1/12/2023, 6 p.m.
Once again, the Virginia General As- sembly will have five Black senators, the largest number to serve at one time.
That good news was made possible Tuesday by voters in Hampton Roads who provided just enough support to make Democrat Aaron R. Rouse a new senator.
He eked out a victory in the special election to replace Republican state Sen. Jen- nifer A. “Jen” Kiggans, who won the 2nd Congressional District seat in November.
But it was oh, so close.
Mr. Rouse, a former pro football player and Virginia Beach councilman, flipped the state’s 7th Senate District blue with a 348-vote win over Republican Kevin H. Adams.
Unofficial results show Mr. Rouse won 19,430 votes to 19,082 for Mr. Adams in the district that includes Virginia Beach and a small portion of Norfolk, a less than 1 percent difference.
Mr. Rouse will join Black Senate members who now include Sens. Jennifer L. McClellan of Richmond, Mamie E. Locke of Hampton, L. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth and Lionell Spruill Sr. of Chesapeake.
The first time there were five was 2017 when both Sen. Spruill and Sen. McClellan moved from the House of Delegates; the last time there were five was in the 2019 session.
Rosalyn R. Dance of Petersburg was the fifth Black senator until Joseph D. Morrissey defeated her in the General Assembly elections that year.
Mr. Rouse’s victory is a definitely a big win for Democrats in the Senate.
A burly 6-foot-4 man, Mr. Rouse, who also leads an educational charity, was favored to win in a race that was closely watched for its impact on the narrowly divided Virginia Senate, where Democrats have clung to a slim two-seat majority since 2019.
His entry will boost the party’s membership in the 40-member chamber from 21 to 22 seats. That will give Democrats a surer four-seat majority to block objectionable portions of Republican Gov. Glenn A. Youngkin’s agenda, including his push to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
As the result of Mr. Rouse’s win, Virginia’s first Black female lieutenant governor, Republican Winsome Earle-Sears, will have less opportunity to cast tie-breaking votes.
His victory also boosts the Legislative Black Caucus, which will be 22 members strong in this session.
Alas, having five Black senators may again only be temporary.
In June, Sens. Lucas and Spruill will face off in a Democratic primary.
They have to run against each other after being placed in the same Senate district following the redrawing of district boundar- ies that was required to reflect population changes reported in the 2020 Census.
Meanwhile, Republicans retained their 52-seat majority in the 100-member House of Delegates following two special elections Tuesday to fill vacancies. The winners held seats for their respective parties, resulting in no change in the balance of party power in place since the 2021 election.
Bottom line: The legislature will remain divided and require bipartisan support for any bills or judicial appointments to pass both houses during the 46-day session that began Wednesday.
Legislation already was expected to be difficult to pass given that this is an election year for the General Assembly, with all 140 seats in both chambers up for grabs.
We welcome Sen. Rouse to Richmond and also look forward to seeing what, if anything, the legislature can get accomplished.