We learned from GOP sources this evening that Del. Sam Nixon of Chesterfield (R-27) will become the new chairman of the House Republican Caucus. Nixon, a principled conservative leader — he's chaired the General Assembly's Conservative Caucus the last two years — will bring persuasiveness and conviction to the House majority's leadership team. As various media outlets reported earlier today, the position opened when Del. Terry Kilgore (R-1) stepped down to take over chairmanship of the House Commerce and Labor Committee when Del. Harvey Morgan (R-98) assumed chairmanship of the Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, a better fit for his Chesapeake Bay-area constituency.

Other new committee chairmen selected by House Speaker Bill Howell are solid conservative Delegates Mark Cole (R-88) to Privileges and Elections — which is charged with redistricting, among other things; and 2007 Family Foundation Legislator of the Year Kathy Byron (R-22), to Science and Technology.

Along with the addition of conservative senators Steve Newman (R-23) and Mark Obenshain (R-26) to the Republican Senate leadership team, there are some positive moves being made by conservative members of the General Assembly.

In another development, Sen. William Wampler (R-40) will not become a State Corporation Commission judge, so there will not be a special senate election this winter after all. Gov. Tim Kaine decided not to fill the opening, leaving it to the General Assembly. Sensing he would not be elected and not willing to take the risk, Wampler declined to resign his seat — Virginia law does not allow a sitting member to be elected to the SCC.