Democratic state senator to resign, tip control of chamber to Republicans

Richmond, Va. – State Senator Phillip P. Puckett (D – Russell) plans to officially resign from the General Assembly immediately, tipping control of the chamber to Republicans.

Puckett is expected to make the announcement Monday.

He is reportedly leaving the General Assembly in an effort to help his daughter win a full appointment as a judge. The General Assembly generally does not approve full appointments to the family of other state lawmaker, according to a report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Republican State Delegate Terry Kilgore told the Times-Dispatch he would be interested in hiring Puckett on the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. Kilgore is the chairman of that commission.

Puckett’s resignation would give state Republicans a majority in the Virginia Senate, making it difficult for Governor McAuliffe to move forward with his plan to expand Medicaid coverage in Virginia.

“I am deeply disappointed by this news and the uncertainty it creates at a time when 400,000 Virginians are waiting for access to quality health care, especially those in Southwest Virginia,” Governor McAuliffe said in a statement released Sunday night. “This situation is unacceptable, but the bipartisan majority in the Senate and I will continue to work hard to put Virginians first and find compromise on a budget that closes the coverage gap.”

While the resignation has angered some Democrats who now accuse Republicans of trying to “buy” the Senate, the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus did not address the issue in its statement on Puckett’s resignation:

“We regret Sen. Puckett’s decision to resign, but we are grateful for his many years of service. We wish him and his family all the best,” the statement read.

Read more on Puckett’s resignation at our sister station WTVR.