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Lawyers may have slight gain in House

While some commentators have lamented the decreasing number of lawyers serving in the Virginia legislature, there was no wholesale infusion of attorneys into the House of Delegates in yesterday’s elections.  Results show a possible gain of two additional lawyers in the House.

In a closely-watched Northern Virginia squeaker, lawyer and lobbyist Barbara Comstock unseated community leader Margi Vanderhye.  In another newsworthy turnabout, Del. Phillip Hamilton, an educator, was defeated by lawyer and consumer advocate Robin Abbott.  Lawyer Scott Surovell has won the seat of businesswoman Kris Amundson, who resigned.

In the negative column for lawyers, Del. Frank Hall, an attorney, also resigned this year.  His seat is being taken by a non-lawyer, Betsy Carr.

Other attorneys won and lost, but we have not identified any other contests where the outcome changed the “lawyer count” in the House.

Botetourt County lawyer Bill Cleaveland was elected to the seat of lawyer Del. William Fralin, who resigned.

Two lawyers sought the seat of Steve Shannon, who resigned to run for attorney general.  The winner was Mark Keam.

A number of incumbent lawyers resisted challenges from other lawyers.  Del. Dave Albo held off a bid by Greg Werkheiser.  Del. Bill Janis defeated James Towey.  Del. Manoli Loupassi beat Bill Grogran.  Del. William Barlow withstood the challenge of Stan Clark.

Elsewhere, lawyers fell short in efforts to unseat incumbent non-lawyers.  Del. Dave Nutter withstood a challenge from prosecutor Peggy Frank.  Del. Matt Lohr defeated lawyer Gene Hart.  Gary Reinhardt failed to unseat Lee Ware.  Del. Thomas Rust retains his seat, beating Stevens Miller.  Del. Glenn Oder outpolled lawyer Gary West.

There currently are 20 lawyers in the House, 19 in the Senate, according to officials at the capitol.  A total of 15 lawyers were among the 91 candidates challenging incumbents or seeking open House of Delegates seats this year.

By Peter Vieth

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