N.Va. del­e­gate makes move to re­place Toscano as Dems’ leader

Some in party up­set with how it pri­or­i­tizes cam­paign sup­port

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - BY PA­TRICK WIL­SON AND GRA­HAM MOOMAW

A group of Democrats in the House of Del­e­gates want to hold a vote to re­place party leader David Toscano of Charlottesville. Del. Jen­nifer Boysko, D-Fair­fax, who is in her sec­ond term, wants the party’s top lead­er­ship post, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­views with mul­ti­ple Demo­cratic law­mak­ers on both sides of the de­bate.

Boysko is mak­ing her move fol­low­ing frus­tra­tion with Toscano among some fresh­man Democrats in the House, as well as other mem­bers of the Demo­cratic cau­cus, which holds 49 seats in the 100-mem­ber cham­ber.

It’s un­clear if Boysko has enough sup­port to over­come Toscano. She would need at least 25 votes for a lead­er­ship vote to be called.

Sup­port­ers of Toscano — who led the cau­cus dur­ing the 2017 wave that saw Democrats flip 15 GOP House seats — ar­gue he is a great fundraiser, an ex­pert on the nuance of leg­isla­tive pro­ce­dure and pol­i­tics, and adept at en­gag­ing Repub­li­cans on the House floor.

His crit­ics say those gains came with­out ad­e­quate as­sis­tance from Toscano and Demo­cratic lead­er­ship, and more seats could have been won if party lead­ers had de­ployed more re­sources in flip­pable districts.

In­ter­nal cau­cus dis­cus­sions are sen­si­tive and gen­er­ally kept private.

Boysko de­clined to com­ment and Toscano did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Some of the frus­tra­tions with Demo­cratic House lead­er­ship were aired in June at the Omni Home­stead Re­sort in Hot Springs, where House Democrats gath­ered with lob­by­ists for an an­nual re­treat. Some law­mak­ers said the lead­er­ship has never ad­dressed pre­vi­ous con­cerns about how the party chooses which cam­paigns to pri­or­i­tize. Toscano did not at­tend.

Toscano, a lawyer who rep­re­sents Charlottesville and part of Albe­marle County, took over as Demo­cratic House leader in 2011.

Un­der his watch, the party has nar­rowly lost some House elec­tions.

In 2013, Boysko, of Hern­don, chal­lenged Repub­li­can Del. Tom Rust in Fair­fax County’s 86th District. She lost by 32 votes. Faced with an­other Boysko chal­lenge in 2015, Rust opted not to seek re-elec­tion and she eas­ily won the seat, de­spite be­ing out­spent.

Also in 2013, Demo­crat Kath­leen Murphy lost by 422 votes in the Fair­faxbased 34th District to the Repub­li­can in­cum­bent, then-Del. Bar­bara Com­stock, who spent twice as much as Murphy. Com­stock was elected to Congress in 2014 in the 10th Con­gres­sional District, while Murphy won the House seat in 2015.

Head­ing into the 2017 elec­tion, Repub­li­cans held a 66-34 ad­van­tage. But fu­eled by the elec­tion and ac­tions of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Democrats won 15 seats, some of which party lead­er­ship had not ex­pected to win and didn’t fo­cus on.

In a Manas­sas race, Demo­crat Lee Carter eas­ily de­feated GOP Del. Jack­son Miller with lit­tle help from the party. In a Ch­ester­field County race, Demo­crat Sheila Bynum Cole­man took 48 per­cent of the vote against GOP Del. Ri­ley In­gram de­spite re­ceiv­ing no help from the party lead­er­ship.

In a well-pub­li­cized New­port News race that ended with a tiebreak­ing name draw, Demo­crat Shelly Si­monds lost to Repub­li­can Del. David Yancey. In the open Fred­er­icks­burg-area seat of for­mer House Speaker Bill How­ell — a race on which the Demo­cratic cau­cus did not fo­cus — Demo­crat Josh Cole lost to Repub­li­can Bob Thomas by 82 votes.



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