Virginia Democrat wins recount by 1 vote; equality a priority

Republican Del. David Yancey (left) and Democrat Shelly Simonds. Photo by Julia Rendleman.

Democrat Shelly Simonds has won the recount in the 94th district in the Virginia House of Delegates Tuesday.

Republican control in Virginia's House of Delegates could disappear next year and a rare power-sharing agreement may have to be brokered after a Democratic challenger appears to have won a recount on Tuesday by a single vote.

Shelly Simonds beat three-term incumbent Republican Del. David Yancey in the 94th District in Newport News, 11,608 to 11,607, in a dramatic hours-long recount that ended only after the precinct ballots were exhausted and provisional ballots were examined.

The recounted votes still must be certified by a court on Wednesday, although officials said they expected that no ballots would be challenged.

Simonds, a school board member, had initially appeared to lose November's election by just 10 votes.

More on democrats flipping red seats: 
Doug Jones pulls out huge win in Alabama
Va. Transgender candidate beats ultra conservative incumbent GOP Delegate

Simonds' recount victory in this mostly blue collar district is an aftershock to the Democratic quake that shook more affluent areas in Virginia's elections. The Republicans' commanding 66-34 majority in the House plummeted to a 51-49 edge. It's now split 50-50 with Simonds' apparent win.

Simonds is a longtime member of Planned Parenthood and lifetime defender of women’s rights, the fight for women’s reproductive health was a huge part of her campaign.

In addition, Simonds supports the members of the LGBT+ community, declaring they must have equal rights before the law. She vowed to defend non-discrimination protections in the workplace. 

If Democrats and Republicans ultimately find themselves evenly split, a messy dynamic could unfold. The parties may have to compromise just to elect a speaker and assign committee chairmanships.

The last time Virginia's House was evenly divided was 20 years ago, when the parties reached a power-sharing agreement. But if no agreement can be reached, prolonged chaos could ensue.

"Politics is a lot more partisan today than the last time we were in a comparable situation," said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. "It's probably a recipe for gridlock."

Speaking at lunchtime, long before the recount ended, Simonds said she was optimistic that lawmakers could find compromise and get things done in Richmond despite a split chamber.

"I'm an optimistic person," she said. "We can work with Republicans."

She cited common ground such as increasing teacher pay, expanding maternity leave for state employs and criminal justice reform that would lead to fewer people being in prison.

The recount is the first to flip the results of a Virginia House race in at least 20 years, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Copyright The Gayly – December 19, 2017 @ 4:45 p.m. CST.