General Assembly reaches highest women representation in history
Election Day concluded and women now have the biggest representation in the General Assembly in the history of Virginia politics.
The House of Delegates saw the biggest increase of the two chambers. Four women gained seats and pushed the total of female-held seats to 30. The Senate added two more female representatives, including Ghazala Hashmi, who is also the first Muslim woman in the history of the chamber. Now women will hold 41 of the 140 seats in the General Assembly.
Hashmi beat Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond, by nine percentage points, turning Senate District 10 to female representation. She is the only woman in the Senate who will take a seat previously held by a man. Republican candidate Jennifer Kiggans beat her Democratic counterpart Cheryl Turpin to fill the empty seat in District 7. Now the Senate will include 11 female representatives.
Over 85 women — Republicans and Democrats — ran for the House and Senate, and that is a volume never seen before, according to Deirdre Condit, associate professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“A breakthrough started in 2017, like huge cracks in the glass, and now this is the glass that shattered,” Condit said. “This is monumental for moving women forward.”
In the House of Delegates, Carrie Coyner, District 62, Nancy Guy, District 83, Martha Mugler, District 91, and Shelly Simonds, District 94, will occupy seats previously held by men.
Guy defeated incumbent Sen. Christopher Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, and Simonds did the same against incumbent Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News; both represented a Democratic victory.
Coyner will replace fellow Republican Sen. Riley Ingram, R-Hopewell, who did not seek reelection. Mugler ran as the Democratic candidate for the open seat left by Del. Gordon Helsel, R-Poquoson.
In addition to representing a win for women, Tuesday also represented a step forward for religious and racial minorities.
“The election of Hashmi in defeating Glen Sturtevant is really a landmark change in the state of Virginia,” Condit said. “It's a really important descriptive representation but also policy and ideology shift for many people in the state of Virginia.”
Condit said that although African American candidates did not win most races, their representation and support has increased. She pointed out to Sheila Bynum-Coleman, who challenged Speaker of the House Sen. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights. Bynum-Coleman obtained 47% of the votes for House District 66, which Condit considered “outstanding” for a mostly unknown African American woman.
“She had a really strong showing against an incumbent, arguably the most powerful incumbent in the House of Delegates,” Condit said. “I think that it's really important to see women of color leading.”
House District 66 was redistricted in 2018, giving Democrats an advantage before the 2019 elections,
. Condit said despite Bynum-Coleman’s loss, her performance is a step forward for the African American community.
Ghazala Hashmi celebrated her win on social media.
“This victory, is not mine alone. It belongs to all of you who believed that we needed to make progressive change here in Virginia,” Hashmi said on Twitter. “Today we sent a message that the status quo is no longer accepted.”