The Virginia Capitol at sunrise. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)
In an unexpected display of bipartisanship, Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, announced they’ve agreed a special election to fill a newly vacant Virginia Senate seat will be held Jan. 10.
The timing of the special election, which was up in the air due to legal uncertainty over whether Youngkin or Senate Democrats had the power to schedule it, ensures residents of the Virginia Beach-centered district represented by Republican Sen. Jen Kiggans will have new representation for the 2023 General Assembly session that begins Jan. 11.
Youngkin and Lucas, one of the governor’s most vocal critics on Twitter, made the announcement in a joint press release accompanied by two different writs of election with the same legal purpose.
The procedure for setting the special election was unclear due to a dispute over whether the General Assembly is currently in special session or not. When the legislature is in session, the leader of the body where the vacancy occurs sets the date of a special election. When not in session, the governor picks the date.
Kiggans, who officials said submitted her resignationTuesday, is heading to the U.S. Congress after defeating incumbent Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria this month in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. Her resignation won’t be effective until Dec. 31.
The outcome of the upcoming special election will be significant in a narrowly divided Senate where Democrats currently hold a 21-19 majority, which has given them the ability to block some, but not all, of Youngkin’s agenda.
If Democrats flip the competitive district, they’ll have more of a cushion to vote down Republican-backed bills, particularly on any new abortion restrictions that might come over from the GOP-controlled House of Delegates. If Republicans hold it, they’ll have a clearer path to get bills through with the help of dissenting Democrats and the tiebreaking vote of Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears.
By delaying the special election and holding the seat open, Democrats could have potentially deprived the Republican minority of a vote for much of the session.
Democrats Aaron Rouse, a member of the Virginia Beach City Council, and former Del. Cheryl Turpin, who narrowly lost to Kiggans in 2019, have both announced candidacies for the special election, as has Republican Kevin Adams, a retired Navy commander.
The deadline for candidates to file for the seat is Nov. 21, according to the orders Lucas and Youngkin issued.
This story has been corrected to note that while Kiggans submitted her resignation today, it isn’t effective until Dec. 31.
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