National News

Virginia Official Pulls Republican’s Name From Bowl to Pick Winner of Tied Race

Posted January 4, 2018 11:43 a.m. EST

An official of the Virginia State Board of Elections pulled out the name of David Yancey from a blue and white stoneware bowl Thursday, breaking a tied race that is pivotal to control of the House of Delegates.

The winner, a Republican, means the House is narrowly in GOP hands, 51-49, after a Democratic wave in November, propelled by anger at President Donald Trump, erased a 32-seat Republican majority in the chamber.

The random drawing, a species of political unicorn that attracted attention well beyond Virginia, was conducted in the Patrick Henry Building near the State Capitol in Richmond shortly after 11 a.m. Each candidate’s name was written on strips of paper, inserted into film canisters and mixed together in the handmade bowl, made by the potter-in-residence at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Steven Glass.

Despite the high ceremony, the drawing is unlikely to bring finality to a race that has already been fiercely fought through a recount and in court skirmishes. By state law, the loser in the drawing may request a second recount.

Shelly Simonds, a school board member in Newport News, had proposed a deal to Yancey, the incumbent, before the drawing that whichever one of them lost would agree to forgo a second recount. Yancey rejected the offer.

Simonds and House Democrats hoped to head off the scenario in which they now find themselves: win or lose the drawing, Democrats are probably still to be in the minority when the House of Delegates reconvenes Sunday to elect a speaker. A second recount would likely stretch past that date. Republican leaders have indicated that if Simonds wins and Yancey asks for a recount, the Democrat would not be seated while it runs its course.

So Republicans, with a 50-49 majority before Thursday’s drawing, are likely to maintain control of the speakership on opening day, and with it a bag of political goodies. These include committee assignments and control over House rules, which will determine which bills make it to the floor, amplifying Republican influence over a chamber that is nearly equally divided.

Virginia Democrats have hoped that under Ralph Northam, the governor-elect and a Democrat, thwarted liberal priorities would break through a logjam of Republican control of both houses of the General Assembly.

Before Thursday’s drawing, some Democrats grumbled that in pursuing a court case, Simonds had caused the cancellation of an earlier tiebreaker drawing on Dec. 27, thereby giving up the chance for the race to be settled before the vote for speaker. Simonds went to court to ask for reconsideration of one ballot that tied the race, after a first recount on Dec. 19 gave her a one-vote win.

“Republicans win either way tomorrow,” a reporter on a conference call with Simonds said Wednesday.

“I thought it was right to ask the court to reconsider,” Simonds said. “This is bigger than just this election.”