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Bolling: Virginia State Senate Will Be Greatly Diminished by Retirements

I served in the Senate of Virginia for 18 years: 10 years as a member of the Senate, and 8 years as President of the Senate.

During that time, I served with lots of very fine men and women, but none better than Dick Saslaw: Richard Saslaw, Va.’s longest-serving state senator, announces retirement [1].

Dick and I frequently disagreed on issues, as you might expect, but I admired and respected him. He was a man of his word and someone you could trust and work with. The Senate will be greatly diminished by his retirement after 48 years of service.

Another longtime leader in the Virginia General Assembly, Senator Tommy Norment of Williamsburg, has also announced his retirement: Norment, long among the most powerful in the Capitol, is retiring (richmond.com) [2].

We have seen more senior legislators retire this year than ever before, the consequence of recent redistricting changes. The loss of so many senior legislators concerns me for several reasons.

First, the loss of their experience and institutional knowledge cannot be replaced. In every situation they will be succeeded by legislators who have nowhere near the experience or legislative ability that they had.

Second, they will likely be replaced by legislators that are more politically extreme and more ideologically driven than they were. Unfortunately, those are the types of candidates who win nominations and elections these days in legislative districts that are not competitive. This will make cooperation and consensus building more difficult.

The bulk retirement of so many senior legislators who embodied the dying “Virginia Way” will lead us much closer to what I fear the most – the Washingtonization of Richmond.