A Democrat with a history of pro-LGBTQ stances has won a special election for the Virginia State Senate on Tuesday.
Jennifer Boysko, a two-term member of the commonwealth’s House of Delegates from Herndon, will now represent the Loudoun-based 33rd Senate District seat left open by the election of U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton of Leesburg.
Boysko won her race by a nearly 40-point margin, defeating former Del. Joe May, a moderate Republican who had previously served in the House for 20 years before being defeated by a Tea Party-style challenger in his 2013 re-election bid.
The senator-elect was previously endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign for her stances on LGBTQ equality, specifically her support for a comprehensive, LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law, support for hate crimes protections for individuals targeted for violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and opposition to conversion therapy.
“We are thrilled to have Jennifer Boysko join the Virginia State Senate and to work alongside her in fighting for LGBTQ rights in the commonwealth,” HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse said in a statement. “HRC was proud to endorse Boysko in this race, and we look forward to working closely with her to win LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections and ensure equal rights and dignity for all Virginians this legislative session.”
Boysko thanked HRC, which was also instrumental in helping Wexton get elected to Congress, for its support and for the volunteers it referred to her campaign to help with get-out-the-vote efforts.
“I pledge to continue the work of making sure that everyone in Virginia receives dignity and respect no matter who they love,” Boysko said in a statement.
Boysko’s victory means Democrats keep par in the State Senate, holding 19 seats to Republicans’ 21. Because the lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, is a Democrat, and because all 19 Democrats are on record as supporting equality measures, Democrats only need one Republican to vote with them to ensure passage of any LGBTQ-related bill.
The major obstacle to comprehensive legislation remains the House of Delegates, which Republicans control 51-49, and where Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) remains effective in blocking LGBTQ legislation by ensuring that committees where any pro-equality legislation might be considered are filled with members from the most conservative House districts.
Cox has also been denying freshmen Democrats seats on key committees in an effort to hinder their 2019 re-election bids. One example of this occurred when he denied Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas Park) a seat on the transportation committee, in favor of another freshman Democrat from the Hampton Roads area who had not campaigned on transportation issues at all.
Roem, the first out transgender lawmaker to serve in the General Assembly, gained national recognition during her campaign, not only because of her history-making candidacy, but her laser-like focus on improving transportation and infrastructure issues in her Prince William-area district.
Democrats and LGBTQ Democratic allies hope that, if they can marshal a robust turnout in November’s regularly-scheduled elections, they can flip suburban seats in both chambers and change how committee assignments are rewarded.