First female House Speaker in Virginia sworn in after blue flip

January 8, 2020

The Hill: First female House Speaker in Virginia sworn in after blue flip
By Morgan Gstalter

Virginia Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D) was welcomed with applause on Wednesday when she was sworn in as the first female House Speaker in the state’s 401-year legislative history.

Filler-Corn, who represents the state’s 41st District in Fairfax, is also the first Jewish person to hold the position in the Old Dominion state.

“I must acknowledge the tremendous honor I feel at being the first woman Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates,” Filler-Corn said in her first speech on the chamber's floor. “I know that being the first is a privilege and it comes with responsibility that I take with great seriousness.”

She was chosen by members of the House Democratic Caucus after Democrats won control of the Virginia General Assembly in November for the first time since 1994. 

Democrats now control all three top statewide elected offices, both U.S. Senate seats and both chambers of the General Assembly. Democrats also hold seven of Virginia's 11 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) shared a photo of himself watching Filler-Corn's swearing-in ceremony. 

“We have the opportunity to make our Commonwealth stronger, fairer, and more equitable in 2020—let's get it done,” the governor wrote. 

In addition to Filler-Corn’s historic win, the Democratic caucus also voted Del. Charniele Herring (D) as majority leader and Del. Rip Sullivan (D) as caucus chairman.

Herring is the first woman and the first African American to be the chamber's majority leader.

“This session brings many firsts. We will have the first women of color to lead committees, and have a historically diverse group of committee chairs and vice-chairs. And these leaders are Members of the most diverse House of Delegates in Virginia history,” Filler-Corn said. “This House is not only diverse in terms of race or gender. The Members of this House represent a wide range of experience, thought, orientation, religion and backgrounds. We are truly a body that represents all the people.”

Filler-Corn called on the body of lawmakers to “reach across the partisan aisle.”

“I know we will find we have more things in common than we have differences. This is vitally important in today’s political environment. We were the country’s first legislature, and I strongly believe that Virginia can lead — by showing the country the rewards that collaboration can bring,” the newly sworn-in speaker said. “ We can show the next generation and the country that Virginia is a home for robust debate — where we also work together and get things done in a respectful manner.”