In Virginia’s never-sleepy political calendar, April 6 was a red-letter day: the last day for candidates affiliated with a party to file paperwork announcing their intention to run for office in the June primaries. 

The primary filing deadline is always a watershed moment for determining who’s likely to be on the ballot in November.

But 2023 will see an unusual level of turnover in the oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere.

Not only is every one of Virginia’s 140 General Assembly seats up for election, but redistricting has radically rejiggered the state’s political landscape.

Beginning this winter, a growing number of senators and delegates began announcing this session would be their last. Some of the announcements were expected. A handful of older, long-term representatives like Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, were effectively retiring after years in the legislature.

The 2023 election cycle will be the first under the new legislative maps drawn in the independent redistricting process of 2021.

Because those maps gave less protection to incumbents, several lawmakers were drawn into the same district as one or more colleagues.

That dynamic is partly fueling the retirement wave, as some lawmakers choose to step down rather than face a primary or compete in a dramatically different district.

Altogether, 28 legislators are waving farewell to the Capitol. 

Farewell House … hello Senate?

But it’s not just retirements that will leave vacancies in the General Assembly. 

Fourteen delegates have announced their intention to run for the state Senate. Whether they will make it to the Senate isn’t clear, but what is clear is that their departure from the House will further shake up its composition. Here’s who is gambling on being able to move into the upper chamber.

Del. Tim Anderson, R-Virginia Beach

A firebrand conservative who flipped a competitive Hampton Roads district in 2021, Anderson earlier this year said he would not seek reelection in a new district that now includes the Eastern Shore and Del. Rob Bloxom, R-Accomack.

On April 4, Anderson announced on Facebook he will be running for the new Senate District 19, a strongly Republican-leaning district that covers parts of Virginia Beach and Chesapeake.

Del. Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight

Elected to the House in 2017 in a Tidewater district encompassing Isle of Wight, Prince George, Surry and parts of Suffolk, Brewer chairs the House Communications, Technology and Innovation Committee. 

Her race against former NASCAR driver and truck stop owner Hermie Sadler to represent the new Senate District 17 has already provoked a lawsuit over whether the choice of a nominee should occur through a state-run primary or a party-run convention.  

Del. Clint Jenkins, D-Suffolk

Jenkins ousted long-time Republican delegate and former House Appropriations Chair Chris Jones from his Hampton Roads region seat in 2019 after a court-ordered redistricting rejiggered the district’s political makeup.

The new Senate District 17 that resulted from the state-driven redistricting leans Republican. This November, Jenkins — who has no Democratic opponents — will face either Republican Del. Emily Brewer or former NASCAR driver and truck stop owner Hermie Sadler. 

Del. Angelia Williams Graves, D-Norfolk

Freshman delegate Williams Graves entered the House in 2021 to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Del. Joe Lindsey, who was appointed that year to a judgeship by the General Assembly. 

In a primary for the new Senate District 21, Williams Graves will face Democratic Norfolk Councilwoman Andria McClellan. No Republicans have announced they will run in the strongly Democratic Hampton Roads district. 

Departures

Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-Williamsburg

Norment, who has spent three decades in the Senate and leads that chamber’s Republican caucus, told The Richmond Times-Dispatch in February that he isn’t planning on seeking reelection.

Norment told the paper he wanted to spend more time with family and go back to teaching, which he previously did at the College of William and Mary. Redistricting also left him in the same new district as Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover.

Sen. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake

Saying it was time to “pass the torch” to new leaders, Cosgrove announced he’s not running for the Senate again after two decades in the General Assembly.

“I have two precious granddaughters that I rarely get to see, and my wonderful wife Sue has been very patient with me serving so long in public service,” Cosgrove said in his March 20 announcement. “It is time to move on and enjoy my family and the opportunities that may lie ahead for me and my family.”

It wasn’t immediately clear who in the GOP was lining up to try to succeed Cosgrove in the strongly Republican district. A Democrat, Myra Payne, has filed to run for the seat.

Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach 

In an April 4 announcement, Davis said he wouldn’t run for reelection, describing himself as a casualty of a redistricting process that “created numerous intraparty conflicts across the commonwealth.” 

Davis, who has been in the House since 2014 and most recently served as chair of the House Education Committee, had been drawn into the same district as House Appropriations Chair Barry Knight. 

“While my desire would be to continue serving the citizens of Virginia Beach in the House of Delegates and leading our education agenda, there is no doubt that the City I represent, as well as the Hampton Roads Region as a whole, has benefited greatly from having the Chairman of Appropriations as its representative,” Davis wrote. “It is for this reason that I will not be running for re-election.”

Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News

An influential voice on courts and criminal justice issues, Mullin isn’t running again after redistricting left him in a Republican-friendly district that would be tough for any Democrat to win.

Mullin, who was first elected to the House in 2015, said he planned to spend more time with his family. 

Tragedy struck shortly after his announcement as Mullin announced the death of his 3-month-old son, news that left some General Assembly members visibly shaken as they finished up their work for the year.

Other potential departures

Two primary races pitting incumbents against each other — a byproduct of redistricting — will also ensure one current senator and one current delegate won’t be a part of next year’s General Assembly. 

In the Hampton Roads region, Democratic Sens. Louise Lucas and Lionell Spruill are battling for the party nomination to represent the new Senate District 18. The district, which includes parts of Chesapeake and Portsmouth, leans Democratic and has no declared Republican candidate, meaning whichever wins the primary is virtually assured election to the seat. 

This story was reported by our media partners at the Virginia Mercury. Read about more General Assembly changes on their website.