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Sun Gazette: Re-Elected Legislators Moving Up the Seniority Chain; Newcomers to Start at the Bottom Print


Created: Thursday, November 10, 2011 8:20 am | Updated: 8:36 am, Thu Nov 10, 2011.

Well, they're movin' on up. If not to a deee-luxe apartment in the sky (enjoy the gratuitous 1970s TV-theme-song reference?), then at least in seniority in the House of Delegates.

A combination of retirements and defeats across the commonwealth will allow Arlington's legislative delegation to pick up seniority in the lower house of the legislature, though as Democrats they are part of a minority party that lost even more clout on Nov. 8.

Republicans are expected to hold a record 66 seats (plus one Republican-leaning independent) in the 100-seat body, with one race headed for a recount, according to the Associated Press. That leaves just 32 or 33 Democrats, depending on the results of that last contested race.

Among local legislators:

* Del. Bob Brink (D-48th), who was first elected in 1997 and took office in 1998, moves up to 20th overall in seniority, from 26th today, and will rank as seventh most senior among the depleted corps of Democrats in the body.

* Del. David Englin (D-45th) and Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th) also will move up. Englin, elected in 2005, currently is 56th in seniority and will move up to 44th overall and 16th among Democrats, while Hope likely will move from 76th to 62nd. Hope, who was elected just two years ago, was selected by lottery as the freshman class's most senior delegate, at 81st in seniority.

* Incoming Del. Alfonso Lopez, who was elected Nov. 8 to represent the 49th House District, will have to wait until the end of the year to see where he places on the seniority list. Seniority among freshmen will be determined by lottery before the session begins.

All have quite a way to go to catch the body's most senior member, Del. Lacey Putney. The delegate from Bedford joined the House of Delegates in 1962, when Brink was just 15 and when Englin, Hope and Lopez hadn't yet been born.

Putney, 83, officially is classified as an independent – he had both Republican and Democratic opponents in his re-election bid – but he caucuses with the GOP and serves as chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Seniority has only limited functionality in the House of Delegates, as committee assignments for both Democrats and Republicans are determined not by length of service, but at the sole discretion of Speaker William Howell (R-Fredericksburg).

On the state Senate side, incoming Sens. Adam Ebbin (D-30th) and Barbara Favola (D-31st) each will start climbing from the bottom of the seniority ladder, although because Ebbin served in the House of Delegates, he will get seniority over other freshmen who have not served in the legislature.

Arlington's two veteran senators – Patsy Ticer in the 30th District and Mary Margaret Whipple in the 31st – are retiring. Each served for 16 years; Ticer this year ranked 15th in seniority among the 40 senators, while Whipple ranked 17th.

State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) currently ranks seventh in seniority, having first been elected in 1991. Howell's district had included parts of Arlington before 2001, and with this year's legislative redistricting again includes a swath across the county.

The longest-serving senator is Charles Colgan, a Prince William Democrat who was first elected in 1975 and won re-election on Nov. 8.