Virginia House Democrats vote to remove their leader

·3-min read

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia House Democrats voted Wednesday to remove their caucus leader, months after an unsuccessful election cycle that saw the party lose full control of the state government.

The 48-member caucus voted by secret ballot to remove Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn, who previously served as Virginia's first female House speaker, according to lawmakers and staffers who spoke with reporters shortly after the vote.

The membership voted against removing caucus chair Charniele Herring, lawmakers said. No immediate vote was held on who would fill Filler-Corn's role.

The vote on whether to remove the two women came after a campaign led in part by Del. Don Scott, an attorney and two-term House member from Portsmouth. Scott resigned a caucus leadership post, vice-chair for outreach, on Sunday and called for the election to remove Herring and Filler-Corn. He nominated himself to take over Filler-Corn's role and nominated two young, progressive members to serve along with him.

Scott and delegates Sally Hudson and Dan Helmer, whom he had nominated, all refused to comment Wednesday.

Filler-Corn, who served as the first female and first Jewish speaker of the House of Delegates for two years after Democrats flipped the chamber in 2019, conceded her role immediately. She called leading the caucus “the honor of my life.”

“Our caucus is made up of 48 talented and diverse individuals and I look forward to working with them to retake the majority,” she said in a statement.

Filler-Corn, who represents part of Fairfax County, was first elected in 2010. A strong fundraiser, she led the Democratic caucus during the national scandal and party strife that exploded after the 2019 discovery of a racist photo on former Gov. Ralph Northam's medical school yearbook. She helped the party flip control of the House and Senate later that year and took over the speakership in 2020.

Herring, who has represented part of the city of Alexandria since 2009 and served as majority leader between 2019-2021 — the first woman and African American to hold that role — declined comment after the vote.

Filler-Corn and Herring were elected to their roles Nov. 14, less than two weeks after Election Day, when Democrats lost control of the House and Republicans swept all three statewide offices. Since then, dissent had apparently simmered about the party's election strategy and its losses by small margins in several races.

Wednesday's vote was held during a caucus meeting that precedes daily floor sessions. Lawmakers convened at noon for a one-day session for the purpose of considering GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin's vetoes and proposed amendments to legislation.

As the caucus filed out of their closed-door meeting, nearly every member declined comment. No one offered comment on why Filler-Corn was removed.

Asked about the substance of the meeting, Del. Mark Sickles quipped, “It's not out on the internet anywhere?”

Sickles, who told reporters the vote was 25-22, said the caucus did not immediately elect another leader in order to give everyone with interest time to be considered. He said he expected the caucus to vote the next time lawmakers return to Richmond.

Scott quickly issued a news release about his candidacy for Democratic leader.

“We need a leader who can win – not just on the House Floor, but in elections in every corner of the Commonwealth,” he said in the news release.

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