Jane H. Woods started her week on Monday as a Republican state senator from Fairfax County, an $18,000-a-year job, and by Friday she was the newest Republican member of a lobbying firm run by Democrats, with an annual salary of, oh, umpteen-thousand dollars.
Political transitions like the one sweeping Richmond are funny that way.
Republicans laying claim to the majority legislative power they acquired in the fall elections are turning a spotlight on the winners and losers and the somewhere-in-betweens of the clubby world known as the Virginia General Assembly.
Judging by perks alone--the low-number license tags, the to-kill-for parking spaces, the primo seats on the assembly floor--it's easy to tell that GOP leaders are definitely in.
Out, or nearly so, are old Democratic bulls who once lumbered around stately Capitol Square like they owned the place. Some, of course, never made it past the November balloting, retired unceremoniously in a Republican wave that led Wednesday to the installation of S. Vance Wilkins Jr. (R-Amherst) as the first GOP speaker in the House of Delegates in over 100 years.
Wilkins's Democratic predecessor is now remaindered to a section normally reserved for upstart freshmen (who are half his age), while others have been pried from their aisle seats (extra leg room, close to the members lounge) to make way for Republicans.
And then there are the committee assignments, plum jobs doled out by Wilkins. "I could have done anything I wanted to, but this is what I chose," Wilkins told reporters about his newly reorganized House, including demotions for several senior Democrats.
Bounced Friday from the Education Committee was veteran member Marian Van Landingham (D-Alexandria), who grudgingly accepted her punishment for being in the losing party: "I was only on it for 18 years," she sighed. She kept her co-chairmanship of one major committee and a seat on one of the prime money panels.
The assembly's bloodless revolution is getting attention at the highest levels of government. Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R), who has had occasionally rocky relations with Republican lawmakers, plans to host the Big Two at dinner every Sunday during the 60-day session. Gilmore wants to hear from Wilkins and Walter A. Stosch (R-Henrico), the state Senate's new majority leader, on the hot legislative issues of the day.
Nowhere is the altered landscape easier to spot than in the bustling corps of lobbyists in Richmond, as some firms scramble to mutate their Democratic stripes into Republican spots.
Some companies--law firms with specialists who lobby, consultants who work only on legislation and solo practitioners--want strong ties to the Wilkins team and the Republicans who enjoy similarly undisputed control of the state Senate. Some reached out to the GOP four years ago or more recently, as power-sharing grew at the legislature; others are Johnnies-come-lately to the GOP fold and are scrambling to catch up.
"Those that go for the access go where the power is," Wilkins said. "That's understandable."
At Richmond's Mays & Valentine law firm, lobbying chief Anthony F. Troy, a Democrat and former state attorney general, is ready; he has hired the former finance chief of the state Republican Party, an official in the administration of then-Gov. George Allen (R), and L. Clifford Schroeder Jr., 31, whose political pedigree includes the 100,000 miles he spent on the road as Allen's driver in the 1993 governor's race.
The Web site for the firm brags about its "bi-partisan relationships" with lawmakers and a payroll that includes former "senior management of both state Democrat and Republican parties." It is bench strength that Troy said gives an edge in the cutthroat world of lobbying on behalf of corporate clients.
"They're not going to be hiring you unless you have balance," Troy said.
Partisan ties aside, friendships still matter a lot, and relationships that may have been unfashionable a few years ago are assets today.
Observes Schroeder: "It certainly helps that when you want to see someone on the sixth floor," where Wilkins has a new office suite in the General Assembly Building, "they're glad to see you."
Over at Schroeder's former employer, Vectre Corp., President H. Benson Dendy III, adviser to two Democratic governors, said hiring Woods "goes well beyond politics. Under any circumstances, we'd be delighted for her to join us."
Dendy said Vectre was an early pace-setter in hiring GOP leaders--starting with Arlington lawyer James W. Hazel, who has since left. More recently, Vectre--whose directors include lawyer William G. Thomas, of Alexandria, a former state Democratic Party chairman--hired Myles G. Louria, whose long GOP roots include tours as a staffer for Stosch, of suburban Richmond, and as political action committee director for Del. John H. "Jack" Rust Jr. (Fairfax).
"We've always striven for that," Dendy said of partisan balance. "Obviously, it's more important now."
Woods, one of the assembly's least partisan Republicans, known for her health care expertise, said not being strongly identified with the GOP "is probably a strength."
"So little of what the assembly does is partisan," said Woods, a 12-year assembly veteran who lost reelection in a squeaker to Leslie L. Byrne (D). "Many of the tensions are far more regional. For me, the friendships continue, the alliances continue. Sometimes, the two are the same," Woods said.
In Richmond's unsettled time of transition, there may be other silver linings for those making their way out of the dark clouds of political defeat.
Denise M. Oppenhagen, a Woodbridge Democrat who lost a delegate's race in the fall, is traveling to Richmond three days a week to work as a part-time aide to Dels. L. Karen Darner (Arlington) and Brian J. Moran (Alexandria) and a Charlottesville state senator.
"The bug bit," Oppenhagen said of her new passion for state government, which keeps her on Interstate 95 a lot.
"I'm not in the position I wanted, but I'll make do," she added. "I'll make a mark in time for my next race."