February 25, 2019 News

Toscano announces retirement from House of Delegates


by Tyler Hammel, The Daily Progress

After a long career in public service, Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, announced he will not seek an eighth term in the Virginia House of Delegates this year.

Toscano made his announcement during a speech on the House floor Saturday.

“Between my family and public service and community that is so special in so many ways, I have been, and continue to be, the luckiest guy alive,” he said.

Toscano, 68, was quick to note that his retirement has little to do with the chaos surrounding the state’s top three officials and that reading too much into his announcement “would be a mistake.”

“My decision has been in the making for some time, though various events have conspired to delay it,” he said in prepared remarks. “For months, I have been told that I should not retire, or could not retire. But I have some new and exciting opportunities for my next chapter, so if I needed a reason to stop postponing, I now have several. It is the right time.”

Toscano has represented the 57th District since he was elected in 2005 and was the House minority leader for seven years. In November, he stepped away from his House leadership role, citing the time demands of the job.

In an interview with The Daily Progress on Saturday, Toscano said he hopes he leaves behind a legacy of listening to constituents and effecting positive change, no matter how small.

“The best thing that a delegate can do is listen to the people they represent and learn from them,” he said. “I like to think I was a good listener, but I’ll let others be the judge of that.”

Before becoming a state delegate, Toscano served on the Charlottesville City Council from January 1990 to December 2001 and as mayor for two of those years.

Looking back on his career in public service, Toscano said he was proud of what he had accomplished. He pointed specifically to the 2013 transportation bill, which overhauled how the state pays for roads and mass transit; Medicaid expansion; and a bill that helped restore the graves of several hundred unidentified African-Americans in Charlottesville.

“There are specific bills you think about when you look back, not all of them gaining major headlines,” he said. “They may not all have had large impacts, but I hope they made lives better.”

With his seat now open in November, Toscano said he expects several candidates will announce campaigns in the coming months. As of now, only one candidate has entered the race: University of Virginia professor Sally L Hudson.

In December, Hudson announced her plans to run for the Democratic nomination against Toscano and said more progressive leadership was needed in the 57th District, which includes Charlottesville and surrounding parts of Albemarle County.

On Saturday, Hudson, who founded FairVote Virginia in 2017, a bipartisan organization focused on ranked-choice voting, thanked Toscano for his years of service.

“We are all grateful for his commitment to our community and have learned so much from his dedication to public service,” she wrote in a news release.

Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at UVa, said whoever takes over Toscano’s seat will almost certainly be a Democrat.

“But whoever the next delegate is, he or she will have no seniority and far less influence than Toscano,” he said. “If the Democrats take control of the House of Delegates, the situation will be better for the new delegate, of course.”

Others shared their gratitude Saturday for Toscano’s service, including Sen. Mark R. Warner, who was governor when Toscano was elected.

“Congratulations on a well-earned retirement and a career of service to be proud of,” he wrote on Twitter.

Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, a lawyer who shares an office building with Toscano, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that Charlottesville "would not be the same place" without him. Bell, who chairs the House Courts of Justice Committee, said Republicans had largely ceded policy issues dealing with family law to Toscano because they trusted his judgment.

"I think it's unimaginable that that happens someplace else," Bell said.

House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said he respected Toscano’s “intellect and ability.”

“He advocated for his principles fiercely,” he said in a statement, “but always within the rules and customs of the institution.”

Former staffer Katie Baker, who worked for Toscano as the communications director for the House Democratic Caucus from January 2017 to March 2018, wrote that he was the best boss she could have asked for.

“In the 15 months I worked for him, I never once heard him say an unkind word to a staffer,” she wrote. “He was the most equanimous leader, and you could tell that he loved what he did every single day, no matter how heavy the demands.”

In his prepared remarks, Toscano emphasized his belief in forging strong relationships, civility and respect in order to best serve Virginians even as the state’s political landscape has become heated and nationalized.

“Our good news is that for all of the partisan rancor,” he said, “Virginia still has a government that works — and that is largely because of our relationships and our respect for this institution.”

He concluded by thanking those who he represented and those who helped him along the way.

“I want to thank all of you for the time we have spent together, the challenges we have endured, the positive change we have created,” he wrote. “I wish you all ‘Godspeed’ and hope you will continue your efforts to make the commonwealth greater than it is today. Thanks for including me in the journey.”

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