POLITICS

Va. Dems plan suit to push GOP Senate power sharing

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Republicans appealed then for fairness and prepared to challenge the Democrats' power grab in court. It never happened because Virgil Goode, then a conservative Democratic state senator, threatened to side with Senate Republicans unless Democrats agreed to share power by equally apportioning the partisan ratio of Senate committees, which serve as legislative gatekeepers. Their hand forced, Democrats agreed to power-sharing.

Goode later left the Democratic Party, won election to Congress as an independent endorsed by the GOP, then became a Republican before losing his 2008 re-election bid.

"I would hope that my Republican colleagues would remember the words they uttered in 1995 and 1996 and remember that if it was fair then, it's fair now," McEachin said.

This time, there are no Republican senators urging their party to share power. Instead, they're unified in asserting the strategic advantage Bolling gives them to consolidate control over Virginia policymaking. Republicans will hold 68 of the House of Delegates' 100 seats in the new General Assembly, and Republican Bob McDonnell has two more years left on the single, nonrenewable four-year term Virginia uniquely allows its governors.

McDonnell, in a separate conference call with Virginia journalists from a trade mission to India, affirmed the Republicans' intent to seize power in the Senate.

"It is 20-20 but on organizational matters on the Virginia Senate, the lieutenant governor breaks the tie vote and Bill Bolling has stated his intention is to vote with Republicans and organize accordingly," McDonnell said, calling the issue "an internal organizing matter for the Senate."

The Democrats declined to discuss specifics of when or where they plan to sue, nor would they say whether they've retained an attorney.

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