After winning the majority in the Virginia House of Delegates last week, Democrats have chosen which party members will be the new speaker of the House and the new House majority leader. The party says it plans to move Virginia in a different direction on policies such as gun control and the environment.
Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, will be the first woman and the first Jewish person to serve as House speaker. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, will be the first woman and the first African American to serve as the House majority leader. Both have been in office for about a decade. Democrats are expected to have a 55-45 majority in the chamber, but two or three close races might be contested.
“We are a unified caucus with the shared priority to move our Commonwealth forward, address our most critical challenges, and ensure transparency for all Virginians,” Filler-Corn said in a statement. “We are stepping up to lead and understand the value of making our schools better, our communities stronger, our economy fairer, and our Commonwealth the envy of all the states.”
Herring said in a statement that there is a lot of work to do.
“I could not be prouder of our members – both those celebrating re-election and those we are welcoming to the House for the first time," Herring said. “We have a lot of work to do and promises to keep, and I look forward to serving as Majority Leader in the first Democratic-led House in a generation.”
During and after last week’s elections, Democrats criticized Republicans for opposing Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam on certain policy issues and vowed to change the commonwealth’s approach. Some of the most talked about issues were gun control policies, teacher pay, education spending and the environment.
Northam has introduced gun control measures that would ban assault weapons, silencers and high capacity magazines. The proposals would also expand background checks and increase penalties for violating gun laws.
To address climate change, Northam sought to enter Virginia into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which would establish cap-and-trade policies in the state. This would limit the amount of greenhouse gases that could be emitted and would allow companies that pollute less to sell carbon credits to those that pollute more.
Democrats also took the majority in the Virginia Senate in last week’s elections. This is the first time in about 25 years in which Democrats held both chambers of the General Assembly and the governor’s mansion.
In a statement, Northam congratulated Filler-Corn and Herring.
“We all share a commitment to serving Virginians and advancing a more progressive and inclusive Commonwealth,” Northam said. “Together, we will defend the rights of women and minority groups, increase access to world-class education and health care, fight climate change, and pass commonsense gun safety legislation.”
The current majority leader, Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, congratulated the new leadership, but cautioned about too much of the leadership coming from Northern Virginia, rather than from the entirety of the commonwealth.
“Republicans are concerned that House Democrats have chosen to elect an entire leadership team that is centered in the deepest parts of Northern Virginia,” Gilbert said. "The House of Delegates represents our entire Commonwealth, and the varying and often conflicting interests of Northern Virginia, metro Richmond, Hampton Roads, and rural Virginia deserve a fair hearing in our legislative process to meet their unique needs and challenges."