Random drawing scheduled to break tie in disputed House race

FILE- In this Dec. 19, 2017, file photo, Democrat Shelly Simonds reacts to the news that she won the 94th District precincts by one vote following a recount in Hampton, Va. Simonds, the Democrat in a tied race for a Virginia House seat that could affect which party controls the chamber says she’ll ask a court to declare the tie invalid. Simonds’ lawyers said Tuesday, Dec. 26, that they’ll ask the court to reconsider its ruling after last week’s recount. (Joe Fudge/The Daily Press via AP, File)
By DENISE LAVOIE ,  Associated Press
Eds: Recasts first paragraph to update with the Board of Elections setting date for random drawing. Updates with comment from Simonds. Updates headlines, story summary. With AP Photos.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — As Democrats and Republicans continued partisan sniping Friday over a House seat that could determine the balance of power in the Virginia House of Delegates, state elections officials moved to break the deadlock by scheduling a random drawing to pick the winner.

The Virginia Board of Elections said it will pick the winner’s name in the Newport News-based 94th District next Thursday, unless a recount court decides to intervene.

The race between Democrat Shelly Simonds and Republican Del. David Yancey has seesawed since the Nov. 7 election. Initially, it appeared that Yancey had won by 10 votes, but a recount put Simonds ahead by a single vote.

A three-judge recount court later declared the race a tie after agreeing with the Yancey campaign that a disputed ballot was a vote for him. On Wednesday, Simonds asked the court to reconsider, but the panel has not yet responded.

The fight over the seat has been intense as Republicans try to hold on to a majority in the House after a bruising election in which Democrats erased the 66-34 advantage held by Republicans, as voters vented anger toward Republican President Donald Trump.

During a conference call with reporters Friday, GOP House Leader Kirk Cox — who hopes to become the next speaker of the House — criticized Democrats for causing “politically motivated delays” in deciding the 94th District race.

“Democrats have sought to delay and obstruct at every turn,” Cox said.

“They’ve sought to litigate their way to victory.”

Cox called Simonds’ legal action a “deliberate strategy to make it more difficult for the House to organize smoothly” when the legislature reconvenes on Jan. 10.

He said that even if the winner’s name is pulled Jan. 4, the House will not be able to seat the winner by the opening day of the legislative session if the loser asks for a recount. That would leave Republicans with a 50-49 majority as the session opens.

Simonds said Yancey is to blame for the delay.

“We won the recount … it should have been over, and the next day, the Yancey team pulled a stunt. So this delay is squarely on him,” she said Friday.

If Simonds ultimately wins, the House would be evenly split, 50-50, between Democrats and Republicans. If Yancey wins, the Republicans would have a 51-49 edge.

The state Board of Elections had been scheduled to pick the winner’s name out of a glass bowl on Wednesday, but postponed the drawing after Simonds filed her legal challenge.

The result is one of two House races still in limbo.

A lawsuit is pending over ballots in a hotly contested race in the 28th District in the Fredericksburg area.



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