Republicans in Virginia’s House began the session Wednesday with a 51-49 majority after winning a two-month recount battle in one district and staving off legal actions from voters in another.
The House of Delegates seated two Republicans after a federal appeals court in Richmond refused to halt the swearing-in of Republican Bob Thomas, and Democrat Shelly Simonds conceded a hotly contested race against Republican incumbent David Yancey.
Simonds initially appeared to lose November’s election by 10 votes, then appeared to win a recount by one vote. A court declared a tie after an uncounted ballot was contested, and then she lost a drawing of names from a bowl.
She could have requested a second recount, but said on Twitter that she doesn’t “see any legal pathways forward and I want representation for the 94th district today.”
She said she “tried to make a personal phone call to (Yancey) and would like to ask him to vote for Medicaid expansion.”
Simons also says she intends to run again for the Newport News district.
“I’m going to start fundraising immediately and try to create a positive ending to the story,” she told The Associated Press. “It’s not over for me.”
The only remaining threat to the Republican Party’s control in the House is the ongoing voters’ lawsuit, backed by Democrats, over some voters receiving the wrong ballots in Thomas’ Fredericksburg-area district. But the legal efforts have so far failed.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond on Wednesday denied the Democrats’ request for an injunction and a new election in the 28th District, where Thomas beat Democrat Joshua Cole by 73 votes after 147 voters received the wrong ballots.
The appellate ruling enabled Thomas to be sworn in, but the lawsuit is proceeding in Alexandria before U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III. He initially declined to block Thomas’ swearing-in and said he’ll need to see a lot more evidence to justify a new election. He compared the ballot mistakes to “garden-variety irregularities” that, under federal case law, do not merit judicial intrusion.
Democrats have argued that the mistakes, which theoretically could have affected the outcome of the race and control of the House along with it, were more significant and systemic.
Democrats had been outnumbered 66-34 in the House but picked up 15 seats in the November elections in a wave fueled by antipathy to President Donald Trump.
By MATTHEW BARAKAT and BEN FINLEY, Associated Press