The abrupt resignation of Democratic State Senator Phil Puckett of Russell County, which took effect Monday, means the chamber where he’s served since 1998, will flip back to Republican control. To the dismay of Governor McAuliffe and the General Assembly Democrats, the state senate will have 20 Republicans, 19 Democrats and a vacancy that won’t get filled until there’s a special election. Puckett issued a statement late Monday saying his resignation will make it easier for his daughter, Martha Puckett Ketron, to become a juvenile court judge. He also says he has never been officially offered a job by the Virginia Tobacco Commission, and media reports that suggest he’s resigning to get a job with that agency are incorrect. Republican Richard Black of Loudoun County hopes the new GOP majority in the state senate can now endorse a budget that does not contain an expansion of the Medicaid program. Black and other Republicans say a senate version of the Virginia budget that contains no provisions for Medicaid expansion should help to end a stalemate that’s threatened a July 1st shutdown of state government. Geoff Skelley of UVA’s Center for Politics tells us Democrats are riled up and many of them are furious at Puckett. Skelley also believes it will be difficult for Democrats to hold onto Puckett’s seat in a future special election. Democrats took control of the State Senate on January 28th.
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