N.Va. delegate makes move to replace Toscano as Dems’ leader
Some in party upset with how it prioritizes campaign support
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.