle standards.
Of course, one would barely know this fight was happening by reading the major news outlets in Virginia. The only coverage thus far was a brief story by Graham Moomaw in the Richmond Times-Dispatch from back in November.
With Republicans on track for a 51-49 majority in the House heading into a handful of electoral recounts later this month, it’s not yet clear if Democrats will have a shot at electing one of their own to lead the House. But Plum, a 76-year-old retired educator who has served in the House for more than three decades, has already begun making the case to colleagues that he’s the right man for the job, setting up a potential challenge to current House Minority Leader David. J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville.
“I think with me as speaker and with Toscano as majority floor leader, we can get some things done,” Plum said Friday, listing Medicaid expansion, education and mental health funding and nonpartisan redistricting as top priorities.
Since then? Nothing… at least, nothing from those who get paid to report on things like this.
There is even speculation that the internal leadership struggle is driving the odd Democratic strategy that all but guarantees Republicans will have a majority on opening day, allowing them to elect Kirk Cox as the next Speaker.
An even more overlooked fact? The Democratic Caucus has scheduled three caucus meetings since election day to elect their leadership. Leadership elections were postponed entirely at the first two meetings, and at the third meeting, the caucus refused to put forward a candidate for Speaker — instead only re-electing their current minority leadership team, one that reportedly resulted in Toscano storming out of a caucus meeting.
These two narratives are remarkable when you consider Democrats should be on the upswing after riding a wave to an at least 15-seat pickup in the House.
Of course, this isn’t preventing a singular narrative being pushed by some in the media, to wit:
But even if Republicans pull this off and make Cox speaker, it’s a consolation prize after the whoopin’ they took last month. Rules of the game still way different with Democrats at close to equal strength
— Graham Moomaw (@gmoomaw) December 29, 2017
Small problem with this analysis? All 100 seats were up for election in Virginia, which means that Virginians sent 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats (in a victory that Democrats never expected and prognosticators in the mainstream media have yet to explain other than “Trump!”) to the lower body of the General Assembly — a narrow Republican victory, but a Republican victory nevertheless.
The proof is self-evident at this rate. Republicans are unified and preparing to elect Kirk Cox as Speaker of the House on opening day. In stark contrast, the Democrats can’t manage to get through a caucus meeting.
The only question left is… who would you rather have writing a $105 billion state budget?