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House Democrats Jockey for Speakership Days After Sweeping Win

House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn
House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn at an August press conference. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Democrats’s sweeping wins in the House of Delegates on Tuesday leave them with a new dilemma: choosing a leader.

Four lawmakers are vying to lead the new majority as house speaker in a Saturday vote that could make history.

As current House Minority Leader, Eileen Filler-Corn is the heir apparent to become the first female speaker after taking charge of House Democrats last December. The Fairfax County attorney presided over a choppy February for Virginia Democrats, with the party’s top leaders ensnared in scandals.

Filler-Corn said on Wednesday that she led then “with a steady hand” and would bring her decade of experience in the chamber to bring the caucus together, fundraise, and chart political strategy.

“I think quite clearly I have achieved all those goals,” Filler-Corn said. “We had a very successful campaign season.”

She’s facing a challenge from another woman, Del. Lascharese Aird of Petersburg. Aird would be not only the first woman speaker, but also the first African American to have that title.

“Virginians want a more reflective leadership,” Aird said. “And that includes black women, who have been missing from the equation forever.”

Aird, who was elected in 2015, said she was best suited to unify ideological, generational, and racial factions of an increasingly diverse party. 

Another member of the black caucus, Del. Luke Torian of Prince William County, is also vying for the speakership, though he’s also open to chairing the powerful House Appropriations Committee instead. Torian has been on the committee since 2015, and a total of six committees since he joined the chamber in 2010.

“I’ve gained a great deal of experience and have worked well with my colleagues,” Torian said.

House Democrats’ longest-serving member, Del. Ken Plum of Reston, said that he, too, would seek the top spot. The 78 year-old has held his current seat since 1982.

“I’ve been here a long time, but I’m not saying people should vote to me because of that,” Plum said. “My agenda is to reform how the House operates to get the business of the House done.”

“In the recent past, the speaker has been a super-majority leader who focuses on the next election rather than the business of the House,” Plum said.

House Democrats will meet for a vote on Saturday in Richmond. They’re also likely to take votes on house majority leader and caucus chair.

Additional reporting by VPM intern Alan Rodriguez Espinoza