Northam appoints first African American judge to State Corporation Commission

By: - June 9, 2020 2:15 pm
The State Corporation Commission

The State Corporation Commission regulates Virginia electric utilities. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

Over four months after Judge Patricia West’s term expired, leaving the three-member State Corporation Commission short of one commissioner, Gov. Ralph Northam has appointed Jehmal Hudson to fill the vacant seat.

The vice president of government affairs for the National Hydropower Association and a previous director of government affairs for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Hudson is the first African American to serve on the powerful body, created in 1902, which oversees Virginia utilities and insurance, securities and banking industries.

Jehmal Hudson was appointed to the State Corporation Commission by Gov. Ralph Northam on June 9, 2020. (Kate Masters/Virginia Mercury)

“I am confident Mr. Hudson is well suited to fulfill his duties at the SCC,” Northam said.

Northam’s appointment, announced Tuesday during his now-regular news conferences to update Virginians on the state’s coronavirus pandemic response, followed a failed attempt by Democrats in the General Assembly to appoint Hudson on the final day of the 2020 session. 

That appointment received the full support of the House of Delegates but was halted by Senate Republicans, led by Minority Leader Tommy Norment of James City County, who used a procedural rule to block the final vote on Hudson.

At the time, Republican Senate caucus press secretary Jeff Ryer attributed the move to Republicans’ unhappiness with Democratic leadership during the session, resentment over the treatment of outgoing Commissioner West by the Democrat-led House Labor and Commerce Committee and objections to Hudson’s fitness for the role.

Commissioners typically serve on the SCC for six years, although retirements and political jockeying can produce shorter terms. 

Hudson’s current appointment will only cover about eight months, due to Virginia law stating that if the General Assembly doesn’t fill a vacant seat on the commission, the governor may appoint a candidate on an interim basis, with his or her term expiring 30 days after the start of the next legislative session in January. Democrats, however, will have a chance to appoint Hudson to a full term during the 2021 session.

West, whom Hudson replaces, also served an abbreviated term on the commission, lasting about a year, after Republicans in a controversial surprise vote appointed her to finish the unexpired term of prior judge James Dimitri.

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Sarah Vogelsong
Sarah Vogelsong

Sarah is the Mercury's environment and energy reporter, covering everything from utility regulation to sea level rise. Originally from McLean, she has spent over a decade in journalism and academic publishing and previously worked as a staff reporter for Chesapeake Bay Journal, the Progress-Index and the Caroline Progress. She is the recipient of a first place award for explanatory reporting from the Society of Environmental Journalists and has twice been honored by the Virginia Press Association as "Best in Show" for online writing. She was chosen for the 2020 cohort of the Columbia Energy Journalism Initiative and is a graduate of the College of William and Mary. Contact her at [email protected]