WASHINGTON — There is word that Virginia’s second longest-serving Speaker of the House will not seek re-election in November, but instead will be announcing his retirement.
The Richmond Times Dispatch reports that Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, will make the news official Monday.
Howell’s decision means that House Majority Leader Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights, could become the next speaker in 2018.
Howell, 73, has served in the Virginia General Assembly for 29 years and has been speaker for the last 15 years. Howell assumed the role of speaker on the heels of the resignation of Speaker Vance Wilkins Jr., who was mired in a sexual harassment scandal.
Under Howell’s low-key style leadership, Republicans expanded their majority in the House. The current makeup of the House is 66 Republican and 34 Democrats. That majority has allowed Howell to reject Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s repeated attempts to expand Medicaid in Virginia as part of the Affordable Care Act.
Last year, Howell, along with other Republicans, went before the Virginia Supreme Court to overturn the governor’s blanket order restoring voting and other civil rights, such as owning a gun, to about 260,000 felons who had completed their sentences.
Howell is known for sound fiscal management and conservative policies. But in 2013, he sponsored the first transportation funding overhaul in 27 years.
Virginia’s longest serving speaker was Edgar Blackburn Moore, who held the position from 1950 through 1967. Howell comes second, starting his term in 2003.