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Youngkin praises state senator for speech on Black History Month — but mistook her for a colleague

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R). (Robb Hill/for The Washington Post)
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RICHMOND — Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who has gotten off on the wrong foot with some Black legislators, texted Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) earlier this week to compliment her speech on Black History Month. But the speech was actually delivered by Sen. Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton).

Lucas, Virginia’s highest-ranking Black senator, privately corrected Youngkin, he apologized for his error, and that was it — until the Republican governor teamed up with House Republicans Friday on a hardball move meant to save an embattled Cabinet pick. That’s when Lucas aired Youngkin’s mistake on Twitter.

“Study the photos and you will get this soon!” Lucas said on Twitter on Friday night, posting side-by-side pictures of herself and Locke, who is also Black.

Youngkin explained that he’d been multitasking while watching the speech remotely. “I had the floor speeches on while doing too many things at once earlier this week,” he said in a statement issued by his office late Friday. “I made a mistake and I apologized to Senator Lucas right away.”

It was an embarrassing mix-up for a governor who has drawn fire over racial issues since taking office a month ago. On his first day on the job, Youngkin issued Executive Order 1 banning public schools from teaching of “critical race theory,” a graduate-level study of systemic racism that has become a catchphrase for what conservatives regard as unduly race-conscious K-12 lessons and teacher training.

Through an aide, Lucas provided The Washington Post with a screenshot of their text exchange.

“Senator — I watched your floor speech discussing Black History Month today, and I was moved by it. Thank you, Glenn,” it began.

Lucas replied: “Governor Youngkin, thanks for the compliment about the Black History Month Floor Speech but, it was given by Senator Locke. You are correct it was a moving speech. I hope to be enlightening when I speak later this week. Louise.”

“Goodness … so sorry about the confusion,” came the response. “I will send her a note. Thanks for the note back!”

The messages were exchanged Monday but Lucas did not tweet about it until Friday. In an interview Friday night, Lucas said she initially planned to keep Youngkin’s mistake private.

But she had a change of heart after his administration and House Republicans threatened Friday to unseat 1,000 Democratic appointees to state regulatory and governing boards, an unprecedented move meant to punish Senate Democrats for rejecting a former Trump administration official for Youngkin’s Cabinet. Republicans partially backed down but still ejected 11 appointees from various boards.

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“I was going to let that one go,” Lucas said of Youngkin’s mix-up. “But then this crap happened today, and I said, ‘Oh no, they don’t deserve it.’ ”

Reaction on Twitter was fast and harsh, with hundreds of commenters posting some version of “OMG.” U.S. Rep. Donald A. McEachin (D-Va.), who is also Black, tweeted simply: “@GovernorVA not ready.”