General Assembly undergoing shakeup with wave of retirement announcements, including State Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment

The General Assembly is about to undergo a serious shakeup.

More than a dozen legislators recently announced they will not seek reelection — including Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, a long-serving James City County Republican.

“The loss of somebody like Tommy Norment is certainly a loss for the party,” said Benjamin Melusky, assistant professor of political science at Old Dominion University.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Sunday that Norment plans to retire. The attorney and former professor at the College of William & Mary told the paper he wanted to spend time with his family and return to teaching. He also plans to take on a more active role in local civic issues.

Norment, 76, has held office since 1992. He sits on four Senate committees: Rules, Judiciary, Commerce and Labor, and Finance and Appropriations. His Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, also announced his plan to step down after 48 years in the legislature.

While the retirements of Norment and Saslaw, a Fairfax Democrat, come after decades in public office, many other departures were likely driven by redistricting, Melusky said.

This year’s fall elections will be the first for state lawmakers under new district boundaries. Some face significant district boundary changes while others would have had to face off against colleagues.

The professor explained it can lead to nasty fights when incumbents of the same party face off. It can also harm the party overall, he said, which is why he isn’t surprised that many would rather step down.

“I think it makes a lot of sense,” Melusky said. “I think some members are just saying. ‘OK, I’ve had my time in the sun and I’m going to bow out.”

With Norment’s long tenure, Melusky said the savvy lawmaker understood the political realities of governing in Virginia and often served as a moderating voice.

“He has been instrumental in both policy creation and in whipping and keeping the Republicans together in the Senate,” he said. “When you lose a member like that, you lose that institutional knowledge and party leadership.”

On Monday, Sen. Bill DeSteph said Norment will be missed. The Virginia Beach Republican called the minority leader a “fantastic man” and praised his service to the commonwealth.

But DeSteph said GOP leadership will remain in good hands.

“We have a very deep bench of fantastic leaders in the General Assembly,” he said. “When it comes to leadership, we have Ryan McDougle, Stephen Newman, Mark Obenshain, myself, Bryce Reeves — we got some great leaders still on the Senate side.”

Sue Sadler, vice chair of the James City County Board of Supervisors, also praised Norment’s service. She wrote in an email that the senator had been a “staunch advocate” for the county and its tourism industry.

Norment also overcame several rounds of controversy over the years, including four years ago after a Virginia Military Institute yearbook with racist slurs and photos from 1968 resurfaced. Norment was one of the yearbook’s seven editors. In response, Norment called the yearbook “abhorrent” and said he had supported integration at VMI.

“I’m still culpable, but it is by association with a team that produced that yearbook with those photos,” he said at the time.

Norment also endured a public extortion attempt from a former client.

Other Virginia politicians stepping down this year

More than a dozen state legislators have announced they will not seek reelection.

Among those not returning in Hampton Roads: Dels. Tim Anderson, R-Virginia Beach, and Mike Mullin, D-Newport News.

Last week, Mullin told The Virginian-Pilot and the Daily Press that he would not seek reelection because he wanted to spend more time with his family. He has served in the House since 2016 and was instrumental in repealing the death penalty in Virginia.

The delegate has since experienced a tragedy: He shared Thursday that his infant son, Peter, had died.

Anderson previously told The Pilot that his decision was made in part because recent redistricting meant he would be running against a fellow Republican incumbent.

“I’m not leaving politics,” he said. “I believe there is something better for me to do, but I don’t know what that something better is right now.”

Other state lawmakers stepping down this year include: Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, who was elected to Congress; Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke; Del. John Avoli, R-Staunton; Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Fauquier; Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville; Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, Del. James Edmunds, R-Halifax; Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford; Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax; Del. Kathleen Murphy, D-Fairfax; Del. Margaret Ransone, R-Westmoreland; and Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield.

Katie King,