Howell and Kilgore are up; Warner and Kaine are down -- but certainly not out. The envelopes, please, for winners, losers and in-betweens from the decidedly mixed bag of the 2003 General Assembly session.
William J. Howell (R-Stafford) had nearly perfect pitch in his debut as speaker of the House of Delegates, a mostly Republican collection of lawmakers who appreciate Big Brother government when it comes to reproductive rights (parental consent for girls seeking abortions, a ban on "partial-birth infanticide"), but despise it if it means gun restrictions or tougher laws on seat belt use.
Howell sought to strike a balance between good humor and reasonable authority, and he mostly succeeded, Republicans and Democrats alike say. Stunts such as the plastic fetuses that were sent out by one Republican delegate were a reminder of how individual members can embarrass an entire Republican caucus, and Howell will suffer much heartburn navigating his way through that group.
Yet, as the session unfolded, you could see Howell maturing as an effective behind-the-scenes leader; for instance, in breaking the budget deadlock that threatened to delay the timely end of the session. And his light touch with colleagues gave several older members new leases on life: Their faces were lighted with grateful smiles. In short, Howell succeeded because of who he was not.
Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore (R), heading toward a face-off in the 2005 governor's race, had two utterly different session experiences. Kaine could get no satisfaction on his thought-provoking legislative package, while Kilgore could do no wrong with his.
Kaine's program, including a proposal to require clergy to report suspected child abuse or neglect, was cut to ribbons by the same Republican bloc that bestowed on Kilgore virtually everything he wanted.
"Never has the General Assembly done so little for many, and so much for so few," Kaine said in a statement.
Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) views the session as a baseball box score, a simplistic summary of data that has none of the game's nuance, drama or what-might-have-beens.
Viewed through that narrow lens, Warner did more than okay, getting nearly all his administration's 37 bills passed in bipartisan fashion.
The governor lost two high-profile items on his agenda, a toughening of the seat belt law and two-term governorships, but the bills' failure was not huge in the cosmic scheme of things -- no matter how much gloating the Republicans did after killing those common sense measures.
No, for Warner, the most disturbing development of the session -- and one he plans to redress with a slew of vetoes in the April 2 reconvened session -- was how far his stock plummeted with members of his party. It wasn't a partisan leader that fellow Democrats necessarily craved; they say they yearned for a leader who would pay attention to and care about the weird rhythms of their General Assembly.
Very few Democrats will utter in public the irritation and sense of abandonment they express about Warner in private. The forthcoming legislative election season will only add to the strain in that relationship.
As in any session, this had plenty of personal and professional milestones.
State Del. Harry J. Parrish (R-Prince William), a House member since 1982, turned 81 on Feb. 19 and showed no signs of slowing down. Del. Brian J. Moran of Alexandria showed that at least one Democrat still has spunk when he lashed back at a Republican who besmirched his legislative record. And Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), who may be a committee chairman one day soon, showed that he was developing a sense of humor and seriousness on the House floor, rather than being just its resident gadfly.
Meanwhile, Virginia Democrats -- and Warner, most of all -- lost two great voices this session.
Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw of Fairfax County said that he would relinquish that leadership post by the time the next session rolls around. Saslaw had lost credibility with black colleagues, who make up much of the caucus, during the reappointment fight over a black female judge, whom Saslaw voted against.
Saslaw, a legislator since 1976, is considered a very strong candidate for reelection.
In the House, Clifton A. "Chip" Woodrum of Roanoke announced his retirement after 24 years. Woodrum was one of the few resident wits in the assembly's lower chamber; he used his quick tongue to advance both his populist politics and keen views on legislation from both parties -- attributes that sometimes seem in short supply around Richmond.
Perhaps the session's best epitaph came from Northern Virginia's Mr. Transportation, Del. John A. "Jack" Rollison III (R-Prince William), who after 18 years knows the shortcomings of a part-time legislature with full-time ambitions.
"I don't think we did any harm," Rollison said.