Longtime Eastern Shore Lawmaker Latest of Many to Announce Retirement in Newly-Redrawn Legislative Districts

FILE - Virginia State Sen. Lynwood Lewis, left, talks with Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, during the Senate special session at the remote location in Richmond, Va., on Feb. 11, 2021. Lewis and former House speaker Democratic Del. Eileen Filler-Corn announced Tuesday, March 7, 2023, plans to step down after their current terms end, joining the flurry of lawmakers retiring rather than seeking re-election this year under new maps. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

By Carolyn Fiddler

March 17, 2023

State Sen. Lynwood Lewis announced recently that he would not seek reelection to the General Assembly, ending 20 years of service in the legislature and joining seven of his colleagues in the state Senate and many other House members announcing their own exits from the chamber.

Democratic state Sen. Lynwood Lewis recently announced his retirement from the General Assembly after 20 years of service. Lewis served in the House of Delegates from 2004 until 2014, when he ran to replace Ralph Northam, who had recently assumed office as Virginia’s lieutenant governor, in the state Senate.

Lewis’ retirement announcement came on the heels of those of over two dozen of his colleagues in the legislature.

The weeks immediately following the General Assembly session, which wraps before the end of February in odd-numbered years, often see multiple retirements as members and candidates face April filing deadlines to declare their candidacies for the 2023 general state legislative elections.

This year, all 40 seats in the Senate–which is on a four-year cycle–are up for election, in addition to the 100 seats in the House of Delegates, which are up every two years.

Several of the retiring members have served in the General Assembly for over 20 years, and the announced House and Senate retirements to date represent an aggregate loss of over 300 years of legislative experience.

Some House members have “retired” to seek higher office in the state Senate, but the vast majority of these retirements will mark the end of lawmakers’ political careers.

The last time the General Assembly saw retirement numbers this high was in 2001, and the reason is essentially the same: redistricting.

In 2001, most of the retiring lawmakers were Democrats, who confronted incredibly hostile legislative maps that had just been drawn by Republicans, who were exercising their power to game the redistricting process for the first time.

This time around, the legislative district maps were drawn by two court-appointed special masters after a newly created bipartisan redistricting commission failed to reach an agreement. 

These new maps were drawn without regard to protecting incumbents, which led to a drastic overhaul of the districts, with sitting legislators paired in many of them. (General Assembly members must live in the district they represent.) 

The deadline for candidates to file to run for the state legislature ahead of Virginia’s June 20 primaries is in early April, so more retirements may yet be in the pipeline.

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood's chief political correspondent. She is also the nation’s foremost expert in state politics with almost two decades of experience in statehouse machinations, and her comic book collection is probably bigger than yours.

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