The Northern Virginia Power Grab and the Loss of Hampton Roads’ Influence in the Commonwealth

By Bruce Meyer – Publisher

There is an old saying:  “Elections have consequences”.  2019’s Legislative Elections are a prime example of that saying.  Believe it or not, the results of this election were not about partisanship, but rather regionalism and the “Power Grab” by Northern Virginia.

Prior to the 2019 General Assembly Elections, Hampton Roads held two of the most important House of Delegates committee chairmanships for our region: Appropriations and Transportation.  Those two committee Chairmen – Delegate David Yancey of Newport News and Delegate Chris Jones of Suffolk were our primary champions in the House for all of our transportation projects.  After the 2019 Elections, the House flipped and the Democrats took control for the first time in 20 years.  Hampton Roads lost the powerful chairmanships of Appropriations and Transportation.  We did gain the chairmanship of 3 committees; however, they are the less influential committees – Communications, Labor and Commerce, and Privileges and Elections.  None of those committees will help the economy of Hampton Roads like Appropriations and Transportation have over the past years.

In fact, prior to 2019, all of the House Committee Chairmanships were equally and fairly distributed throughout Virginia.  Now, post 2019 Elections, 9 out of 15 Committee Chairmanships are located in Northern Virginia.  See the graph courtesy of the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP). 

In the Virginia Senate, prior to the 2019 Election, Hampton Roads held the Majority Leader position – Sen. Tommy Norment – Williamsburg, the Finance Chairman – Sen. Tommy Norment – Williamsburg and the Chairman of the Commerce and Labor Committee – Sen. Frank Wagner- Virginia Beach.  Now Hampton Roads has just two Committee Chairmen – Rules and Education & Health.  We lost the Majority Leader and Finance Chairman which are the two most important positions for money and influence.  Prior to the 2019 Election, all of the Senate Committee Chairmanships were equally and fairly distributed throughout Virginia.  Now, post 2019 Elections, 6 of the 11 Committee Chairmen are now located in Northern Virginia.  See the graph courtesy of VPAP. 

It gets worse.  Northern Virginia is our primary adversary in the fight for dollars for regional projects.  Hampton Roads had an advantage prior to 2019 when the Republicans were in control.  After 2019, the Democrats took control of both Chambers.  Northern Virginia now has a 3 to 1 advantage over Hampton Roads in Committee Chairmanships.  This could mean millions, if not billions, in lost funding for future projects.

Prior to 2019, the Senate Majority Leader was from Hampton Roads.  The Speaker of the House was from the Greater Richmond area.  Now, the Democrats elected Eileen Filler-Corn from Northern Virginia as Speaker of the House of Delegates and elected Dick Saslaw, also from Northern Virginia, as the Senate Majority Leader.  As you can see from the charts, while Hampton Roads did not fare well in the Northern Virginia “Power Grab”, Richmond and Southwestern Virginia were decimated.  

When the Republicans were in control of Virginia, not only did Hampton Roads have a seat at the table, they chaired the table and spread the wealth equitably and fairly.  The Hampton Road’s Democratic Delegates and Senators need to stand up to Northern Virginia and demand a Seat at the table as did their Republican counterparts when they were in control.   If not, this will be a long two years for Hampton Roads and Virginia.