In Richmond, Youngkin will face “the Alamo Democrat of the Senate”
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Republican Glenn Youngkin has spent months discussing with voters his plans to roll back the Democrats’ “left, liberal and progressive agenda”. When he takes office in January as the next governor of Virginia, he will have to speak to Democrats in the Senate.
Youngkin’s victory was part of a Republican election night sweep that saw the GOP take over the other two statewide Virginia offices and Democrats announced they were conceding control of the House of the state. The Associated Press has yet to call all House races.
But in the Senate, where no one was running for office this year, Democrats will still have a slim majority.
“We are the Alamo Democrat of the Senate,” Democratic member Scott Surovell said.
Days after Youngkin’s defeat to Terry McAuliffe, a former governor and longtime Democratic Party fundraiser, conversations in Richmond shifted from campaign rhetoric to rosy rhetoric about bipartisanship, with elected officials from both parties voicing l hope that next year’s legislative session will be an opportunity to find common ground. Youngkin is contacting Democrats and Republicans by phone and plans to meet with Senate lawmakers at a financial retreat later this month, according to Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment. He also joined outgoing Governor Ralph Northam for lunch and made public remarks suggesting he might turn to the Democrat with questions.
“He said during the campaign that he was going to rule in a bipartisan way. His campaign was to unify Virginians under a specific vision for the future, and he intends to keep that promise, ”said Devin O’Malley, a spokesperson for Youngkin.
Youngkin positioned himself during the campaign as a unifier who would transcend the nation’s partisan resentment. But he also selectively engaged with the media, sought to avoid details on controversial issues such as abortion and gun control, and spent months refusing to acknowledge that President Joe Biden had been legitimately elected, drawing strong criticism from Democrats.
In a statement on Friday, state Democratic Party chair Susan Swecker said the “fight for Virginia’s future” had begun.
Youngkin has made a few media appearances – including with Fox News host Tucker Carlson – but did not hold a formal press conference to answer a wide range of questions. In a statement after election night, he adopted a conciliatory tone, thanking his supporters and telling those who voted differently: “Thank you for standing up for what you believe in. I look forward to coming together and gaining your support over the next four years. . “
The former private equity executive and first-time candidate campaigned on what he called a day one game plan, most of which cannot be implemented on day one as it will require the legislative approval.
It includes a wide array of tax cuts, including the elimination of the state grocery tax, a 12-month gasoline tax suspension, and one-time discounts. His platform also calls for increasing funding for law enforcement, increasing teacher salaries, opening new charter schools, reinstating the requirement to show photo ID to vote and to ban the critical race theory, which considers racism to be systemic in American institutions. It is not currently taught in any of the U.S. public schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12, according to the National School Boards Association.
Youngkin, who is independently wealthy and has pledged to donate the salary he receives as governor to charity, this week set up a transition office in a state government building. He told a conservative radio host that Jeff Goettman, a senior campaign official and former Treasury Department official under President Donald Trump, would chair his transition. The inauguration day is January 15th.
O’Malley said Youngkin visited a food bank and mosque on Friday and was pushing his way through a long list of bipartisan calls. He declined to say whether Youngkin had been in contact with Dominion Energy, a powerful player on the State Capitol who angered the candidate after supporting a secret anti-Youngkin political action committee.
No further details on key staff or cabinet members were immediately announced.
Dick Saslaw, the Senate Majority Leader, said he had a “very nice and friendly call” with Youngkin who did not deviate from politics.
“There could be common ground on education, there could be common ground on the environment. There could be common ground on so many things. We’ll just have to wait and see, ”Saslaw said.
With just a 21-19 majority in the Senate – where newly-elected Republican Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears will vote to break the tie – Democrats can’t afford a single defector if they want to block a bill.
This reality highlighted two Democratic members, Joe Morrissey – a Catholic who personally opposes abortion – and Chap Petersen, a moderate from northern Virginia. It is not uncommon for the two to vote against their caucus on a range of issues. But the GOP also has a few members who oppose party line votes.
“The area can lend itself to bipartisan cooperation,” said Republican Senator Richard Stuart, who sometimes votes with an independent streak.
Morrissey and Petersen drew comparisons to American senses Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who forced cuts in President Joe Biden’s sweeping political initiatives. But several Democrats said the comparison was overblown and the caucus would stand together. Saslaw was adamant that there would be no outright change of party.
Morrissey has said he will not vote for a Texan-style abortion law and is considering the Roe v decision. Wade guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion as part of the fabric of the country. But he also said there had to be some common ground, which meant he would consider some restrictions.
He also expressed some skepticism about the length of the post-election honeymoon period.
“At the start of each session everything is kumbaya, everyone holding hands, and then it often takes about a week for the bipartisan divisions to be created,” Morrissey said. “It is important that moderates on both sides bridge these gaps. “
Todd Gilbert, the House Minority Leader and presidential candidate, told a press conference that his caucus priority would be education.
He said Republicans will focus on amending, not removing, a recently passed marijuana legalization bill. When asked if the GOP would seek to reinstate the abortion restrictions that Democrats rolled back when they were in full control of state government, he suggested that this issue would not be the focus of concern.
Gilbert predicted that the House and Senate might actually have a more fluid relationship than when Democrats controlled his chamber. The two groups of Democrats often spoke derogatoryly about each other, and the House routinely passed bills, only to have the more moderate Senate raise them.
“I think we’re going to get along well from an institutional point of view,” Gilbert said.
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