Newcomer to Assembly


RICHMOND – This year's General Assembly has welcomed many new members to the House and Senate, but one newcomer is already a regular with the Virginia legislative session.

Ryan McDougle, 34, a lawyer from Mechanicsville, is serving his first General Assembly session as a senator this year after switching from the House of Delegates.

McDougle, a Republican, served as a delegate from 2002 to 2005. He defeated Democrat Roger Cavendish Jan. 3 in a special race for the seat left vacant by the election of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling. Even though he has three years of experience in the legislature, serving in the Senate is different, McDougle said.

"If you walk down the hallway," McDougle said, "House Courts is still meeting, and they're probably going to still be meeting for another three, four hours. We debate issues [in the Senate], but it's more deliberative in the House."

Five of McDougle's seven House jurisdictions are included in his senate district, which comprises Caroline, Essex, Hanover, King William, King and Queen and Middlesex Counties, and part of Spotsylvania County. As a delegate, he didn't represent parts of his native Hanover County.

"There were people that I grew up with, lived across the street from, worked with, who were not in my House district, and so it was the opportunity to represent them," McDougle said. "My grandmother, my best friend in high school, all of them, literally a stone's throw from the lines of my district but not in the district. So being able to do that was a tremendous opportunity."

Being one of 40 members of the Senate, rather than one of 100 in the House, allows each senator to have a substantial impact, McDougle said.

"One of the things I've noticed is because you're one of a smaller number, more people try to get individual time with you to go over their bills and issues," he said. "The number of requests for individual meetings is substantially greater than anything we experienced last year."

Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, made the same move from the House to the Senate in 2001. Before leaving, Deeds spent 10 years in the House as the Chairman of the Democratic Caucus.

Deeds agrees with McDougle that the Senate decides on matters more quickly.

"The House is more partisan and more likely to debate longer on issues," he said in a phone interview.

Deeds said it took some time to adjust to the Senate after his tenure in the House.
"It's a different culture," he said. "Ryan is fortunate because he hasn't spent but a few years in the House, so he can make a better transition."

Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis(cq), R-Fairfax, was the most recent delegate to move to the Senate. She was elected in 2004 after serving in the House since 1998.

"It's been two years," Davis said in a phone interview. "I think I'm pretty broken-in now. But it took me at least a year to make the transition. I left a lot of friends in the House."

Davis said she missed the relationships she built with her fellow delegates.

"The collegiality is very different," she said. "In the House, several members will go out to dinner together after a long day of meeting. But since the Senate gets done quicker, people tend to go their separate ways."

Davis (cq), who sits next to McDougle on the floor, noticed his smooth adjustment.
"Ryan is adapting really well," she said. "He's smart and has picked up very quickly the rhythm of the Senate. He works well with the leadership without compromising his philosophies."

McDougle said he looked forward to spending more time working on long-range projects since the Senate terms are longer.

"There are some things, criminal justice issues, that aren't always so quick to address that I'd like to work on, " he said.

A strong advocate for the punishment and rehabilitation of criminals that commit crimes under the influence of drugs, McDougle said he wanted "to provide the tools and skills needed in order to not repeat those crimes."

"It's not a €˜or,' it's a €˜and;' punishment and improvement to make sure they're not coming back into the system," he said.

Deeds and Davis both said there was a greater responsibility in the Senate, but both have faith in the new senator.

"[McDougle] is going to do really well," Davis said.

Deeds agreed, saying "Ryan will be fine."

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