(Corrects spelling of Virginia House of Delegates member David Yancey throughout in this Dec. 19 story.)
By Sharon Bernstein
(Reuters) - Virginia Democrat Shelly Simonds won a seat in the House of Delegates by one vote, changing the power balance in the state legislature and extending a tide of Democratic victories beginning with November’s capture of the governorship and several legislative seats.
Simonds beat incumbent David Yancey in a recount held Tuesday, both parties said in statements released after the unofficial vote recount was completed by officials in Newport News.
“Never, ever forget how very much your vote counts,” House of Delegates member David Toscano said on Twitter, one of many Democrats rejoicing that a single vote handed them the seat.
“I want to thank the voters who came out on Nov. 7,” Simonds said in a news release. “It wouldn’t have happened without their participation.”
Republican leaders in the House of Delegates welcomed Simonds and thanked Yancey for his service, but the chairman of the state party vowed to fight on.
“Today, our opponents carried the day,” Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck said in a statement emailed to Reuters. “Tomorrow, we begin again.”
Simonds’ election, which still must be affirmed by a panel of three judges, means that the 100-member House of Delegates will have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. That could lead to more moderate policies by forcing the parties to share power.
Before the Nov. 7 general election, Republicans held 66 seats to Democrats’ 34, along with a majority in the state senate, according to the election information website Ballotpedia. The GOP still holds a slim margin in the senate.
Also on Nov. 7, the state elected Democrat Ralph Northam in a bitter race for governor, dealing a setback to President Donald Trump with a decisive victory over a Republican who had adopted some of the president’s combative tactics and issues.
Democrats also picked up a hotly contested Senate seat in Alabama this month, after Democrat Doug Jones narrowly defeated Republican Roy Moore in a special election to replace former Senator Jeff Sessions, now President Trump’s Attorney General. Democratic Party activists hope their candidates can ride to victories in the 2018 Congressional elections on a wave of voter disenchantment with Trump and his Republicans.
Four legislative races, including the Simonds-Yancey battle in the 94th District, were slated for recounts.
Going into the 94th District recount, Yancey was ahead by just 10 votes. On Tuesday, that changed, and Simonds clinched with a margin of one.
Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Editing by David Gregorio