Special election in Virginia changes balance of power in Richmond

Special election results shift power in Virginia

Voters in Southwest Virginia have changed the balance of power in Richmond.

The 38th District Senate seat was left vacant after Democrat Phil Puckett suddenly resigned in June. Puckett served in the Senate for 17 years.

Republican Ben Chafin won with about 60 percent of the vote making it so Republicans now control the State Senate.

He was up against Democrat Mike Hymes and third party candidate Rick Mullins.

Hymes had about 30 percent of the vote, while Mullins only had about eight percent.

Hymes told us he was hoping to win the seat to keep the balance of power in Richmond.

"If you look at divided governments, it's always good," he said. "It means both sides will have to work together."

Chafin's victory means both the House of Delegates and Senate are now controlled by the GOP.

"We won't have any gridlock in our General Assembly," said Chafin. "Unlike Washington, D.C., we'll be able to achieve a legislative process."

The chair of Emory and Henry's political science department, Joe Lane, agrees.

"There are really important things you can't do unless you get the House and the Senate to agree and the one we all saw graphically illustrated last time around was the budget," said Lane.

The Senate, controlled by the Democrats, pushed for Medicaid expansion in the budget. The Republican House was against it.

The budget finally passed after Puckett left office, leaving the Senate controlled by Republicans.

Chafin's victory now means Southwest Virginia is also controlled entirely by the GOP. Lane said that in a state where Democrats have won  the last five statewide elections, this could cause problems.

"We risk being very marginalized in some of the bigger debates that happen in national politics and statewide politics," said Lane.

He told us Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe now has the choice to be confrontational or work on bi-partisan issues.

Third party candidate Rick Mullins ran on a platform that supported universal healthcare and the right to bear arms.

Lane told us now that we have a one-party region, he expects there to be more third-party candidates who are either more liberal or conservative than the Republican mainstream.

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