I’m hearing rumors, from a number of solid sources, that State Senator Barbara Favola (SD-31; Arlington/Fairfax/Loudoun) will quite possibly be headed into the Ralph Northam administration, potentially as Secretary of Education. If so, this would trigger a special election for SD-31, which in turn could trigger a House of Delegates special election in either HD-34 (Del. Kathleen Murphy; Fairfax/Loudoun) or HD-47 (Del. Patrick Hope – Arlington). This gets a bit complicated, and could also have major ripple effects on control of the House of Delegates and possibly the State Senate as well. A few points to keep in mind.
- Republicans currently hold a narrow, 21-19 advantage in the State Senate. However, there are rumors that Governor-elect Ralph Northam will try to lure a Republican – the name I keep hearing is Sen. Frank Wagner (R, SD-7) – into his administration, which could ultimately lead to a 20-20 tie in the State Senate.
- Since Democrat Justin Fairfax will be Lt. Governor, a 20-20 tie in the State Senate would likely give effective control of the State Senate to the Democrats.
- However, there would be a period in which there could be vacancies, depending on when Senators Favola – and potentially Wagner – resigned, and when special elections were held.
- In SD-31, I’m hearing that Delegates Patrick Hope (HD-47) and Kathleen Murphy (HD-34) would be possible, if not likely, candidates for the vacated SD-31 seat. Note that SD-31 is located 58.56% in Arlington County, 30.20% in Fairfax County and 11.23% in Loudoun County. That would seem to give an edge to Del. Hope, but of course there could be any number of additional candidates from Arlington, or from the more western parts of SD-31, who could complicate matters. Also, although one would think that Del. Hope would have an advantage in the HD-47 parts of SD-31, and that Del. Murphy would have an advantage in the HD-34 parts of SD-31, it’s not like either would be 100%-0% or anything like that; the question would be margins, and specifically to what degree each delegate would dominate in his/her district.
- The method of nomination chosen could make a big difference, especially if there are other serious candidates who get in this race. For instance, a “firehouse primary” with Instant Runoff Voting could end up with very different dynamics and results than a “regular” primary.
- Assuming both Del. Hope and Del. Murphy run for SD-31 (note: I spoke with Del. Hope yesterday, and he told me he’d definitely be interested if there’s an opening; I emailed Del. Murphy and am awaiting a response), and that one of them was victorious, there would then be a special election for their House seat, which could have significant implications for the House of Delegates. First of all, there could be a period of time in which there would be a vacancy in one of these districts, which – in a closely divided House of Delegates – could throw control one way or the other, or at least complicate matters. Second, while Del. Hope’s seat is overwhelmingly Democratic and thus an essentially 100% safe district, Del. Murphy’s seat could be in jeopardy if she vacates it to join the State Senate (note that Murphy won reelection in 2015 with just 50.44% of the vote). This would clearly be something that Democratic voters would need to weigh, if indeed there’s a contest between Delegates Hope and Murphy – both of whom I like and respect, by the way – for Barbara Favola’s seat.
Now, it’s possible none of this will come to pass, assuming that Sen. Favola does NOT enter the Northam administration. But if she does, see #1-#6 above.
P.S. I hear that during his gubernatorial campaign, Ralph Northam stated in public on several occasions that he wanted a teacher for Secretary of Education. If so, that will make it hard for Favola, since hasn’t been (and isn’t) a teacher.