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House Democratic leader ousted, position vacant for now

person speaks into microphone
Crixell Matthews
Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) speaks at a 2020 press conference. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), the first woman and first Jewish person to serve as the Speaker of the House of Delegates, was voted out of leadership by House Democrats on Wednesday, just a few hours after the body reconvened to wrap up work on bills and the budget.

Del. Don Scott (D-Portsmouth), elected in 2019, led the charge for a change in leadership along with a few other recently elected caucus members, according to the Washington Post.

He announced his own candidacy for minority leader after Filler-Corn was removed. In a statement, Scott said he’d take on Republican leadership and work to win back a Democratic majority in the House.

“And I think at the end of the day, we’re going to come out united and ready to do the work for the Commonwealth and the people of the Commonwealth,” Scott told VPM News. He denied to provide further comment on his candidacy.

Rich Meagher, a political scientist and University of Richmond professor, said it seemed as though the ouster was a delayed response to big losses Virginia Democrats faced in the 2021 elections.

“Whenever a party loses a legislative majority, there’s finger-pointing and discontent,” Meagher said. “The war chests of the leadership seems to be a big sticking point in most of the reports I’ve seen, and I think there’s fire under that smoke.”

Meagher also cited the possibility of geographic discontent - some Virginia Democrats feel that leadership is too concentrated among members of the party from Northern Virginia. Scott, Meagher said, could be pitching himself as somewhat of an outsider with the ability to set the party on the right path.

Filler-Corn said on Twitter that she would have been willing to continue as minority leader and would have sought reelection as speaker if Democrats took back power in the House.

Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) still holds her position as caucus chair. She appeared to serve as minority leader on Wednesday, but several sources present at Wednesday's vote say the position is vacant so that other members may announce their candidacies.

It’s not clear when an election for a new minority leader will be held. Those sources said it could happen at any closed-door caucus meeting, which will be plentiful while legislators remain in session to wrap up work on legislation and the budget.

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.