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.
Twenty-two 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 Feb. 23 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. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax
Filler-Corn made history in 2020 when she became the first woman elected speaker of the House of Delegates. After her party lost its majority in 2021 and she was deposed as the leader of her caucus, she’s leaving the House entirely after more than a decade of serving.
“When I first joined the House of Delegates, I was one of only 19 women in the entire body and one of the only mothers of school-aged children,” Filler-Corn said in a statement announcing her decision not to run for the House in 2023. “Today, our caucus is the first majority woman caucus in Virginia’s history. As the first woman and Jewish Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, I proudly appointed more women and diverse individuals to leadership positions than in our entire Commonwealth’s history.”
After redistricting, Filler-Corn ended up in the same Northern Virginia district as Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax, who is now the only Democrat declared for the seat.
Filler-Corn, long considered a possible candidate for statewide office, indicated she’s not quitting Virginia politics entirely.
“We have made significant progress in Virginia and I will continue this work for our communities and our Commonwealth outside the confines of the House of Delegates,” Filler-Corn said. “As for my next chapter, there are many exciting options ahead and I look forward to sharing more in the coming weeks and months.”
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. John Avoli, R-Staunton
First elected in 2019, Avoli announced Feb. 25 that he won’t seek reelection in his western Virginia district.
In a news release, Avoli, a former member of the Staunton City Council, said he was “ready to retire after 49 years in public service.” He had previously indicated he would run again, but he told the Staunton News-Leader he had changed his mind. The redrawn district he would have run in is safely Republican.
Sen. John Bell, D-Loudoun
Bell, who joined the Senate in 2020 after several years in the House of Delegates, is not running again in his Northern Virginia district after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
In a news release, Bell said cancer treatment “will greatly impact my life going forward” while calling his prognosis “very positive.”
“I have a number of excellent treatment options I’m currently considering, and I’m very fortunate to have access to the world-class healthcare that is available in our area,” Bell said. “My doctors tell me that they are confident I will be able to be successfully treated and even cured. I’m thankful that my cancer has been caught so early, and I’m incredibly blessed to have a great team behind me.”
The district Bell would’ve run in is strongly Democratic. Shortly after Bell’s announcement, Del. Suhas Subramanyam, D-Loudoun, announced he would run for the open Senate seat.
Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville
First elected to the House in 2001, Bell announced his retirement Feb. 25, 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 Feb. 20 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. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford
Byron told constituents she wouldn’t seek reelection after 26 sessions on Feb. 26.
“Passing legislation gives you a sense of accomplishment,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “Having that legislation succeed in improving people’s lives — sometimes in big ways, other times in small ones — provides a truly humbling gratification.”
Byron currently chairs the House Commerce and Energy Committee and was the first woman to be elected chair of the House Republican Caucus. Under the new political maps, she would have faced Del. Wendell Walker, R-Lynchburg, to represent the district.
Sen. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake
Saying it was time to “pass the torch” to new leaders, Cosgrove announced he’s not running for the Senate again after two decades in the General Assembly.
“I have two precious granddaughters that I rarely get to see, and my wonderful wife Sue has been very patient with me serving so long in public service,” Cosgrove said in his March 20 announcement. “It is time to move on and enjoy my family and the opportunities that may lie ahead for me and my family.”
It wasn’t immediately clear who in the GOP was lining up to try to succeed Cosgrove in the strongly Republican district. A Democrat, Myra Payne, has filed to run for the seat.
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.
Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke
Edwards, who has served in the Senate since 1996, is not seeking another term after being put in a Republican-leaning district with Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke.
“I appreciate the many who have urged me to seek another term,” Edwards said in a news release. “I look forward to continuing my law practice and to spending time traveling and with my family.”
Edwards recently served as co-chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In a statement of his own, Suetterlein praised Edwards for his 28 years in the Senate and said the two have “a shared love of the Roanoke Valley.”
Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke
Gooditis, who represents a rural part of Northern Virginia, announced March 1 that she won’t seek another term after her current district was separated into three new ones.
“After three hard-fought elections and six years in office, I feel I have served my time as Delegate,” she wrote in a press release that also called the new district where she resides “well-drawn” and “compact.”
Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax
Howell, the influential co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is retiring after more than three decades in the General Assembly.
“My focus has always been on education, from preschool through graduate school and on helping our neighbors in need,” Howell said in a statement first reported by journalist Brandon Jarvis. “We have made great progress yet much more must be done.”
In recent sessions, Howell has been Senate Democrats’ lead budget negotiator, putting her in a key role to get policy concessions from Republicans as Gov. Glenn Youngkin pushes for tax cuts.
The redistricting process had left Howell in the same Northern Virginia district as Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Loudoun.
Sen. Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomack
One of the Senate Democrats most imperiled by redistricting, Lewis announced he won’t run against Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, in a significantly redder district.
Lewis has served in the Senate since 2014, when he narrowly won a special election for the state Senate being vacated by former Gov. Ralph Northam, who at the time had just been elected lieutenant governor.
In a statement announcing his decision, Lewis noted he has represented “vastly different” parts of the state in a district that extended from Norfolk to the rural Eastern Shore.
“In all my years of service, I always sought common ground even in times of turmoil, and I believe the opportunity to serve such a diverse district made me a better legislator and a better person,” Lewis said.
Lewis said he’s hopeful there will be “other opportunities to serve” in his future.
Another Democrat, Victoria Luevanos, has filed to run in the district.
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.
Sen. Steve Newman, R-Bedford
Newman announced his retirement in mid-March in a Facebook video and news release.
“This is a bittersweet time for me and my family,” Newman said in the release. “It’s bitter because I’m leaving an institution I love and the individuals in the Senate and on my staff that have worked with me to better serve Central Virginia. But it’s a sweet time because I know I will be able to now spend more time with my family, friends, and business.”
Newman has served in the Senate since 1996. His time included a recent stint as president pro tempore, the highest leadership position elected by the body that mostly involves presiding over the Senate when the lieutenant governor is absent.
Newman had been drawn into the same Lynchburg-area district as Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, who now has a clearer shot at running for the strongly Republican seat.
Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax
Plum, who with 44 years in the House of Delegates is the longest-serving member of the chamber, said Feb. 22 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 Feb. 24 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 this January 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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