After November’s General Election, incumbents and newcomers, who will represent Virginians in Richmond in January, are beginning to find the assignments tangential to their elected General Assembly seats.
Party leadership roles and committee assignments make the Commonwealth’s part-time government run. As the selection process rolls out, party leadership positions are especially newsworthy this year due to the significant loss of senior legislators brought on by retirement and redistricting.
One of those top leadership positions will be held by Northern Virginia Sen. Scott Surovell (D-34), who will serve as Senate Majority Leader. Surovell was selected by his fellow democratic senators to lead the caucus following the retirement of long-time incumbent Sen. Dick Saslaw, the longest serving member of the Senate who held the leadership position beginning in 2020. Previously serving as Vice Chair with Saslaw, Surovell pursued the chair position, running against Senator Maine Locke, from Hampton.
Surovell who ranks seventh in Democrat seniority and 14th overall (out of 40) in the Senate, says he is “honored the caucus elected me to lead them and honored to step into the shoes of Dick Saslaw.” The majority leader in the Senate has a different role than the position in the House. While the House Speaker holds the significant power to decide which bills are heard in Committees and on the House floor, Surovell describes the Senate as having “power distributed among all the members.” As Leader, he will act as his party’s “chief spokesman and strategist.” It’s a role he describes as being “like a Border collie.”
Recognizing that the Northern Virginia region makes up about one third of the Commonwealth’s population, and supplies half of its tax revenue, but for decades didn’t enjoy the full power of that influence, Surovell says it's important for each region to “have a seat at the table.” With a $750 million dollar shortfall in Metro funding and our schools “severely” underfunded, the area has reason to seek a fair share of tax revenues.
The Senator indicates he sought the leadership role knowing that in State government such positions “can have significant impact on people; to achieve long term objectives where the Governor term is only four years”. He includes the ability to make policy change, impact budget shortfalls and “over a period of time align our views with the majority of Virginians to keep the promises made during the campaign.” In leading the group, he hopes “to maximize the amount of change we can accomplish as a group, as we sacrifice time away from families and careers to service our community.”
Surovell is a practicing attorney when not attending to Senate responsibilities. He is in the top five percent of Senate members for carrying bills. The part-time senate position earns a salary of $18,000 and per diem. The 34th Senate District includes portions of Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford counties.