Virginia Republican wins pivotal race in random-hat drawing

  • Republican David Yancey won a key seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates after a recount from last month’s statewide elections.
  • The result means Republicans will retain their majority in the state house.

Republican David Yancey prevailed in a pivotal Virginia House of Delegates election after his name was randomly drawn from a bowl by state officials in Richmond on Thursday morning.

Yancey’s tiebreaking victory means Republicans will hold on to their majority in the Virginia statehouse.

This came after a dramatic series of events in which Yancey’s Democratic opponent, Shelly Simonds, was initially named the winner of the race last month by a single vote.

Virginia election bowl

Speaking with reporters shortly after the drawing, Simonds said she was not yet conceding the race and would consider other options, including requesting another recount, in the coming days.

“At this moment, I am not conceding, but I am reflecting on a very interesting and hard-fought campaign,” Simonds said.

But the Democrat, who attended the drawing with her husband and daughter, appeared resigned, adding, “I’ve had a lot of good luck in my life, so I have to be grateful for what I have.”

Democrats made significant gains in Virginia’s 2017 state-wide elections, in which the party unexpectedly erased a 32-seat deficit in the House while simultaneously electing a new Democratic governor by double the margin that Hillary Clinton won the state in the 2016 general election.

“We all care so much about making sure women run and get elected,” she said, standing beside representatives from several women’s organisations including Virginia’s List, Emily’s List, and Emerge Virginia. “We’ve doubled the number of women in the Virginia General Assembly, so I think that’s a really great story.”

On December 19, Virginia officials announced that Simonds was found to have won the election over Yancey, the incumbent, with a final tally of 11,608 to 11,607.

That result would most likely have swung the state’s House of Delegates to a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans.

Even though a three-judge panel had to certify the results, Virginia Republicans conceded that they lost their majority.

“After a close recount it appears the citizens of the 94th District have elected Shelly Simonds to the Virginia House of Delegates, pending confirmation by a three-judge panel,” Virginia Republican House leadership said in a statement. “We congratulate Delegate-elect Simonds and welcome her to this historic body. We also thank Delegate David Yancey for his distinguished service.”

But the following day, chaos erupted again.

The panel of judges decided to count a disputed ballot for Yancey, which pulled him even with Simonds. The voter who filled out the ballot in question had selected the Republican candidate at all other levels but appeared to fill in two bubbles in the House of Delegates portion – with the bubble next to Simonds’ name crossed out.

But the political drama in Virginia is not yet over. Another House of Delegates seat remains in dispute. In District 28, some Democratic voters are challenging the election of Republican Joshua Cole after a misunderstanding concerning the district’s boundaries caused some voters to be given the wrong ballots.

A federal court will hold a hearing in the case on Friday in Alexandria.

Watch a video of the drawing below:

Allan Smith contributed to this report.