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Which Party Will Control The Virginia State Senate?

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Control of the Virginia State Capitol is still very much in the air.
Eli Christman: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gammaman/7186599588
Control of the Virginia State Capitol is still very much in the air.

Which party will control the Virginia state Senate? That's an open question in Virginia, as Republicans and Democrats struggle with for dominance in a chamber currently divided between 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans.

But with Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) elected as Virginia's next lieutenant governor, and the apparent victory of Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun) in the race for attorney general, two Democratic seats will be up in the air.

Geoff Skelley, analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics, says those two special elections might determine the fate of the state Senate.

"With low turnout in a special election, I think it would be difficult to say for sure the Democrats will hold those two seats," Skelley says.

On top of that, no one knows whether Democratic state Sen. Creigh Deeds will be returning to the Senate after having been critically injured by his son.

Ultimately, though, Republicans created a leadership structure for the duration of the Senate term that will require a two-thirds majority to change.

"[Democrats] would be able to block anything that committees that are organized and led by Republicans might bring to the floor," says Stephen Farnsworth, a professor at the University of Mary Washington. "But they will have less control over setting the agenda than a majority usually would."

The requirement of a two-thirds majority dates back to 1996, the last time the body was split between 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans.

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