Senate Democrats reorganized the Virginia Senate on Tuesday, assuming the same majority status Republicans claimed in 2012. Following the elections of Senator Lynwood Lewis (D–Accomack) and Senator Jennifer Wexton (D–Loudoun), 20 of the 40 senators are Democrats. Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam provided the tie-breaking vote for re-organization after the Senate deadlocked at 20-20.
In 2012 with the Senate tied 20-20, Senate Republicans, over the objections of Democrats, reorganized the Senate with then-Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling casting the tie-breaking vote. Senate Democrats, now in the exact same position as the Republicans were, have altered the Senate rules and committees just as the Republicans did two years ago.
In a floor speech at the time, Democratic Senator Donald McEachin (D–Henrico) asked Republicans to come to a power sharing agreement, warning, “This is historic. If you decide to go down this path, there is no going back. There is no going back. We will be at 20-20 sometime in the future, and perhaps there’ll be a Democratic lieutenant governor, and perhaps the shoe will be on the other foot.”
Republicans dismissed that argument, refused power sharing, and called on Democrats to accept the decision. At the time, Senator Tommy Norment (R–James City) said, “I take umbrage at even the civil suggestions that if we go forward in this direction, there is no stepping back. I hope that is not a euphemism that there’s going to be persistent tensions and obstructions as we try to undertake the orderly business of the citizens of Virginia.”
Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D–Fairfax) said, “The voters have made it clear. They have had three consecutive elections in which they could have given Republicans indisputable control of this chamber, but every time they chose to elect a Democrat. We now have the majority, and we have a responsibility to use that majority to get to work on the issues that voters care about.”
Democratic Caucus Chair A. Donald McEachin said, “When Republicans took control of the Senate, we asked for power sharing. At that time, we were reminded that elections have consequences. Now that we have control, we will be fair to our colleagues, but we will use our majority to work on the issues for which the voters spoke.”