Partisan Rift Stalls Judicial Elections; Two Ex-Delegates Caught in Crossfire

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sherfinski, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

RICHMOND -- The Virginia General Assembly postponed a squabble over judicial appointments after a partisan standoff Tuesday in the state Senate threatened to shut down the upper chamber for up to three days.

The politically thorny issue brought the Senate's 20-20 split between Republicans and Democrats to an uncomfortable head, with neither side willing to back down over the election of two judges, both former delegates.

Senate Democrats said they were blindsided by Republicans' desire to elect the two nonincumbents. While they had nothing against the two candidates, they had the understanding that the Tuesday vote would only be to reappoint judges, Democrats said.

Just for two names, they're willing to shut the entire General Assembly down and the careers of a lot of judges just to keep those two names in there, Senate Democratic leader Richard L. Saslaw of Fairfax said of Tuesday's impasse.

Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., James City County Republican, derided the Democrats' position as obstructionist behavior and partisan political extortion.

The 20-20 split could not be broken by Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, as his tiebreaking authority does not extend to electing judges. And because the Senate was operating under a special order used to elect judges, no other business, including committee meetings, could be conducted until the impasse was resolved. The body can recess for up to three days, but senators eventually voted to postpone the vote and take it up on Thursday. …