Republicans have held the majority in the House of Delegates since 1999. But as next month’s elections loom, Democrats need to win two seats to flip it.
It’s a far cry from the last 10 election cycles, when the Republican Party had maintained majority in the House by at least 10 seats. From 2011-15, the party out-weighed Democrats by more than 30 seats, but the power hold took a turn in 2017 when Democrats picked up 15 seats.
House Majority Leader Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Mount Jackson, said if Virginia were to become a blue state after the Nov. 5 elections, the Commonwealth would resemble California.
“There are reasons across the board why a Democratic takeover would be a radical move,” Gilbert said. “We need to protect Virginia from the most leftist agenda.”
Gilbert was named House Majority Leader in 2018 and has been serving the 15th House of Delegates District since 2005. He has faced three opponents during the General Election, including Democrat Beverly Harrison who is looking to take the seat in next week’s elections.
Harrison, of Woodstock, said she decided to challenge Gilbert after he prevented a vote on the Equal Rights Amendment.
“If no one else would challenge him, then I would take it on,” she said.
After looking into his voting record, Harrison said she saw how Gilbert’s “actions were hurting the district,” adding that if elected her focus would be on the well-being of the people and not large businesses and special-interest groups.
Harrison, along with other Republican-held districts facing a Democratic challenger, could be the candidate that flips the majority. There are five House districts and two Senate districts deemed “open seats,” while four Senate and 10 House districts are considered “targeted races” by the Virginia Public Access Project.
The potential for Democrats to take over only motivated Gilbert more to run again and seek an eighth term, he said.
“Public service is a challenge, especially with being a part-time legislator. Everyone who serves has to maintain a day job,” he said. “But I believe we are in a critical time in this Commonwealth and community, and I feel like I can continue to protect the values the vast majority of people in this district believe. I feel I have a role to play in shaping Virginia and our children.”
If Virginia turns blue, Gilbert said small and large businesses would be at stake, along with the right-to-work law, gun rights and allowing abortions up until birth.
With the chance of Gilbert losing the Majority Leader role, he said he was more concerned with his party maintaining its majority than the title.
“The title is of little concern to me. I am more concerned with what it represents,” he said.
If elected, Harrison said her focus would be to provide more mental and physical health options for children, saying the matter needs to be addressed early on.
“We have really overlooked mental health on children and I will seek to address,” she said.