Bolling would cast the deciding vote in any tie, giving his party the authority to control the chamber and run its committees. The last time both parties each had 20 members, Democrats and the GOP shared power and committee chairmanships.
If Tuesday’s tenuous election results hold, the GOP will be in control of the executive branch and both houses of the General Assembly, and the tenor of Richmond could turn decidedly to the right.
On the campaign trail, Republicans generally focused their pitches on boosting jobs, curbing spending and streamlining government. In many parts of the state, GOP candidates encountered token opposition, or none, from Democrats.
But many of those elected are social conservatives eager to revive legislation — to further regulate abortion and eliminate environmental rules, for example — that stalled or died in a Democratic-controlled Senate.
Even before the election, social conservatives were preparing to reintroduce hundreds of bills that had gone nowhere over the past two years, including measures that would require doctors to offer anesthesia for a fetus before an abortion; permit guns in parks, colleges and libraries; mandate drug screening for welfare recipients; and allow employers to fire workers for not speaking English.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said that a Republican-controlled General Assembly will be more likely to push socially conservative issues — something he said he will not shy away from.
“I’m going to be strongly pro-life, pro-family, pro-marriage,” McDonnell said.
The Senate’s top Democrat, Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, warned Republicans against trying to push a conservative agenda.
“You do these things, but you may wind up doing them at your own risk,” said Saslaw (Fairfax). “I would just caution them on trying to go crazy with some far-right agenda on a lot of this stuff.”
The new Republican caucus includes longtime antiabortion activist Dick Black, who served in the state House for eight years and on Tuesday won a Senate seat representing Loudoun and Prince William counties. Black’s confrontational tactics — he once sent pink plastic models of fetuses to fellow lawmakers as they prepared to vote on an abortion bill — sometimes drew ire from his party. But some Republicans say that Virginians have now made clear that they support a more conservative government.
Tom Garrett, the Louisa County commonwealth’s attorney, who won a Senate seat from an area northwest of Richmond, has proposed mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients and has advocated abolishing Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality, which is charged with keeping air and water clean.