Virginia House

Filler-Corn Raises Political Expectations in Virginia House as the First Woman to Lead in 400 Years

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Breaking the proverbial glass ceiling, and setting several ‘firsts’, Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) is ready to take over the office of the Virginia House of Delegates in a momentous move. She will be the first woman to ascend the caucus in the 400-year history of the chamber.

“I’ll tell you, there has been an outpouring of excitement and energy around that,” she said in an interview. “Everyone is just kind of surprised to think that it’s taken so long.”

Filler-corn will also become the first delegate from Northern Virginia in nearly 40 years to lead a top House leadership post. Moreover, she is also going to be the first Jew to hold the position.

“I think women have a different perspective,” she said. “I’m also the first mom [in such a position] — it’s a different perspective to bring, both with issues and also with personality. . . . From what I hear, a lot of folks are saying it’s about time,” she stated.

Earlier this month, the fellow Democrats picked Filler-Corn to take the reins of caucus leadership of Virginia House, replacing the outgoing leader David Toscano (D-Charlottesville). It will be a high-profile position for Filler-Corn, poised to take up the role from January 1, before the 2019 legislative session convenes.

However, the new Democratic face of the Virginia House will still be a minority leader, as the Republicans still control the chamber with a 51-to-49 lead. Though, she will still enjoy considerable influence in setting the agenda and the tone of the House Democratic.

While Democrats remain in minority, they could possibly take back the majority for the first time in a generation, after the next fall’s elections and a possible court-ordered redistricting. In case it turns true, Filler-Corn would be able to become the first Virginian woman to serve as speaker.

Stephen Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington, said, “When you’re in the minority, it gives you a great opportunity to stick together.”

“The real challenge for the Democrats will come when there are 51 or more of them,” he added.

This year has been quite fortunate for the Democrats, especially in Virginia. They have been able to flip 15 seats that were previously held by Republican delegates in the House, and 11 of those have been taken over by women. Moreover, the party holds every statewide office at present.

The prospects of the political environment seem to be shifting to newer dimensions, where the political perception of people is also changing. In such a scenario, Filler-Corn has a promising opportunity to set greater standards as the first woman leader of the Virginia House, despite being in the minority. The year will be crucial for her to open greater doors for herself, as well as the party.

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