|Minority Leader of the Virginia Senate|
June 12, 2014
|Member of the Virginia Senate|
from the 35th district
January 9, 1980
|Omer L. Hirst|
|Member of the Virginia House of Delegates|
from the 19th district
January 14, 1976 - January 9, 1980
Richard Lawrence Saslaw
February 5, 1940
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Education||University of Maryland, College Park (BA)|
|Branch/service||United States Army|
|Years of service||1958-1960|
Richard Lawrence Saslaw (born February 5, 1940) is an American politician. A Democrat, he served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1976-80, then was elected to the Senate of Virginia. He currently represents the 35th district, made up of the city of Falls Church and portions of Fairfax County and the city of Alexandria.
Saslaw has been the leader of the Virginia Senate Democrats since 1998, serving as Majority Leader from 2008-2012, 2014 - June 12, 2014, and Minority Leader 1998-2008, 2012-2014. He ran for Congress in Virginia's 8th congressional district in 1984. He was defeated by then-Congressman Stanford Parris.
Saslaw was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in the suburbs. He served in the United States Army (1958-60), before receiving a B.S. degree in economics from the University of Maryland. After that, he went into the gasoline service station business.
Saslaw and his wife Eleanor, a retired guidance director and member of the Virginia State Board of Education, settled in northern Virginia in 1968. Their daughter, Jennifer, received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia. and her law degree from Stanford Law School. They live in Springfield, Virginia.
Saslaw was first elected as Virginia State Senate Floor Leader by his peers in 1996, under a power-sharing agreement that took place when the Senate was evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. In 1998, he was elected to Senate Minority Leader, and was continuously re-elected until becoming Senate Majority Leader when the Democrats assumed control of the chamber in 2008. He continued as Majority Leader until 2012, when the Democrats lost control. He has served as Minority Leader since 2012, except for the first half of 2014, when he served as Majority Leader.
He is the ranking Democrat of the Senate's Commerce and Labor Committee, Courts of Justice Committee, and Education and Health Committee, and is the Chair of the Higher Education Subcommittee.
Senator Saslaw is credited with saving the Democratic push for Medicaid expansion in Virginia by thwarting an attempted procedural move by Republican Senator Tommy Norment to kill the bill in committee. Norment attempted to have the bill to expand Medicaid in Virginia killed in committee a second time, which would have made the bill ineligible for presentation to the full senate. Saslaw caught the move and thwarted it, thus allowing the bill to proceed and eventually become law in Virginia in 2018. Medicaid expansion brought health insurance coverage to over 400,000 Virginians.
In February 2011, Saslaw was one of eight senators on the Senate Courts of Justice Committee who "passed by indefinitely" House Bill 1573, defeating the bill by an 8 to 4 margin. The bill, also known as Castle Doctrine, would have allowed "a lawful occupant use of physical force, including deadly force, against an intruder in his dwelling who has committed an overt act against him, without civil liability." Senator Saslaw is rated F by the NRA and has been a strong supporter of stricter gun regulations. In the 2019 legislative session, he proposed legislation to raise the age for which a person is allowed to buy a gun in Virginia from 18 to 21, and he proposed a ban on so called "bump stocks." Republicans did not allow either of those bills to pass out of committee. In 2019, Senator Saslaw was endorsed for re-election by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign.
Saslaw has been described as a reliable ally of Dominion Energy, Virginia's largest electrical utility which is also notable for its influence on Virginia politics. In 2018, the Associated Press reported that Dominion had been Saslaw's largest source of campaign funds, contributing approximately $350,000 over a 15-year period. Saslaw helped push Dominion-backed legislation that would allow the firm to charge customers rates that regulators considered to be excessive. When Virginia Democratic Party criticized a Republican state senator for being too cozy with Dominion Energy, Dominion sent an email to Saslaw to complain. Saslaw responded by apologizing to Dominion and criticized his own party for failing to do its "homework" on "how generous Dominion has been to me" and the party.
Saslaw was the co-patron of the Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018, which ended the rate freeze and allowed the State Corporation Commission--Virginia's regulatory agency that oversees public utilities--to return to regularly reviewing utility rates, and for $200 million in credits to be refunded to ratepayers. The bill also declared 5,000mw of new solar energy projects to be "in the public interest," making it easier for such projects to be approved by the SCC.
Education has been one of his top legislative priorities throughout his tenure. He is the ranking member of the Senate Education and Health Committee, and Chair of the Higher Education Subcommittee. In 2006, the Virginia Association of School Boards named him Legislator of the Year. In 2013, the Virginia Education Association named him Legislator of the Year for his work in commissioning a study of school funding in Virginia by JLARC (Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission). One result of Virginia expanding Medicaid in 2018 was that additional money was made available in the budget for a 3% teacher pay raise. That initial 3% was then increased to 5% in the 2019 legislative session, along with $25 million for at-risk students and $12 million for additional school counselors. Senator Saslaw has been endorsed for re-election in 2019 by the Virginia Education Association.
Senator Saslaw was chief patron of a bill to resolve the battle over a dedicated revenue source for the DC-area Metro improvements and operations. The bill states that Virginia will contribute $154 million a year to Metro, with Maryland and Washington, DC contributing the remainder needed to reach $500 million annually. This bill was considered a breakthrough, since any such inter-state deal has typically stalled on the Virginia side, due to the Republican control of the General Assembly.
In February 2019, Saslaw made headlines as the only Democratic elected official in Virginia to initially defend Virginia Governor Ralph Northam when photos on the latter's medical school yearbook page surfaced showing two men, one of whom was in blackface and one of whom was in robes resembling those of the Ku Klux Klan. Saslaw later clarified in an official statement that the pictures could only be described "as racist, as unacceptable, and as painful," and along with the Senate Democratic Caucus, issued a statement calling for Northam's resignation.
In September 2018, Yasmine Taeb, an attorney at the Center for Victims of Torture, announced that she would challenge Senator Saslaw for the Democratic nomination for the 35th district in the state senate. She moved to the district "within the past year to be closer to the immigrant communities with whom she works," moving from nearby Arlington County, where she previously ran for a House of Delegates seat in 2014, finishing in last place. Karen Torrent, an environmental lawyer and long-time resident of the district, also challenged Senator Saslaw in the June 11 primary. Saslaw successfully fended off the challenges from Taeb and Torrent and won renomination during the June 11 primary 
|8th Congressional District of Virginia|
|1984||Richard L. Saslaw||Democratic||97,250||43.3||Stanford Parris||Republican||125,015||55.7|
|35th Virginia Senate District|
|1999||Richard L. Saslaw||Democratic||19,257||57.6||Robert H. Neitz||Republican||13,554||40.5|
|2003||Richard L. Saslaw||Democratic||17,735||82.48||Charles W. Levy||Independent||3,537||16.45|
|2007||Richard L. Saslaw||Democratic||16,856||77.94||Mario T. Palmiotto||Independent Green||4,532||20.95|
|2011||Richard L. Saslaw||Democratic||15,905||61.7||Robert C. Sarvis||Republican||9,272||35.9|
|2015||Richard L. Saslaw||Democratic||18,754||74.4||Terrence W. Modglin||Independent Green||6,055||24.0|