Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) called a special election in House District 35; the winner of the election will finish out the term of former Delegate Mark Keam’s (D-Fairfax), who took a job with the Biden administration. In a Wednesday press release, Gilbert said he had signed the Writ of Election for January 10, which is the day before the 2023 Virginia General Assembly session convenes.
“This date not only gives the voters of the district an adequate opportunity to examine the candidates, but also ensures that the 35th district will have a voice in the 2023 regular session,” he said.
Occasionally when there is a vacancy, the party in power may delay calling a special election if the seat is expected to go to the opposite party. Gilbert criticized Democrats for doing that in 2021, although with Republicans already controlling 52 of 100 seats, there was little political motive for Republicans to leave HD 35 vacant.
“Every Virginian has a right to have their voice heard in Richmond,” Gilbert said.
“Unfortunately, not everyone charged with the responsibility of calling special elections has recognized that fact. Following the death of Senator Ben Chafin in 2021, former Governor Ralph Northam refused to call a special election in the 38th Senate District until the following legislative session was over,” he continued.“Holding the seat open in an effort to gain a partisan political advantage was an affront not only to the people of Southwest Virginia, but to every Virginian who believes that the over 8.5 million of us should have an equal voice in Richmond. Said simply, it was an attack on our democracy. People should always come before politics,” he said.
Two Democrats have already declared candidacy for the seat, and Fairfax GOP Chairman Steve Knotts has said Republicans also plan to contest the seat.
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Todd Gilbert” by Todd Gilbert. Background Photo “Voting Booths” by Tim Evanson. CC BY-SA 2.0.