Yesterday, Senate Republicans elected new leadership to guide the caucus in its new role as the minority party. Tommy Norment will serve as the new Minority Leader and Steve Newman will serve as the Caucus Chairman. Both of these men are good choices for the respective roles. Norment is a strategic thinker with an extensive understanding of the legislative process. Newman will be able to utilize his relationships with members of the House of Delegates to bring the two chambers together.
This new leadership team would seem to signify the end of the long standing division between the centrist and conservative wings in the Senate. This is unquestionable a good thing. I spent four years in the Senate working to unite the two factions, a task that could be incredibly frustrating. It is rewarding to see this outcome, if not also a bit disappointing to see it as my term ends.
As I said above, this development is a good thing. But lets not get too excited. This is largely a symbolic victory. The Senate is governed by the rule of 21. And the Democrats, not the Republicans, now have 21 votes. As the new majority, the Democrats will chair every Committee and control the legislative direction of the chamber. Having the majority will also enhance the Democrats ability to raise money for the 2009 elections and boost their chances of capturing the House and other statewide offices.
While Republicans have been bogged down with party infighting, the Democrats have been the model of party unity. A united minority is an easy task. A united majority, as Republicans proved, is an entirely different, and much more difficult task. Don’t be surprised to see the Democrats experiencing the same problems over the coming years.
The impact of the Democrat majority on Western Virginia has been largely ignored. But it’s significant. It is very concerning to me that not one single Senate Committee will be chaired by a Western Virginia legislator. Not one. Power in the Senate will be concentrated in Northern Virginia and Tidewater. This would not have been the case had Republicans maintained control.