When the upcoming legislative session kicks off next week, Virginia will have its most diverse and representative General Assembly ever. As the first ever female Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, Eileen Filler-Corn will help the new Democratic majority make history. In a new interview with Virginia Business, she outlines some of the top Democratic priorities for the 2020 legislative session. See below from Virginia Business:
By Kate Andrews
December 30, 2019
For the first time since 1993, Democrats are in charge of Virginia’s legislative and executive branches. Back then, Gov. L. Douglas Wilder was serving the last year of his four-year term and Thomas Moss Jr. of Norfolk was the speaker of the House of Delegates.
Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, faces a totally different landscape as she begins her term as Virginia’s first female speaker of the House of Delegates this month. With more women than ever before serving as state legislators — as well as greater racial, ethnic and religious diversity in this year’s General Assembly — Filler-Corn, 55, says the statehouse finally reflects the commonwealth’s rapidly changing population.
Her party also has changed its ideological makeup, with more progressive lawmakers mixed in among moderate Democrats such as Gov. Ralph Northam.
Among the top issues for this session, which convenes Jan. 8 and is set to adjourn March 7, are universal background checks and other gun legislation, ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, setting redistricting policy ahead of the 2020 U.S. Census and examining Virginia’s minimum wage and right-to-work laws.
First elected in a 2010 special election by a margin of just 37 votes, Filler-Corn worked as deputy director of the Virginia Liaison Office during the Warner and Kaine administrations and has served as director of government relations at Arlington-based lobbying and consulting firm Albers & Co. since 2007. She lives with her husband and two children in Fairfax County. Last year, she was chosen as the House of Delegates’ minority leader, becoming the first woman to lead a party caucus in Virginia’s history.
In November 2019, following the election that handed Democrats control of the General Assembly, she became the designated speaker, succeeding Republican Del. Kirk Cox.
Virginia Business spoke with Filler-Corn in early December about her goals for the 2020 General Assembly session.
Virginia Business: Why do you think this was the year that Virginia Democrats regained total control of state government after almost 30 years, allowing you to become the first female speaker of the House?
Eileen Filler-Corn: It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? I became the first female leader of either party last year. I think it’s very exciting on many fronts. It’s exciting because we have the most diverse caucuses we’ve ever had, the most diverse body we’ve ever had. It’s about time that [legislators] actually reflect the commonwealth and that we look like the commonwealth. That means all kinds of diversity.
I think we made tremendous strides in 2017 when we elected what was then our most diverse class ever — talk about capable and confident, impressive, diverse in thought and in issues and experiences as well! Also, diversity as it relates to background, race and gender. I’m excited … we made such strides [in 2017].
After the [last] session, it became clear that wasn’t sufficient. We championed so many issues that were so important to us, and we were unable to move forward. We worked hard and recruited some fabulous candidates and won the elections. I think Virginians spoke loud and clear.
VB: The Democratic Party has changed a lot, both here and nationwide, since 1993. Some Dems are progressive, while others are moderates. How do you plan to reconcile these different points of view?
Filler-Corn: I think what makes us able to succeed … is our diversity. We look at diversity as a benefit, and it makes us stronger. Will it be more challenging because we have the diversity of views? Perhaps, but that’s the democratic process.
When we talk about issues and what’s most important to us, as you saw this past session, we’re not afraid to stand up for equality and equity and treating everybody with respect, regardless of the color of their skin, the language they speak, who they love, where they come from and the religion they practice. That’s important to us, and you will find that’s important to the entire Democratic caucus.
Look at the environment. Talk about something that we hear every single day. What could be more important than clean water or clean air? I think the voters spoke loud in here. They want their elected officials to do something about that. Read the full article here