Republican legislators learning to navigate minority party status

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — With Democrats taking control of both houses in the General Assembly for the first time in 20 years, Republicans will have to navigate a new dynamic.

The vote tally shows Republicans lost a lot of ground in the suburbs. They do maintain a stronghold in rural areas.

As the Peter Parker Principle goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Senator Mark Peake is learning what less power comes with.

“Everybody going back to the General Assembly is focused on teacher pay,” he said. “We know we need to get up higher in the national average.”

On election night, he was disappointed that his party lost control. Now he says he’s prioritizing issues with bipartisan support.

“We have to get teacher pay up,” said Peake, “we have to get public safety for our law enforcement people, we need to get that pay up, transportation, we need to get our roads in shape.”

Newly elected delegate Wendell Walker feels differently.

He doesn’t see himself working with Democrats, who are looking to pass laws around increasing the minimum wage, legalizing recreational marijuana, and gun control, all of which Walker opposes.

“I think people here in the 23rd district that elected me with a strong margin out here care about the family values” said Walker. “So pro-life was a big, important issue out here. The second amendment, protecting our Second Amendment rights is another important thing.”

With Democrats dominating in cities and suburbs, both agree that the future of their party in Virginia is in danger if they don’t change their approach.

“We’ve got to expand our base. We’ve got to broaden our appeal,” said Peake. “If we’re a rural party, we’re going to be in the minority always, because the population is now in the suburban areas.”

“Northern Virginia, the tidewater areas out there, there again, there are a lot of conservative-minded people up there,” said Walker.

Both pointed to the President’s unpopularity in Virginia as why their party lost control, but Democrats have been winning most state-wide races since 2001.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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