Republican Wins Tiebreaker Name-Drawing, Keeping GOP Control of Virginia House

by | January 5, 2018

By Jordan Pascale

Republican Del. David Yancey has won the tiebreaker drawing in the 94th District race.

Yancey's name was chosen at a special State Board of Elections meeting. It broke the 11,608-vote tie for the Newport News-area seat and keeps a Republican majority in the House of Delegates.

Yancey, who was first elected to the House in 2011, was at home with staff and family and followed the drawing online. " ... I want all residents of Newport News to know I am ready to serve as their Delegate," he said in a statement.

He also said Democrat Shelly Simonds ran a great campaign and thanked her for her service on the Newport News School Board. He added that "he looks forward to her continued involvement in issues that matter to the people of the 94th."

While his win was certified Thursday, the drawing may not end a contest that has stretched for 58 days and included a recount and court battle.

Simonds, who attended the drawing, said she wasn't conceding and that "all options are still on the table." The last time Virginia used a tiebreaker to decide a House race was 1971.

"Clearly, I think that this is a sad conclusion for me and for the people of Virginia who really need health care," said Simonds, standing near her husband and daughter. "Medicaid expansion really was on the line here."

She might be able ask for another recount, but since this is unfamiliar territory, no one has been able to provide a concrete legal opinion on the next steps. Virginia's recount statute and tiebreaker statute address the issues separately but don't quite address what happens if a candidate asks for a recount after a tiebreaker.

The situation was set up by a court decision that allowed a previously voided ballot to be counted in Yancey's favor.

He initially won the November election by 10 votes, but Simonds asked for a recount and on Dec. 19 she gained 11 votes, making her the winner by one -- before the court ruling.

Last week, Simonds filed documents asking the court to reconsider its decision and declare her the winner because she said judges did not follow recount protocol. Yancey agreed with the court and called for the drawing .

The judges on Wednesday wrote they were within their right to look at the disputed ballot and said they followed State Board of Elections guidelines on determining the voter's intention.

Quentin Kidd, director of the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, said on Twitter that if Simonds asked for a recount, her side also had disputed ballots it did not get in front of judges, that could switch the vote count again.

Simonds said she's consulting with lawyers and doesn't have a timeline for her next move. Republican Speaker-designee Kirk Cox called on her not to ask for a recount.

Even if she doesn't, she said, she'll be running again.

Yancey said he'll sponsor bills on health care, public safety and transportation.

He also reached out to voters. "For those of you who voted for me, thank you, for those of you who did not, please know that I will sincerely continue to do my best to represent us all in Richmond."

With his win, the House has a 51-49 Republican majority.

That's barring one other election, District 28, where a federal court hearing is scheduled Friday to sort out what happened when voters were placed in the wrong district. A Republican won that seat, but Democrats are fighting for a recount or special election.

Democrats picked up 15 seats in the House this election cycle, putting them within striking distance of power-sharing with Republicans.

The tiebreaker was held in the West Reading Room of the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond.

It's one of the largest rooms available on Capitol Square and most of the 80 seats were filled despite the snow.

The names of the two candidates were printed on separate slips of paper. Each slip was put into a separate film canister, which were then placed in a blue ceramic bowl made by Virginia artist Steven Glass.

The canisters were mixed up before State Board of Elections Chairman James Alcorn pulled out the one with Yancey's name in it. Board member Clara Belle Wheeler pulled out the other canister.

(c)2018 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)