RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Democrat Lamont Bagby and Republican Stephen Imholt are vying to fill a soon-to-be vacant Virginia Senate seat that won’t come with a heavy workload — besides a one-day “veto session” in April with far-reaching implications.
The winner of the March 28 special election will represent the 9th state Senate District, a seat Congresswoman-elect Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.) will vacate by Tuesday when she’s sworn in, until McClellan’s term ends in January 2024.
Unless Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) calls a special session, whoever comes out on top will have one main task while in the Virginia Senate: voting on the governor’s vetoes and amendments to bills during the annual “veto session” on April 12.
Bagby vs. Imholt
The race pits two candidates with different levels of political experience against each other.
Del. Bagby (D-Henrico), 46, has been in the House of Delegates since 2015 and is the chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. Imholt, 70, is a former IT project manager who unsuccessfully ran for a House seat as an independent.
Bagby is seen as a favorite in the blue-leaning Senate district after defeating fellow Democratic Del. Dawn Adams (Richmond) and 4th District Democratic Committee Chair Alexsis Rodgers for the party’s nomination.
“It’s an opportunity to serve more of the city of Richmond,” Bagby said about his decision to run, adding that he aims to help provide more services for people in the district.
Imholt, who now works as a Walmart sales associate, said he wasn’t expecting to be the Republican nominee, telling 8News he filed to open a dialogue with other candidates at the party’s canvass but quickly learned he was the only one to submit paperwork to run when he arrived.
The Virginia General Assembly, Imholt said, doesn’t do a great job of applying technology in the way it legislates. He called for more IT infrastructure upgrades and said Virginia should provide more ways to “give people a hands up, not a handout.”
Bagby told 8News he believed the legislature was in a good place when Democrats held the House, pointing to laws to make voting easier, address climate change and target predatory lenders. He called out Youngkin and Republicans for trying to “turn back the hands of time” by pushing efforts to roll back those laws.
“We handed this governor a surplus that no other governor has seen before,” Bagby said. “He has been irresponsible in funding our priorities,” which the delegate said were housing, education and health care.
Bagby criticized Youngkin’s proposed tax cuts for high-income earners and corporations, calling Democrats the “most fiscally responsible party.”
The General Assembly passed a stop-gap spending bill that doesn’t include the $1 billion in tax cuts Youngkin wanted, but budget negotiations are not over and the winner of the special election could have a key vote in the narrowly-divided Virginia Senate on future tax cuts.
“I haven’t seen a lot of compromise,” Imholt said when asked about Democrats and Republicans working together in the legislature.
The 9th Virginia Senate District includes all of Charles City County and parts of Henrico, Hanover and the city of Richmond.
Most of the voters in the district come from Henrico, with nearly 37,000 in the county voting during the last general election in 2019. Democrats have easily won the district since 2011, twice unopposed and twice against Libertarian candidates.
The special election will be the last one in the current 9th District after the state’s political maps underwent a required redistricting process.
Del. Bagby is running in the new 14th Virginia Senate district, which is anchored in Richmond, and will have to win a Democratic primary before the November general election.
The Special Election
The special election for the 9th District seat will be on March 28. The deadline to vote or update an existing registration is March 21 — but Virginia has same-day voter registration — and the deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is March 17.
Early voting for the special election is currently underway.