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News & Press: Legislative

House Democrats Vote on Leadership

Monday, November 11, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Bannon Squirewell
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This afternoon, the newly minted Democratic House Majority Caucus met to vote on their leadership team.  Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) was elected Speaker of the House, Delegate Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) was elected Majority Leader, and Delegate Rip Sullivan (D-Fairfax) was elected Caucus Chairman.  This is a historic vote.  Delegate Filler-Corn becomes the first woman Speaker of the House in Virginia’s history, and Delegate Herring becomes the first woman and first African-American to become Majority Leader.


This leadership vote is a sign (albeit a very early one) of how the new Democratic Majority intends to position itself for the 2020 General Assembly session and beyond. Delegates Filler-Corn, Herring, and Sullivan were generally viewed as the more establishment choices in their respective leadership races.  In the Speaker race, Delegate Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg) openly appealed to the more progressive elements within the House Caucus, and touted the need for greater transparency and inclusion, which was a subtle dig at Delegate Filler-Corn’s perceived position as the establishment candidate.  Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke), who sought the Majority Leader position, appeared to have strong support among many of the new, progressive members of the Caucus that swept into office two years ago.  In the end, the Caucus turned to more seasoned leaders within their ranks.


The business community is likely to view this internal Caucus election as a positive preliminary sign that the leadership in the House will choose to take a more measured, deliberative approach to their legislative agenda.  Delegates Filler-Corn and Herring were part of a work group between Senate and House leaders that met over the last several months in order to coordinate how the two bodies would work in concert on policy initiatives should the Democrats win control of both chambers.  Those discussions included the recognition that preserving their respective majorities would require a more incremental and disciplined policy approach. This could set the stage for conflict within the two Caucuses (but it could be particularly acute within the House Caucus).  There are already indications that some of the more outspoken progressive members of the House Caucus are concerned that their newly installed leadership will not seek the bold policy initiatives that were touted by some during the campaign (such as repealing the Commonwealth’s right to work statute). 


What is clear is that today’s leadership vote has cemented Northern Virginia’s stranglehold on positions of influence within the General Assembly.  Along with the House’s top three leadership positions,  the powerful House Appropriations Committee will likely be chaired by Delegate Luke Torian (D-Prince William).  On the Senate side,  the likely incoming Senate Majority Leader, Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and likely Senate Finance Committee Chair, Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) also are from Northern Virginia.  In order to address inevitable criticism from the Republican minority (who now have a grand total of two members that represent jurisdictions in Northern Virginia), and possibly from within their own ranks, it is likely (or at a minimum advisable) that the House and Senate majority leadership will look for opportunities to fulfill priority initiatives outside the Northern Virginia footprint.


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