Dems elect first woman speaker, first black woman majority leader

By Davis Burroughs
November 11, 2019

After taking the majority in the Virginia state legislature for the first time in over twenty years, Democrats make history with their leadership.

“Two words have never been spoken in the 400-year history of the Virginia House of Burgesses and the House of Delegates: ‘Madam Speaker,’” Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), tweeted Saturday after Virginia House Democrats picked Del. Eileen Filler-Corn to lead their caucus in 2020.

Filler-Corn, a Fairfax Democrat, will be the first woman and first Jewish person to helm the Virginia House of Delegates in its 400-year history. 

“The firsts are not lost on me … but it doesn’t define me,” she said in a statement. “When I joined this body less than 10 years ago, I was the only mom serving with school-aged kids. We have come so far since then.”

Members of the House Democratic Caucus, including newly-elected members who will not be sworn in until January, cast their votes for next year’s party leaders by secret ballot at a Richmond hotel over the weekend, The Washington Post reports.

Votes were cast just days after Democrats flipped both of chambers of the General Assembly during the Nov. 5 state legislature elections.

Filler-Corn, the current minority leader, was the early favorite, but a last-minute challenge from Del. Lashrecse D. Aird (Petersburg) momentarily threw her ascension into doubt.

“I am so proud to serve in the oldest legislative body in America, and I am especially proud for the first time in 400 years, that body will be led by a woman,” Aird said after the Saturday afternoon vote. “It’s a testament to the progress we’ve made that either of us even had the opportunity to run for speaker.”

Aird would have been the first black woman elected speaker-designee in Virginia. Instead, Del. Charniele L. Herring (Alexandria) will be the new majority leader, becoming the first woman and the first African American to serve in that post. 

Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) also ran for majority leader. Like Aird, he emerged from the meeting saying that the elections were not factious. “There’s so much good work to be done,” he told The Post. “Clearly, we have a generation’s worth of progressive ideas, and they need to be championed now. And I look forward to fighting for those in the new General Assembly.

Democrats also elected Del. Richard Sullivan Jr. (Fairfax) as caucus chairman.

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