Sunday, December 10, 2023

General Assembly Tracker: Everyone Who Says They Aren’t Coming Back Next Year

Sen. Thomas Norment, R-James City County. (file photo)
Sen. Thomas Norment. (file photo)

RICHMOND — As the 2023 legislative session draws to a close, a mounting number of delegates and senators are announcing this one will be their last.

Twelve lawmakers have said they don’t intend to run again this fall, when every one of Virginia’s 140 General Assembly seats are up for election.

Some of the announcements were expected. A handful of older, long-term representatives like Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, are effectively retiring after years in the legislature. Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, is also saying goodbye as she heads to the U.S. House of Representatives.

The 2023 election cycle will be the first under the new legislative maps drawn in the independent redistricting process of 2021. Because those maps gave less protection to incumbents, several lawmakers were drawn into the same district as one or more colleagues. That dynamic is partly fueling the retirement wave, as some lawmakers choose to step down rather than face a primary or compete in a dramatically different district.

Here’s who has waved farewell, and why.

Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax

Saslaw, who is 83 and will have chalked up 48 years in the General Assembly at the expiration of his term, said Thursday he was closing the book on a political career that began in the House of Delegates and ended up with him ruling the Senate Democrats for 25 years.

“Fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly. And Saslaw’s gotta move on,” he told the chamber.

Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-Williamsburg

Norment, who has spent three decades in the Senate and leads that chamber’s Republican caucus, told The Richmond Times-Dispatch that he isn’t planning on seeking reelection.

Norment told the paper he wanted to spend more time with family and go back to teaching, which he previously did at the College of William and Mary. Redistricting also left him in the same new district as Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover.

Del. Tim Anderson, R-Virginia Beach

A firebrand conservative elected who flipped a competitive Hampton Roads district in 2021, Anderson announced he will not seek reelection in a new district that now includes the Eastern Shore and Del. Rob Bloxom, R-Accomack.

Anderson, an attorney, doesn’t appear to be calling it quits entirely. In his resignation message, he said he planned to “wait for the next door in my political life to open.”

Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville

First elected to the House in 2001, Bell announced his retirement Saturday, on the last day of the 2023 General Assembly. A former prosecutor, he has been one of Republicans’ leading voices on criminal justice issues, chairing the House Courts of Justice Committee and previously the Virginia State Crime Commission.

Bell was facing the prospect of competing in a significantly bluer district thanks to the new political map for the Charlottesville region.

Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond

Bourne, who was first elected to the House in 2017, said Monday he wouldn’t run again. While he told The Richmond Times-Dispatch that redistricting played “zero” role in his decision, the new maps would have pitted him against veteran Democratic Del. Betsy Carr in elections to represent the new 78th District.

With a Richmond mayoral election coming up in 2024, there’s been some speculation Bourne, a former Richmond School Board member and City Hall aide, might seek the capital city’s strong mayor job.

“I’m going to enjoy some time with my family,” he said when asked about his future plans. “Then figure out what, if anything, is next.”

Del. James Edmunds, R-Halifax

First elected in 2009, Edmunds, who serves as co-chair of the Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, said he’s not planning to seek reelection in his Southside Virginia district.

He was drawn into the same district as Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville.

In a farewell speech on the floor, Edmunds thanked his House colleagues for putting “humanity” above politics.

Del. Mike Mullin. (Courtesy Mike Mullin for House of Delegates/Katherine Sparks)

Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News

An influential voice on courts and criminal justice issues, Mullin isn’t running again after redistricting left him in a Republican-friendly district that would be tough for any Democrat to win.

Mullin, who was first elected to the House in 2015, said he planned to spend more time with his family.

Tragedy struck shortly after his announcement as Mullin announced the death of his 3-month-old son, news that left some General Assembly members visibly shaken as they finished up their work for the year.

Del. Kathleen Murphy, D-Fairfax

First elected to the House in 2015, Murphy was drawn into a Northern Virginia district with Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Arlington.

“I really don’t know what the words should be. I’m going to miss you,” Murphy said on the House floor as she announced her decision to leave.

After losing a brother to gun violence, Murphy has been one of House Democrats’ top advocates for stronger gun control laws.

Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax

Plum, who with 44 years in the House of Delegates is the longest-serving member of the chamber, said Wednesday he was hanging up his hat.

“I entered politics and the House of Delegates to fulfill a lifelong dream that Virginia could do better than being a backward Southern state and could fulfill the dreams expressed by our Founding Fathers who were Virginians,” Plum wrote in an announcement of his retirement on Patch. “We have made significant strides, but as the current session of the General Assembly has shown we need to be vigilant and continue our efforts.”

Del. Margaret Ransone, R-Westmoreland

Ransone, the current chair of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, announced via Facebook that she won’t seek another term representing her Northern Neck-based district.

“My love for community will never change,” Ransone wrote, adding that she was planning to spend more time with family after about a decade in the legislature.

Ransone was first elected in 2011. No other candidates had filed to run against her at the time of her announcement.

Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield

First elected to the House of Delegates to represent the Richmond-area district, Robinson has served in senior Republican positions such as chair of the House Finance Committee.

Her Friday announcement that she won’t run again was something of a surprise. Although some of her more recent election victories were tight — she defeated a challenger by less than a percentage point in both 2017 and 2019, as reported by The Chesterfield Observer — her redrawn district had altered the landscape. Robinson had declared she intended to run last May and was poised to take on two other Republican candidates in a three-way primary.

Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Fauquier

Vogel announced late last month that she won’t seek another term after serving in the Senate since 2008.

“Anyone who makes that decision and says that they are not sad is not telling the truth!!” Vogel said on Twitter.

Vogel, the first woman to give birth to a child while serving as a member of the General Assembly, was the Virginia GOP’s nominee for lieutenant governor in 2017.  She lost that year to former Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, but outperformed other Republicans on the statewide ticket.

In a recent interview with The Winchester Star, Vogel indicated changes to her district were a factor in her decision.

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