RICHMOND — Del. David J. Toscano, the Virginia House minority leader, said he will resign his leadership post by the end of the General Assembly session that begins in January.
Toscano, 68, said Friday that the demands of the leadership post were growing too heavy on top of his duties as a delegate, his law practice and family life.
“This takes a lot of time,” he said. “I’m just not in a position where I can do it anymore. I wanted to set in place an orderly transition so that we don’t have a chaotic situation in the caucus.”
Toscano told House Democrats on Thursday night that he would run for reelection next year but step down as minority leader.
The announcement follows dramatic gains that Democrats made in state elections last year. Democrats are trying to build on that momentum — as well as their strong performance in last week’s midterms in which they flipped three congressional seats held by Republicans — and take control of the chamber in next year’s legislative elections. It would mean their first majority in the House in nearly two decades.
Toscano said many people have asked him why he might want to give up the role — and the potential to become speaker after next year’s elections.
“A year is an eternity in politics,” said Toscano, a former Charlottesville mayor and city council member. “We have to get to the majority before anyone can talk about speakers.”
His decision comes about six months after a group of delegates explored ousting Toscano in favor of Del. Jennifer B. Boysko (D-Fairfax County), a second-term delegate, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported at the time. The vote was never called. Boysko is currently running for the state Senate seat being vacated by Jennifer T. Wexton (D), who won a seat in Congress last week.
Toscano made a passing and lighthearted reference to the aborted coup, referring to the “kerfuffle” as he spoke to Democrats in a closed-door meeting called after a party fundraiser in Richmond, according to two attendees who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private caucus matters.
He told those gathered that he had wanted to hand off leadership responsibilities for some time, but the moment never seemed quite right. With the passage of Medicaid expansion earlier this year, a new crop of Democratic lawmakers with a year under their belts, and the party in a strong position heading into elections, he decided to make his move.
His decision set off speculation about an eventual successor, with the early focus on a handful of Northern Virginians. Among the names being mentioned: Dels. Charniele L. Herring (Alexandria), who is caucus chairwoman; Richard C. “Rip” Sullivan (Fairfax); Eileen Filler-Corn (Fairfax County); Marcus B. Simon (Fairfax); Luke E. Torian (Prince William); and Alfonso H. Lopez (Arlington).
Toscano was first elected to the leadership position by his colleagues in 2011. During much of that time, Democrats had been badly outnumbered in the 100-seat chamber.
But the GOP’s 2-to-1 advantage nearly disappeared in 2017 in elections widely viewed as a rebuke to President Trump. That left Republicans in control the chamber by a mere two seats.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2017 elections, when the outcome of several close races was undetermined, it appeared that Toscano might ascend to House speaker, one of the most powerful posts in state government.
But Republicans held onto control by a margin of 51 to 49 and the speakership went to Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights).
All 100 seats in the chamber are up for election next year. Democrats will try to pick up the two seats necessary to take control of the House while Republicans are hoping to take back some seats.
Toscano attempted to leave the post once before, in 2015, when he said he wanted to spend more time with his family, but quickly changed his mind and was reelected leader.
“The progress we’ve made in the House is due in no small part to his efforts, and we’ll forever be grateful for his leadership. We look forward to his continued service in the House and our Caucus,” Democratic Party officials wrote on Twitter on Friday.