GOP Holds Onto Virginia House Of Delegates After Winning Random Drawing For Tied Race

James B. Alcorn, at right, chairman of The Virginia State Board of Elections certifies the results in the contested 28th and 88th House of Delegates Districts elections. Getting the nod in the 28th, Republican  Robert M. Thomas Jr. was selected to replace retiring GOP Speaker William J. Howell and in the 88th, incumbent Mark Cole (R-Spotsylvania) will return in January. At left is board member Edgardo Cortes and Vice-Chair Clara Bell Wheeler. The board met in Richmond, Virginia on Monday, November 27, 2017.
JOE MAHONEY/Richmond Times-Dispatch

Republicans appear to have held onto Virginia’s House of Delegates by the skin of their teeth on Thursday after winning an arbitrary tie-breaker for a race that was ended in a tie vote.

The Virginia State Board of Elections held a random drawing of two names from a bowl, and its head pulled Republican David Yancey’s name.

That gives the GOP a narrow 51-49 majority in the state House of Delegates, barring legal challenges, after a recount left an astounding tie in the election at 11,608 votes apiece and the chamber hanging in the balance.

“This election will certainly be a reminder for everybody that every vote counts,” Virginia state Board of Elections Chairman James Alcorn said before drawing the name.

That random drawing means Yancey will likely keep his seat, barring legal challenges, after a wild election and recount with the state’s lower chamber on the line. He’d held a narrow lead on election night last November, but after a December recount Democrat Shelly Simonds appeared to win the race by a single vote, and Yancey conceded.

That was overturned the very next day when a three-judge court ruled a ballot that had previously been thrown out should be awarded to Yancey, ending the race in a tie.

Simonds is allowed by law to request a second recount, and is expected to do so, meaning the seat will remain vacant when the House of Delegates begins its session next week. But that still leaves the GOP with a temporary 50-49 edge when the chamber votes on its speaker, giving them control of the chamber for the next two years and an advantage on the chamber’s committees.

That could have huge ramifications for Democrats’ longstanding push to expand Medicaid in the state, a top policy priority that may now be harder to accomplish.

Simonds didn’t concede after the result, saying she’d let her supporters know of “any next steps” while highlighting Medicaid expansion.

“There are nearly 400,000 Virginians who have been denied access to affordable health care through Medicaid expansion. I hope our lawmakers in the House of Delegates do not leave their fate to a game of chance,” she said.

Heading into election day, not even the most optimistic Democrats thought they had any shot at the chamber. The GOP held a 66-34 margin in a map that had been gerrymandered in their favor in the swing state. But Governor-elect Ralph Northam’s (D) blowout victory helped carry a number of surprising winners across the finish line. But Yancey’s victory leaves them just short of forcing shared control of the chamber, even if Simonds eventually wins legal challenges and gains the seat.