The NCSL Blog


By Tim Storey

Virginia Democrat Jennifer Wexton comfortably won a three-way race in a special election for the Virginia Senate despite a snowstorm making it challenging for voters trying to get to the polls. The race was to fill the seat vacated when Mark R. Herring resigned to assume the role of attorney general. Wexton’s victory leaves the Senate with 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans.

Jennifer Wexton_The Washington PostWith Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam now presiding over the body and breaking tied votes, it would appear that the chamber will shift to the Democrats after two years of Republican control under a 20-20 split with a GOP lieutenant governor.

Not so fast though. Northam also left a vacancy in the Senate when he resigned to become lieutenant governor. In the special election to fill his vacancy, Democrat Lynwood Lewis beat Republican Wayne Coleman by a razor thin margin of just nine votes. That was a nine-vote win in a race where more than 20,000 votes were cast. Coleman requested a recount, and that will take place next Monday, Jan. 27.

Unless there is a legal challenge or something else unexpected, such as a party switch, Democrats will regain functional control of the evenly divided Virginia Senate.

Tim Storey coordinates legislative training for NCSL and writes frequently about elections.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.