A single vote may spell the end of Republican control in Virginia’s House of Delegates.
A Democratic challenger seems to have won a recount Tuesday by one vote, putting the partisan balance in the House at a tie. It would mean a rare power-sharing agreement may have to be brokered.
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 hourslong 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 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.
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.
The recount was one of four scheduled for House races that ended with extremely tight margins. The 94th District had by far the slimmest vote difference and the biggest chance of flipping.
Last week, Republican Del. Tim Hugo held onto his seat in Fairfax County after a recount had a marginal impact on his 100-plus vote lead. Two more recounts are set to take place Wednesday and Thursday for districts in and around Richmond and in the Fredericksburg area.
“We’re now 50-50,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, told the Associated Press. “And we won it by one vote. Don’t tell me that every vote doesn’t count.”
The governor added that Democrats could gain control of the House in case another recount flips another district.
“This is the biggest win since the 1880s,” he said.
But if Democrats and Republicans ultimately find themselves evenly split, a messy dynamic could develop. The parties may have to compromise just to elect a speaker and assign committee chairmanships.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, the House Republican leadership congratulated Simonds and appeared ready to compromise. The GOP has controlled the House for 17 years.
“We stand ready to establish a bipartisan framework under which the House can operate efficiently and effectively over the next two years,” the statement said.