Republicans were thrilled in November when young, telegenic Glen Sturtevant, a Richmond School Board member, defeated veteran politician and developer Dan Gecker in a hotly contested race for the state Senate's 10th District.
Sturtevant’s narrow upset kept the Senate in GOP hands. He would seem to buck up the party in its nasty standoff with Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe over his attempts to expand Medicaid coverage and put his choice of Fairfax County’s Judge Jane Marum Roush on the state Supreme Court.
Not so fast.
Sturtevant, 33, has shown himself to be dramatically independent. He was in office for mere days when he announced he wouldn’t support his party’s plans to dump Roush in favor of its candidate, State Court of Appeals Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr.
His position is critical because the Republicans control the Senate by the slenderest of margins -- 21 to 19. They also wield control in the House of Delegates.
It wasn’t Sturtevant’s only show of independence. When Sen. Charles “Bill” Carrico (R-Grayson) pushed a bill to allow state clerks or deputy clerks to deny marriage licenses to gay couples because of their personal beliefs (in opposition to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling supporting the rights of gay couples of to marry), Sturtevant said no.
His opposition puts him in the same camp as the American Civil Liberties Union, which is fighting Carrico’s bill.
Political analyst Bob Holsworth says that Sturtevant’s decision on the judgeship “was a big surprise to the Republicans.”
It also aligns him to the legacy of the man he replaces in the senate, John Watkins. The veteran Republican legislator was known for marching to his own tune and brokering deals.
“He’s different from Watkins,” Holsworth says, “but sure has an independent streak.”
Sturtevant’s plays are not all that risky, according to Holsworth. His 10th District is unusually competitive because he has an unusual mix of progressives, moderates and conservatives.
GOP legislative leaders have vowed to blunt McAuliffe on issues such as Roush’s appointment because he didn’t consult them before announcing his choice and then used his executive power to have her put temporary on the Supreme Court to fill a vacancy.
Sturtevant just isn’t going to go along with “exacting political revenge,” Holsworth says.