He is a quasi-lame duck in terms of Arlington (for reasons that will be explained below), but Del. Rip Sullivan has high hopes for productivity, even from a minority position, in the coming 60-day General Assembly session.
“I am an optimist and hope for a successful session,” Sullivan told the Sun Gazette. “Virginians expect that from us. I have always tried to work across party lines when I can, and that will not change with the change in control.”
Sullivan and his 47 fellow Democrats in the 100-member body will find themselves facing a Republican majority for the first time in several years. The GOP picked up a net seven seats in the Nov. 2 election, and will control the House of Delegates by two for the 2022 session.
Sullivan, an attorney, first was elected to the 48th House District in 2014, winning a special election following the resignation of veteran Del. Bob Brink to join the McAuliffe administration, and has faced no real challenges in retaining it. The district is roughly split between McLean and North Arlington precincts.
With the recently approved legislative redistricting, however, the new district where Sullivan lives in McLean has no Arlington districts.
It does, though, include another incumbent – Del. Kathleen Murphy. That could prove problematic, forcing the two legislators to square off against one another in a party primary should Murphy decide to seek re-election. (Some political soothsayers suggest she’s had enough and will be retiring.)
In ordinary times, it wouldn’t be until 2023 that the matter would come to a head, but pending court action, all 100 House of Delegates seats might have to be contested later this year under the new districts, with another election the subsequent year.
That’s not a prospect that fills Murphy with delight.
“Unfortunately, this will be expensive and time-consuming,” she told the Sun Gazette. “I am not sure at this point how all of this will be resolved, but it certainly presents us with some problems.”
As for Sullivan, he still technically can be considered a member of the Arlington delegation, and is working toward finalizing his legislative agenda before the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 12.
“I expect to be active, as I always have, in the environmental/clean-energy space, and my most particular area of focus will be on protecting the progress we’ve made over the last two years,” he said.
Sullivan worried the new GOP House majority would try to roll back or repeal some recently passed firearm-safety measures, including the “red-flag” law he had championed, which allows law enforcement to seize guns from people deemed to be substantial risks to themselves or others in the near future.
“The red-flag law is working and saving lives all around the commonwealth,” he said. “It is important that it continues to be available so that people who are a danger to themselves or others do not have access to a gun.”
Sullivan said he would continue to work to electrify Virginia’s transportation system and encourage more people to switch to electric vehicles.
Sullivan’s Arlington constituents, depending on their location, will find themselves either in the new House District 1 (likely to be claimed by incumbent Patrick Hope) or District 2 (an open seat including parts of the eastern half of the county).
Brian Trompeter contributed to this report.