Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, said she is challenging House Democratic leader Eileen Filler-Corn of Fairfax for House speaker.
Aird’s move sets up an unpredictable contest within the House Democrats, who won a majority in Tuesday’s election, that spans racial and generational gaps.
Aird is 33 and black. Filler-Corn is 55 and white. House Democrats are to gather Saturday in Richmond to pick a party leader for when they assume control in January.
Also on Wednesday, Del. Luke Torian, D-Prince William, another member of the Legislative Black Caucus, and Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax, the longest-serving member of the House, said they are interested in being speaker.
Aird, chief of staff to the president of Richard Bland College, was first elected to the House in 2015. Her first job out of college was as a General Assembly staffer.
She said in an interview Wednesday morning that she wants to bring values of transparency, collaboration and inclusiveness to Richmond governance.
Winning control of the General Assembly was “only the first step in truly being able to advance the lives of Virginians, and I strongly believe that the mandate that we received from Democrats across the commonwealth” was “not just to take the majority but to govern in a way that has been unlike the past,” she said.
“The unique experiences that I offer as a black woman also properly position me to speak with a voice of authority on a number of these issues, particularly around equity.”
Aird said Democrats had strong candidates on Tuesday’s ballot but she said a court-ordered redistricting this year helped lead the party to control of the House.
“We won ... because of redistricting, not because of some brand-new approach that was taken,” she said. “I think I’m exactly what is necessary to unify us as a caucus.”
Democrats chose Filler-Corn as the party leader in December to replace Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, who decided to leave the leadership post he’d held since 2011. Toscano did not seek re-election this year.
Filler-Corn beat five other Democrats for the leader job in December, defeating Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, in the final round. Rasoul is interested in being the Democrats’ majority leader, the position under speaker, The Roanoke Times reported. A spokesman for Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, said she too is interested in being majority leader.
Filler-Corn has served as a delegate since 2010.
She said in an interview that she led the party through a tumultuous General Assembly session followed by a contentious election, raising big money along the way.
“I have a reputation for being steady, inclusive and definitely a strategic leader,” she said. “I’ve been around a long time. I have a lot of good relationships.”
She said her style is to be inclusive and she wants to move the caucus forward as speaker by utilizing the diverse views and experiences of the caucus.
Filler-Corn noted that before becoming minority leader she was the caucus whip and then vice chair, and said she’s seeking support of her colleagues based on her reputation and her record.
Either Filler-Corn or Aird would become the first female House speaker in Virginia history.
Torian, 61, the longtime pastor of First Mount Zion Baptist Church in Dumfries, was first elected to the House in 2009. In addition to being speaker, he has expressed interest in being chairman of the powerful and budget-writing House Appropriations Committee. Republicans in 2018 made Torian the chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on General Government & Capital Outlay.
Earlier in the 2018 session, Torian seconded the nomination of Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, as speaker to succeed Del. Bill Howell, R-Stafford, after Howell retired.
“I enjoy serving beside Eileen and Delegate Aird,” Torian said. “We just look forward to coming in in January and doing a good job for the commonwealth.”
Torian said that if he’s not speaker, he would like to be chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
“I would hope whoever is speaker would respect their peers and their years of seniority,” he said.
Plum, 78, a delegate since 1982, wrote in an email to fellow Democrats that Tuesday’s election was “another bloodless revolution in Mr. Jefferson’s Virginia” but they now need to govern.
He said in an interview that he wants transparent rules for House governance and said the speaker shouldn’t use the rules to prevent action on major legislation.
“I’m not saying people elect me because I have been around a long time,” Plum said. “I’ve been elected because I’ve got the temperament and knowledge … to move us forward. I’m not interested in looking back.”