Virginia delegate says he’ll resign current seat to run for new one
A rule in the Virginia Constitution requiring General Assembly members to resign their seats if they move out of their district will force Del. Nadarius Clark, D-Portsmouth, to step down before legislators return to Richmond April 12, Clark’s campaign acknowledged this week.
On Wednesday, Democratic candidate Michele Joyce, who’s running in the same redrawn House of Delegates district to which Clark is moving, called on Clark to either resign his current seat or stop running for the new one.
“We as Democrats cannot ask our Republican colleagues to uphold election integrity while simultaneously disregarding the Virginia Constitution because it’s inconvenient,” Joyce said. “Delegate Clark is currently operating in direct contradiction to the Virginia Constitution which he swore to support.”
Asked for a response to Joyce’s assertion, Clark said he’s been in the process of moving to the new district since the regular session ended a few weeks ago.
“I have known since last year that I would not be able to return to next month’s reconvene upon completing my move,” said Clark.
One of the House’s youngest members, Clark worked as a political organizer before he was elected to the General Assembly in 2021.
Clark’s expected departure means House Democrats could be down to 47 votes when the legislature returns next month to take up vetoes and amendments from Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Republicans have a 52-seat majority in the chamber, so it’s unclear if the loss of one Democrat will significantly impact any votes. Youngkin has not yet revealed his amendments and vetoes.
After Virginia’s once-a-decade redistricting process was completed in late 2021, numerous General Assembly members had to move in order to establish residency in the new district they hope to represent. For many, that wasn’t a major problem, because their old district overlapped with the new one. That meant they could accomplish their move without having to leave the boundaries of their existing district.
Clark’s situation is different. The district he currently represents, House District 79, is made up of parts of the cities of Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Norfolk. The new district he’s running in, House District 84, consists of the city of Franklin, parts of the city of Suffolk and Isle of Wight County and a tiny sliver of Chesapeake.
Clark said he’s moving to the Harborview area of Suffolk, which is not in his current district.
“Hampton Roads is my home and it’s been the honor of my life to serve the 79th district and I look forward to continuing to serve Hampton Roads in the new 84th district as we take back the majority this November,” he said in a written statement.
General Assembly candidates have a critical filing deadline coming up April 6, which means Clark will have to file official paperwork indicating he no longer lives in the district he was elected to represent. The state Constitution says: “A senator or delegate who moves his residence from the district for which he is elected shall thereby vacate his office.”
Joyce — a computer scientist who previously ran against Del. Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, in a strongly Republican district — said the rule is “easy to understand.”
“If Delegate Clark cannot respect our Constitution, then either the State Board of Elections or Attorney General [Jason] Miyares must intervene on behalf of residents in Suffolk, Isle of Wight County and Franklin, to ensure fair elections,” Joyce said.
Clark’s campaign did not give an exact date for when he intends to resign his seat.
The new district Clark and Joyce are competing in is politically competitive. Two Republicans, Michael Dillinder and Rod Thomspon, are competing for the GOP nomination.