Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, stands in the House chamber after a vote removing her as Democratic minority leader Wednesday. (Julia Rendleman/ Special to the Virginia Mercury)
The Democratic caucus in the Virginia House of Delegates removed former Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn as their leader Wednesday without electing a successor, creating a leadership vacuum just as they headed onto the floor for a full day of voting on almost 150 vetoes and amendments from Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
Del. Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, had spearheaded the removal of Filler-Corn and had sought to replace her, but a procedural dispute over whether the caucus could immediately elect a new leader appeared to leave the caucus in limbo. Emerging from the closed-door meeting, Scott said neither he nor Filler-Corn had been chosen as a leader, but would not elaborate on what had happened.
Approached later on the House floor, Scott refused comment on why he had sought the leadership vote.
“I can’t offer anything,” he said. “Not right now.”
For the time being, that leaves Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, as the top caucus official after she survived Wednesday’s meeting to remain as caucus chair.
“She’ll be our top elected officer,” said Del. Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax.
When the day’s floor proceedings began, it was Herring who stood to give an opening speech denouncing Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s actions that the House would soon vote on.
“They’re, to me, petty political vetoes and amendments to strike back at Democrats,” Herring said.
As the floor session got underway, no Republicans spoke about the drama unfolding the apparently leaderless Democratic side.
Filler-Corn released a statement thanking colleagues and supporters for making her the first woman to serve as House speaker in the body’s 403 years, saying it was “truly the honor of my life.”
“I was proud of all that we accomplished after taking the majority in 2019 and was willing to step up as minority leader once more to regain that majority,” Filler-Corn said. “Our caucus is made up of 48 talented and diverse individuals and I look forward to working with them to retake the majority.”
Filler-Corn became speaker in 2020, but lost the gavel in January after Republicans retook a 52-48 majority in last year’s elections. With no replacement picked Wednesday, Filler-Corn wouldn’t say if she’d seek to be reinstated whenever Democrats meet again to conduct a leadership election.
The legislature will return at some point to finish the pending state budget, but that date is undecided. It’s unclear if any additional candidates for leader will enter the mix before the next meeting takes place.
“Some folks wanted to have an election right away,” said Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax. “And some folks thought we should take more time.”
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