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2015 General Assembly Elections

Why They Matter:

To say that Governor McAuliffe’s legacy rests upon the outcome of the 2015 election cycle would not be overstating the fact.  With a House of Delegates dominated by republicans, the Governor needs a chamber that can help advance his administration’s policy priorities.  As the Senate rested with republicans in control 21 to 19 prior to November 3rd, all eyes are on a handful of Senate seats.  Democrats only need to pick up one seat to take control from the republicans.  With a 20-20 split, Lt. Governor Northam (a democrat) casts any tie-breaking votes- effectively giving democrats control of the Senate. This would allow democrats to reorganize the Senate and take control of the committees.  A democratically-controlled Senate would give the Governor some much needed muscle in the legislature.

2016 is a budget year in the Commonwealth. If Medicaid expansion were to happen, it has to be through the budget. A tied Senate (the Lt. Governor can’t vote on the budget) or a clear democratic majority would make Medicaid expansion at least viable.  This is also the only budget that the Governor crafts and then nurtures through the legislature. As such, it is sure to contain spending and policy priorities dear to the Governor.

Lead up to the election:

As stated above, the real prize of this cycle is control of the Senate.  There are three Senate Districts in play.  Two are open seats where long serving incumbents have retired.  The first is Senate District 10, which includes all of Powhatan County and parts of Richmond City and Chesterfield County. This seat was formerly held by John Watkins, a republican.  SD 10 is ground zero for the democrats to pick up the seat that would bring them to parity.  Although Watkins held this seat for over a decade, it has trended democratic in almost every other race both State and Federal.

Senate District 29 was previously held by Chuck Colgan (D). This district includes all of Manassas City, Manassas Park City and parts of Prince William County. Though this seat has also trended democratic for a long time, republicans have high hopes of taking it back.  The republican candidate is well known, a former Mayor, and from a prominent political family.  Senator Colgan refrained from endorsing the democratic candidate, with his family actually endorsing the republican.  These factors have made what should be a safe seat a toss-up.

Roanoke has trended democratic for years.  Senator John Edwards (D) should have been safe in his incumbency.  However, the Edwards campaign got off to a slow start and the republican challenger is a high profile physician and local philanthropist.  This has made the race much tighter than it should be.  Though it is a much harder task for republicans to take this seat, it is causing a great deal of worry for democrats.

The Races:

Below were some of the more interesting and competitive races leading up to Election Day.  An asterisk denotes the incumbent. The winner is in italics.


Senate District 6

Lynwood Lewis (D)*: 59.33%
Richard Ottinger (R):  40.28%

Senate District 7

Gary McCollum (D): 45.26 %
Frank Wagner (R)*:   53.57%

Senate District 10

Dan Gecker (D):         46.89%
Glenn Sturtevant (R): 49.57%

Senate District 21

John Edwards (D)*: 50.88%
Nancy Dye (R):        42.44%

Senate District 29

Jeremy McPike (D):  53.57%
Hal Parrish (R):         46.11%

Senate District 39

George Barker (D)*: 53.62%
Joe Murray (R):         45.94%

House of Delegates

House District 32

Elizabeth Miller (D): 47.86%
Tag Greason (R)*:     51.90%

House District 86

Jennifer Boysko (D): 54.37%
Danny Vargas (R):    40.27%

House District 93

Monty Mason (D)*: 54.61%
Lara Overy (R):       45.09%

House District 94

Shelly Simonds (D): 42.14%
David Yancy (R)*:    57.15%

The Results:

At the end of the night it appears that republicans have successfully held the Senate 21-19.  Republican Glen Sturtevant defeated Democrat Dan Gecker in SD 10. This loss hamstrings the Governor for the remainder of his term and will make it almost impossible for him to move his priority policy issues forward.  Democrats did pick up a seat in the House of Delegates, which now sits at 66 (R)-34 (D), though that does very little to change the balance of power in that chamber.

Here are a couple of news articles that recap the election:

Richmond Times-Dispatch: http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/government-politics/article_f0f432c4-2fa8-5321-8921-6fd4c5b794a6.html

Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/mcauliffes-hopes-for-senate-majority-dashed/2015/11/03/95400f9c-826a-11e5-8ba6-cec48b74b2a7_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_vavote-1029p%3Ahomepage%2Fstory


 How MSV is Combating Opioid Misuse

Drug overdose death rates in the United States have increased five-fold since 1980. Prescription drugs, especially opioid analgesics, have been increasingly involved in drug overdose deaths.2 Drug abuse and addiction are claiming the lives of more Virginians and have led to an increased burden on elevated health care costs from drug-related emergency department visits and treatment admissions. Opioid-related overdose deaths now outnumber overdose deaths involving all illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine combined.

Strategies to address these issues require a multi-pronged approach and coordinated effort amongst multiple stakeholders, which is why Medical Society of Virginia (MSV) President William C. Reha, M.D., M.B.A. and the MSV Board of Directors appointed the MSV Opioid Misuse Task Force earlier this year. This group was tasked with identifying opportunities for MSV to take a leadership role in creating public awareness, developing education education and resources, and identifying prescriber and patient protections.

The governor has also identified opioid and heroin dependence as a major concern for the commonwealth. In 2014, Governor McAuliffe established the Governor’s Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse to recommend immediate steps to address a growing and dangerous epidemic of prescription opioid and heroin abuse in Virginia, with the ultimate goal of improving public safety and public health. The governor’s task force recently completed their work and submitted formal recommendations for his consideration. A number of legislative and public health strategies are expected to be carried forward, including a requirement that prescribers participate in continuing medical education on appropriate opioid prescribing. The full recommendations are available here.

Within the context of the state work and in consideration of the growing problem both groups are working to address, the MSV task force presented a number of recommendations to the board at its September meeting. The board adopted the recommendations, which will be available for discussion at the 2015 MSV Annual Meeting. Ideas that were presented, that will be further prioritized by the board based on available resources, include the following.

  • Supporting prescriber education:
    MSV should support that Virginia’s prescriber licensing bodies (the Virginia Board of Medicine, the Virginia Board of Nursing, and the Virginia Board of Dentistry) be granted the statutory authority to require specific topic-area continuing education of licensees regarding opioid prescribing and/or addiction education. The development of any such requirements should be undertaken in collaboration with public health experts and the relevant professional and specialty organizations, include provisions for measuring the effect of implementing the requirements as compared to the desired outcome, and incorporate an appropriate sunset clause. Further, the licensing bodies should be mindful of current specialty training requirements that may already address the concern, such as maintenance of board certification. In response to any such requirements, the MSV should strive to make the prescribed programming easily accessible and affordable for its members.
  • Assisting with patient education:
    MSV will participate in efforts to educate the public regarding this epidemic, such as the promotion of patient education materials on safeguards for the treatment of chronic pain, proper use and disposal of medications and non-pharmacologic modalities for managing pain.
  • Enhancing prescriber education:
    MSV will support a collaborative, targeted approach to prescriber education that incentivizes providers to grow their knowledgebase in this area. For instance, MSV may want to partner with medical schools, medical staffs, liability carriers, the Virginia Prescription Monitoring Program and others to offer conveniently available educational programming and feedback.
  • Promoting use of electronic tools to mitigate risk:
    MSV believes all prescribers should voluntarily utilize the prescription monitoring program as a risk management tool, and will encourage opportunities for improving utilization. Additional opportunities include education regarding the Drug Enforcement Administration standard for electronic submission of controlled substances and encouraging electronic health record companies to provide a real-time interface with the state prescription monitoring program.
  • Supporting non-punitive approaches to addressing substance use disorder: 
    MSV recognizes that addiction is a medical condition that requires treatment. MSV will consider opportunities to improve access to and coverage for improved coverage of screening and treatment.