Some delegates voiced a need for greater geographic diversity in leadership after Filler-Corn and two other Northern Virginians won the top three posts in caucus elections Saturday. Del. Charniele L. Herring (Alexandria) will be the new majority leader, becoming the first woman and the first African American to serve in that post. Del. Richard C. “Rip” Sullivan Jr. (Fairfax) will be caucus chairman.
To lead the key committees, Filler-Corn turned to four veteran legislators — no surprise given the role seniority typically plays in the chamber, but something that could rankle newer, more progressive delegates who have bucked the notion that they should wait their turn before assuming leadership roles.
Filler-Corn appointed Del. Luke E. Torian (D-Prince William) chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee; Del. Vivian E. Watts (D-Fairfax) chairwoman of the Finance Committee; Del. Jeion A. Ward (D-Hampton) chairwoman of the Commerce and Labor Committee; and Del. Roslyn C. Tyler (D-Sussex) chairwoman of the Education Committee.
“These impressive leaders will be important allies as we shape our policy agenda for the Commonwealth in 2020 and beyond,” Filler-Corn said in a written statement. “Each of these delegates brings a great deal of experience, both in and out of the legislature, which will contribute to our work to make our schools better, our communities stronger and our economy thriving and fair.”
Filler-Corn announced the selections 10 days after Democrats flipped the House and state Senate in an election that gives the party — already in possession of the governor’s mansion — full control of state government for the first time in a generation. Democrats picked up six seats in the House, giving them a 55-to-45 advantage. They flipped two seats in the Senate, resulting in a 21-to-19 edge.
On Saturday, the incoming Democratic caucus designated Filler-Corn to become speaker in a closed-door meeting. The choice will not be official until the full House convenes and votes on it in January. Filler-Corn will be the first woman and first Jewish person to hold that post in the House’s 400-year history.
It has been decades since an African American has led a House committee. Then-Del. William P. Robinson Jr. (D-Norfolk) chaired the Transportation Committee in 1998 and was co-chairman of the panel in 1998, according to House Clerk G. Paul Nardo.
Republican House leaders previously appointed Torian to the Appropriations Committee and made him chairman of a subcommittee. He was first elected in 2009.
Watts first served in the House from 1982 to 1985, leaving to become the state’s transportation secretary from 1986 to 1990. She returned to the House after winning reelection in 1995. Ward was first elected in 2003 and Tyler in 2005.