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Amid budget fight, Colgan prepares for final year in office

Times File Photo
State Sen. Chuck Colgan (D)
represents most of Prince William
County. He's the senior member
and president pro tempore of the
state Senate and is co-chairman
of the powerful Senate Finance
Committee.
It's a song all-too-familiar to Prince William County residents: state Sen. Chuck Colgan (D-29th) says he'll retire only to be talked into running for office again at the last minute by Democrats trying to capture or retain their majority.

This time, however, Colgan says he means it.

"This is my 40th year coming up," said the 87-year-old president pro tempore of the upper chamber of the legislature in Richmond.

"I'm going to bow out with that, with being the longest-serving senator. I'm not going to run again."

Colgan, who started his electoral career on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors in the 1970s, is co-chairman of the state Senate Finance Committee and a perennial member of the budget conference committee.

That's the group that reconciles differences between the budget bill approved by the state Senate and the one approved by the House of Delegates.

In short, it gives the Nokesville resident outsized clout and sway in being able to craft legislation and determining budgeting priorities.

Budget
When asked what's in the upcoming budget that directly affects Prince William, Colgan pointed to renovations of the Seefeldt Building at the Northern Virginia Community College campus in Woodbridge and another facility at George Mason University in Manassas.

However, with the legislature forced to cut nearly $1.5 billion from the budget, Colgan said some groups will be left wanting.

He specifically mentioned the Youth for Tomorrow campus in Bristow, which is a private school serving troubled youth. Colgan said that's one of the organizing that's due to receive some money but not all the money it requested.

Colgan did mention though that he thinks Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) will include $500,000 for improvements to the Lake Jackson Dam in the budget.

However, Colgan couldn't say for certain as he and other legislators were still reviewing the budget bill amid a partisan fight between Republicans and Democrats over expanding health insurance coverage through Medicaid.

"It should be in the budget," he said of the Lake Jackson Dam funding.

Special election

As for whether he will continue to be co-chairman now that the Republicans have a 20-19 majority due to the resignation of former state Sen. Phil Puckett (D-38th), Colgan replied, "I don't know.

"I may not be. But I'm not going to know until the earliest tonight," he said Monday morning.

Late Monday night, the Senate did reorganize, giving control of most of the committees to the Republicans. The Senate Finance Committee, however, will stay under the joint purview of Colgan and Republican Sen. Walter Stosch.

Eight-year Tazewell County Supervisor Mike Hymes (D) is set to face freshman state Del. Ben Chafin, Jr. (R-4th) in the Aug. 19 special election for the vacant seat in the Southwestern Virginia District.

Funeral home owner Rick Mullins is also planning to run as an independent, according to the Associated Press.

The winner of that election will determine which party runs the state Senate and may also determine Colgan's co-chairman status on the Finance Committee.

Chafin in the favorite given the Republican tilt of the area though the Democrat's ties to the coal industry in the "coal country" seat is a contributing factor to the race being competitive.

The Republican farmer and lawyer also won his first political race in 2013, which means Hymes has a head-start on name recognition in the district.

Yet no Democrats represent that portion of Virginia in the state legislature, which benefits Chafin.

Since the November 2013 general election, Democrats won special elections in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to hold on to the former state Senate seats vacated by the lieutenant governor and attorney general, both of whom are Democrats.
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