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Now That Gov. Youngkin Has Set the VA04 Special Election Date (2/21/23), Here’s What Dems Need to Focus On

The VA04 special election could have major implications for Gov. Youngkin's right-wing agenda in the State Senate, which adjourns sine die on February 25, 2023.


With Gov. Glenn Youngkin this morning having set the date (2/21/23) for the special election in VA04, following the tragic death of Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA04) recently, here are a few things Democrats need to focus on.

  1. Obviously, we should focus on the VA04 Democratic nomination itself, since whoever wins thisState Senator Jennifer McClellan, Del. Lamont Bagby, Tavorise Marks, former Del. Joseph Preston, former Del. Lashrecse Aird (if she runs for this), etc. – will likely represent this deep-blue, safe-Democratic seat for many years to come. So all VA04 Democrats should be treating this nomination as, effectively, not just the general election, but an election that will select someone for years, if not decades, to come. Which means that every VA04 Democratic voters should most definitely vote in this nomination contest, presumably a “firehouse primary” in the next couple weeks (and yes, being in the middle of the holidays will probably mean very LOW turnout, which is really unfortunate).
  2. Second, as I wrote on December 4, the fact that this special election will be taking place before the end of the 2023 Virginia General Assembly could have major ramifications for Glenn Youngkin’s right-wing agenda. Keep in mind that prior to the 2022 midterm elections, Democrats held a VERY narrow, 21-19 majority in the Virginia State Senate, while Republicans controlled (and still control) the governorship and House of Delegates. Which means that the only thing stopping Glenn Youngkin’s far-right agenda from becoming a horrifying reality is that narrow Democrats majority in the State Senate, aka the “firewall.” Of course, following the 2022 midterm elections, with the unfortunate victory of State Sen. Jen Kiggans (R-SD7) in the VA02 U.S. House race, there’s now a vacancy in the State Senate, which makes the current partisan balance *TEMPORARILY* 21-18 in favor of Democrats. However, the special election for the 7th State Senate district seat will take place on January 10, 2023, which means that when the Virginia General Assembly kicks off its 2023 session on January 11, that seat will be filled, making the State Senate balance either 22D-18R or 21D-19R.
  3. So, you ask, why is the SD7 special election so important if the State Senate will end up at the start of the 2023 session – at worst, from a Democratic perspective – back to where it started, at 21D-19R? Several reasons: a) it’s important in and of itself that we replace right winger Jen Kiggans with Democrat Aaron Rouse, not another right winger like Rouse’s Republican opponent (see here for more on that guy’s extreme anti-choice positions); b) if State Senator Jennifer McClellan wins the VA04 special election on February 21, 2023 – which, again, is BEFORE the end of the 2023 General Assembly session on February 25, 2023 –  AND if Aaron Rouse doesn’t win the SD7 special election, that would mean Democrats’ already narrow majority would dip to 20-19 for the final days of the 2023 General Assembly session. That, in turn, would mean that if Democrats lose a single Senator (e.g., could Youngkin pick off Joe Morrissey on abortion?) on pretty much any vote, or if anyone’s sick or whatever, they’ll lose that vote, especially given that LG Winsome Sears (R) would break any ties…shuddderrrr. And who knows what shenanigans Youngkin et al might try to pull on abortion or any other issue?

So, bottom line: even without the VA04 special election, Democrats already needed to win the SD7 special election, but WITH the VA04 special election occurring prior to the end of the 2023 Virginia General Assembly session on February 25, 2023, and with State Senator Jennifer McClellan a definite possibility to win the VA04 special election (thus vacating her seat in the State Senate), the stakes just got even higher.

P.S. It was pointed out to me that if Sen. McClellan wins the VA04 Democratic nomination and the special election on 2/21/23, it’s possible she could delay resigning until after the session and get sworn in the following week. (OTOH, could Rs try to extend the session?) Still, let’s not take any chances – let’s make sure we win the SD7 special election!


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