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2017-12-06 / Featured / Front Page

After loss, Del. Manoli Loupassi refuses to go quietly

BY JIM McCONNELL STAFF WRITER


Del. Manoli Loupassi, in his law offices on West Broad Street, is asking for a recount after narrowly losing his 68th District seat to Democratic challenger Dawn Adams on Nov. 7. 
ASH DANIEL Del. Manoli Loupassi, in his law offices on West Broad Street, is asking for a recount after narrowly losing his 68th District seat to Democratic challenger Dawn Adams on Nov. 7. ASH DANIEL His successor has assumed the duties of delegate-elect of the 68th House District, attending meetings and agreeing to co-sponsor a bill during the upcoming General Assembly session that would open the Virginia Supreme Court’s criminal court database to public scrutiny.

Before Dawn Adams is sworn in as the newest member of Chesterfield’s legislative delegation, however, Manoli Loupassi says he wants to make sure the votes that apparently ended his tenure in the House of Delegates were tallied properly.

Loupassi, a Republican who has served in the House since 2008, filed paperwork in Richmond Circuit Court last week requesting a recount of the Nov. 7 election.

State election officials have certified Adams as the winner in the 68th District, with a margin of 336 votes out of more than 39,000 cast.

Since he conceded to Adams on election night, Loupassi had not made any public comments questioning the legitimacy of the results. During a telephone interview with the Observer last Tuesday evening, he seemed content to resume his law practice and wait for a future opportunity to re-enter the political arena.

Loupassi noted that he had given Adams his cell number and offered to help any way he could in her transition to elected office.

“It’s a democracy and the people have spoken,” he said.

About 48 hours later, Loupassi announced that he had decided to seek a recount, which is his right under Virginia law since he lost by less than 1 percent of the vote.

“I recognize the outcome may not change, but there’s no harm done in making sure that the vote is correct,” he said in a statement. “The people should be certain that all matters have been handled appropriately.”

There’s far more at stake than Loupassi’s political career. The GOP currently clings to a 51-49 advantage in the House of Delegates, having lost a staggering 15 seats and all three top statewide offices in a “wave election” many political analysts called an early referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency.

Democratic candidates have filed for recounts in three other closely contested House districts. Should they flip one, their party would effective neutralize the GOP’s long-held majority. 

“While we believe that recounts serve a critical function in ensuring every vote is counted, we find it interesting that Del. Loupassi has already twice conceded, deleted his Facebook page and even asked Delegate-elect Adams to attend a meeting for him because he had already checked out the day after the election,” said Katie Baker, a spokeswoman for the House Democratic Caucus, in a statement last week. “His decision to request a recount is clearly a response to pressure as Republicans watch their previous majority slipping away.” Parker Slaybaugh, a spokesman for Speaker elect Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), said via email that Loupassi asked for a recount “simply to make sure we got it right.”

“The outcome of this election was very close and within the margin to request a recount. For that reason, we felt it important to ensure the votes are counted correctly so the people of the 68th House District are certain of the outcome,” he added.

The recount process is expected to be completed by the end of December; in the meantime, Adams said she will continue to serve as delegate-elect. She was expected to participate in a Dec. 5 joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors and School Board with the county’s legislative delegation.

Asked during last week’s interview if it feels strange not to be preparing bills for the 2018 General Assembly session, which begins Jan. 10, Loupassi insisted he has been “too busy to think about what I’m not doing.”

“I’m all over the place. I’m in court every day. I guess that’s a good thing,” he said with a wry chuckle.

Loupassi also said he has “no regrets” about the work he did on behalf of his constituents in the 68th District, which includes parts of Chesterfield, Richmond and Henrico.

Elected to the House of Delegates following a seven-year stint on Richmond City Council, Loupassi was known for his willingness to work with Democrats even as the General Assembly became increasingly polarized along ideological lines.

Loupassi’s most significant legislative accomplishment came in 2014, when he pushed through a bill giving Chesterfield and Henrico equal representation on the Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Previously, the city held six seats on the board and the counties had two apiece – a longtime source of political discord and one of the reasons the Richmond region had been ineffective in competing for state transportation funding.

“Manoli was always a good legislator to work with,” said Charlie Davis, a Chesterfield resident who lobbies the General Assembly on behalf of several Virginia localities. “He’s smart and pragmatic and he came armed with an understanding of all the players, which helped him speak with authority on a number of regional issues.”

Prior to announcing his request for a recount, Loupassi expressed confidence there will be “opportunities for people like me” to pursue elected office in the future.

“I don’t know if it will be in the House of Delegates or somewhere else, but I’m not going away,” he added. “I’m still going to be involved.” 

Correction: In earlier print and online versions of this story, we incorrectly reported that incoming Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax would represent the tie-breaking vote in the House of Delegates. The lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate, not the House. We regret the error. 

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