Unleashing a political firestorm, Sen. Phil Puckett (D-Tazewell) has resigned his seat in the Virginia Senate, effective tomorrow. The move means that Democrats lose their majority in that chamber, leaving (temporarily at least) a 20-19 GOP majority.
It is unclear what this will mean for Medicaid expansion and the budget, as pro-Medicaid forces in the Senate include three Republicans. But, what is clear is that Republicans think they can pick up Puckett’s southwest Virginia seat when a special election is held, making the majority shift permanent.
That would explain the apparent deal General Assembly Republicans made to entice Puckett to resign. You see, Puckett’s daughter wanted to be a judge, but that’s counter to established tradition that no judicial appointments are made for relatives of sitting legislators. Puckett wanted to allow his daughter to get that job, but he didn’t want to lose his own job to make it happen. So, Republicans promised the conservative Democrat a seat on the state’s tobacco commission instead. Laura Vozzella at the WaPo has more.
We’ve heard some names floated as potential GOP nominees in the upcoming special election, but have not confirmed those reports. We will pass along info as we receive it.
UPDATE – 9:25 PM: Although the Senate GOP Caucus is involved here, we are told that the House members have been driving the bus on this deal. The timing is suspect, of course, given the pressure the new GOP majority in the Senate will have to pass a “clean” budget, but our source close to the House GOP indicates that timing is coincidental, and that Puckett’s deal had more to do with the ambition of his potential successor (Del. Ben Chafin) than with Medicaid expansion or the budget.