Home Eileen Filler-Corn Wayne Turnage, Who Served as Gov. Tim Kaine’s Chief of Staff, Calls...

Wayne Turnage, Who Served as Gov. Tim Kaine’s Chief of Staff, Calls Ouster of Eileen Filler-Corn as VA House Dem Leader a Huge Mistake

"Under Eileen’s leadership, in just two years, the Democrats in the House were instrumental in turbo-charging the pace of reform in the Commonwealth"

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See below for an interesting post by Wayne Turnage – former Chief of Staff to Governor Tim Kaine; former Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources for Gov. Mark Warner; former Chief Legislative Analyst, Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, VA General Assembly, from 1985 to 2002; etc. – regarding why he thinks the “coup” against Del. Eileen Filler-Corn as VA House Democratic Leader came about, what it means, etc. Turnage’s main points are:

  • “Under Eileen’s leadership, in just two years, the Democrats in the House were instrumental in turbo-charging the pace of reform in the Commonwealth”
  • Filler-Corn was “a prolific fundraiser, stocking with record sums of money, the Democrat coffers for local races,” and “there is little question that the Speaker’s efforts prevented a complete rout in an election year where the Democrats constructed their own political head winds.”
  • “What is shocking, however, is the treatment the former Speaker received from members of her own party – in this case, one man with more political ambition than good sense. Through the cowardice veil of a secret vote, the ultra-progressive wing of House Democrats, stripped their leader of her title in the middle of a reconvening session, and embraced the provocateur who sought to install himself — shocking — as the next Minority Leader with two handpicked, ‘more progressive’ sidekicks. My guess is the three of them could be better described as uncompromising and unpracticed politicians who value a good fight more than a conciliate outcome.”
  • “…this was a replay of Julius Caesar’s Ides of March without the wanton violence – a symbol of the avarice, hubris, treachery, and reckless personal ambition that has now poisoned Democratic politics in Virginia. Virginia Democrats will regret this day – and very soon.”

So obviously, Turnage has very strong feelings that the “coup” against Del. Eileen Filler-Corn was a huge mistake. And he also has very strong views on what motivated this “coup.” And he may very well be right about much of what he says. However, is he correct on his point that this was about an “ultra-progressive wing of House Democrats” – if there even IS an “ultra-progressive wing of House Democrats?” Let’s take a look at the authoritative/definitive VAPLAN progressive scores (for 2021 and 2022) for a sampling of some of the Democratic delegates who supposedly (and of course it was a secret ballot so we don’t know 100% for sure) supported and opposed the “coup” to see whether there’s any correlation (spoiler: there absolutely is NOT):

“Coup” Supporters

  • Del. Don Scott: In 2021, he ranked #49 out of 55 members, so towards the bottom in terms of progressive score. In 2022, he moved up sharply, to #13 out of 48 members. But not particularly in any “ultra-progressive wing.”
  • Del. Dan Helmer: In 2021, he ranked #22 out of 55 members – towards the upper-middle in terms of progressive score. In 2022, he ranked #36 out of 51 members – towards the lower-middle. But definitely not in any “ultra-progressive wing,” that’s for sure.
  • Del. Sally Hudson: In 2021, she ranked #15 out of 55 members – in the upper quarter, but not at the top, in terms of progressive score. And in 2022, she ranked #14 out of 48, again in the upper quarter, but not really “ultra progressive.”
  • Del. Kathy Tran: In 2021, she ranked #3 out of 55 members – very much towards the most progressive end of the caucus. In 2022, she ranked #14 out of 48 members, so in the top quarter, but not really “ultra progressive.”
  • Del. Sam Rasoul: In 2021, he ranked #47 out of 55 members – towards the bottom in terms of progressive score. And in 2022, he ranked #21 out of 48, very close to the middle of the caucus, and definitely NOT “ultra progressive.”
  • Del. David Reid: In 2021, he ranked #44 out of 55 members – towards the bottom in terms of progressive score. And in 2022, he ranked #46 out of 48 members, almost at the bottom in terms of progressive score – and most definitely NOT “ultra progressive.”
  • Del. Kathleen Murphy: Ranked #48 out of 55 in 2021 and #39 out of 48 in 2022, so most definitely NOT “ultra progressive.”

“Coup” Opponents

  • Del. Marcus Simon: Ranked #8 out of 55 members in 2021 and #1 out of 48 members in 2022, so definitely towards the “ultra-progressive” end, if there is such a thing.
  • Del. Alfonso Lopez: Ranked #10 out of 55 members in 2021 and #8 out of 48 members in 2022, so again, towards the “ultra-progressive” end, if there is such a thing.
  • Del. Ken Plum: Ranked #13 out of 55 members in 2021 and #18 out of 48 members in 2022, so again, more towards the progressive end of the rankings…
  • Del. Candi King: Ranked #15 out of 55 members in 2021 and #3 out of 48 members in 2022, so…either in the upper-middle or towards the top of the progressive rankings.

Now, of course, there WERE numerous members towards the more progressive end of the spectrum who supported the “coup,” but there were also several at that end who OPPOSED it. Same thing on the less progressive end of the rankings. Overall, though, there doesn’t appear to be a super-strong correlation between progressivism level and “coup” support. Instead, it seems like it was a variety of other issues, grievances,  ambitions, etc. that were driving this. With that, here’s Wayne Turnage’s Facebook post:

Why Virginia Democrats Can’t Keep Nice Things – A Case Example

Two years ago, Virginia House Democrats made the smart move to select Eileen Filler-Corn as the first woman Speaker of the House in the 401 year history of that storied body. In a State that clings to its traditions – often in both an obscurantist and unseemly manner – the meteoric rise of a Eileen-Filler Corn to the presiding officer of the House of Representatives and the legislative spokesperson for the Democratic party was a consequential moment in Virginia history. It also proved to be epoch-making.

Under Eileen’s leadership, in just two years, the Democrats in the House were instrumental in turbo-charging the pace of reform in the Commonwealth. Buoyed by the decision to expand Medicaid two years early, in rapid succession, Virginia dramatically increased access to voting, strengthened a woman’s right to choose, forged protections for the LGBTQ community, mandated a 65 percent increase in the State’s minimum wage, passed common sense gun laws, and abolished the death penalty. The Speaker was especially instrumental in working the Senate – something her predecessors would never do – to secure reform of Virginia’s gun laws.

During her tenure, Speaker Filler-Corn, also proved to be a prolific fundraiser, stocking with record sums of money, the Democrat coffers for local races – contests where candidates are typically starved for cash. Though the House Democrats would ultimately lose its majority by a narrow margin, there is little question that the Speaker’s efforts prevented a complete rout in an election year where the Democrats constructed their own political head winds.

For her efforts, the Speaker faced frequent anti-Semitic attacks and also had her life threatened by a madman who, reportedly, cased her home and bragged about the ease with which he could carry out an attack. Sadly, given the culture wars that now dominate politics, such vile hatred for a Jewish woman in the South, while appalling, is not surprising.

What is shocking, however, is the treatment the former Speaker received from members of her own party – in this case, one man with more political ambition than good sense. Through the cowardice veil of a secret vote, the ultra-progressive wing of House Democrats, stripped their leader of her title in the middle of a reconvening session, and embraced the provocateur who sought to install himself — shocking — as the next Minority Leader with two handpicked, “more progressive” sidekicks. My guess is the three of them could be better described as uncompromising and unpracticed politicians who value a good fight more than a conciliate outcome.

Though they foolishly caved to this amateurish power grab, the Democrats smartly decided that signing off on the political ambitions of a self-anointed leader was a bridge too far and delayed the vote for Eileen’s replacement for a later day.

Nonetheless, this was a replay of Julius Caesar’s Ides of March without the wanton violence – a symbol of the avarice, hubris, treachery, and reckless personal ambition that has now poisoned Democratic politics in Virginia.

Virginia Democrats will regret this day – and very soon.

Back to my comforting sabbatical.

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