When she was elected Minority Leader last December, most Democrats assumed Eileen Filler-Corn would become the next Speaker of the House of Delegates once the Democrats gained the majority. Now that Tuesday’s election resulted in the Democrats having a 55 seat majority, however, it appears as though some other Delegates are throwing their hat in the ring.
Del. Lashrecse Aird from Petersburg has announced she’s running against Del. Filler-Corn and a few other delegates have expressed an interest in the position. Delegate Aird is a 33 year old who also works as the Chief of Staff at Richard Bland College and would become the first African-American to become Speaker if she were elected. In a political party that prides itself on being diverse, Aird is running as someone who would bring the perspective of a younger generation while keeping the caucus unified and fighting to ensure all Virginians have an opportunity to thrive.
Delegate Ken Plum, who’s the longest serving member of the House of Delegates, has also expressed an interest in becoming speaker. While Plum has served his district extremely well and deserves recognition for his leadership, I don’t foresee him being in serious contention.
When it looked like there was a chance the Democrats could gain control of the House after the 2017 elections, he was having casual conversations with other Delegates about stepping into the speaker’s role. The Republicans eventually held onto the House, however, and Del. Dave Toscano was reelected Minority Leader. When Toscano later stepped down, there were as many as five different candidates to fill the minority leader spot, but Plum wasn’t one of the heavily discussed candidates. Del. Sam Rosoul from southwest Virginia was the runner up in that vote and he’s expressed an interest in now becoming majority leader.
Considering how active Filler-Corn has been on the campaign trail while traveling all over the Commonwealth to help campaign for Democrats, however, it is rather interesting that Plum has brought up that he sees himself more as someone focused on governing rather than campaigning.
“I’m not running to be the guy who’s going to win the most votes for us in the next election,” Plum said according to the Virginia Mercury. “I’m going to be the guy who’s going to establish a record for us in how we conduct our business.”
I highly doubt this was intended to be a jab at Filler-Corn, but instead hints at how Plum’s role as a party elder and the institutional knowledge he has will prove beneficial even if he’s not the next speaker. No matter who the next speaker is, I strongly believe his experience should be relied upon while Democrats move forward in their new role.
Del. Luke Torian is another interesting candidate who’s expressed interest, but it appears as though he’s putting his name out there as a potential speaker in order to raise his profile. There have been several reports that he’s really interested in becoming the Chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee.
If he did get in the race for speaker, Torian could face some difficulty rounding up support from progressives in the Democratic caucus. He has close ties to the Republican Party and was apparently approached by GOP leadership to run as a Republican before he was first elected back in 2009. The pastor from Prince William County also seconded the nomination of Kirk Cox to become speaker in 2018 and the Republicans did give him some cozy committee appointments.
When the Democratic members of the House gather in Richmond for a caucus meeting, they’ll be voting on their new leadership. While I believe we have a variety of highly qualified candidates, Del. Filler-Corn is highly qualified and should become the next Speaker of the House of Delegates.
Not only did she do an effective job of managing the caucus during the last general assembly session, but Filler-Corn played an integral role in ensuring the Democrats won the majority in Tuesday’s elections. Her history of traveling all over the Commonwealth has allowed her to develop strong relationships with various delegates and a good understanding of the communities they represent. She’ll therefore prove to be an effective leader both legislatively and politically during her tenure as Speaker.