Sen. Garrett calls for shakeup in Senate leadership
State Sen. Thomas A. Garrett Jr. called for a shakeup in Senate leadership while speaking on a conservative talk radio show Monday morning.
He called Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. the “heir apparent” to the Finance Committee chair and said he should not hold that position and stay majority leader.
Garrett said “I hope so” when asked whether he wanted to see a change in Senate Republican leadership after the GOP maintained its 21-19 majority in last Tuesday’s elections, during which the entire General Assembly was up for reelection.
“I do hope if he chooses to pursue that finance chairmanship that he will step aside and let somebody else take that majority leader position,” Garrett said speaking on the John Fredericks Show.
Norment could not be reached for comment Monday.
Finance Committee co-chairs Sen. Walter A. Stosch, R-Henrico, and Sen. Charles J. Colgan, D-Prince William, retire at the end of this term, leaving Norment, R-James City County, as the longest-tenured committee member.
Garrett, R-Buckingham, said holding both positions would be too much power for one individual.
“This is a democracy, or a republic. There’s a reason we have separation of powers. There’s a reason we have checks and balances, and this is that in micro,” Garrett’s 22nd District includes about half of Lynchburg as well as Amherst and Appomattox counties.
There is precedent for one person holding both powerful positions — former Sen. Hunter B. Andrews, D-Hampton, a legislative titan whom many describe as a political model for Norment.
“The historical precedent didn’t end well,” Garrett said, referencing a significant income tax increase passed in 1992.
During the interview, Garrett referenced a statement Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, made to The Richmond Times-Dispatch last week.
“I don’t think that can happen again,” Watkins had said.
Norment is the senior member of the committee. Next in line would be Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Augusta, a Shenandoah Valley moderate who ran afoul of party conservatives by supporting expansion of health coverage for uninsured Virginians but defeated two opponents in a GOP primary with 60 percent of the vote.
After Hanger, the next in line would be Sen. Stephen D. Newman, R-Lynchburg; Sen. Frank M. Ruff Jr., R-Mecklenburg; Sen. Frank W. Wagner, R-Virginia Beach; and Sen. Ryan T. McDougle, R-Hanover, who is chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus.
Newman could not be reached for comment Monday.
“I think Emmett and Tommy are the most qualified for it,” said Watkins, who called the committee chairmanship “an extraordinarily complex job.”
Hanger, who heads the Health and Human Resources Subcommittee, said Friday it would be “premature for me to forecast where we’re going. It depends on the will of the caucus and also of Senator Norment’s goals as far as leadership.”
The Senate Republican Caucus will convene privately in Portsmouth during the Finance Committee retreat next week.
The Richmond Times Dispatch contributed.