The following is from Chris Ambrose, a long-time and hard-working Democratic activist who has served in several leadership positions on the Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC), including Vice-Chair Voter Registration, Vice-Chair South, and Vice-Chair Finance. He is currently a member of the Democratic Party of Virginia Central Committee and serves as the Vice-Chair for Finance and Outreach for the Mount Vernon District Democratic Committee (MVDDC). He has been involved in voter protection at the FCDC level as well.
My thoughts on the House Democratic Caucus’s circular firing squad session.
On Wednesday, twenty-five over ambitious Democratic Delegates whose primary motives were the pursuit of power and personal grievance, may have cost the Democrats the opportunity to retake the General Assembly next year.
The ousting of Eileen Filler-Corn as Leader by a narrow majority of the Democratic caucus in a sneaky and secret vote, that I understand did not even respect the Party’s notification process, was rightfully called a “horrible mistake” by Delegate Ken Plum who was defeated by Eileen for Speaker two years ago.
Putting aside the historic nature of Eileen-Filler Corn’s tenure as the first female Speaker and first person of the Jewish faith to hold the position in its more than 400-year history, Eileen Filler-Corn was an effective leader with accomplishments to show for it.
She presided over the Democratic takeover of the House which had been locked in Republican Gerrymandered districts for a generation. After ascending to Speaker, she pushed through the most progressive agenda in the Commonwealth’s history by orders of magnitude. It wasn’t just historic by how progressive it was, Eileen pushed through an unprecedented volume of legislation.
Describing what Blue Virginia has rightly been referring to as a “coup,” as a struggle between the “new guard” and the “old guard” is absurd. The old guard consists of people like Ken Plum who led us through the wilderness of Republican years and graciously accepted defeat when Eileen defeated him in the race for Speaker just two years ago, signaling a new era of leadership reflecting a diverse Commonwealth. The leadership consisting of people like Eileen Filler-Corn and Charniele Herring was new and diverse but had proven experience.
On the other hand, the group that sought to take power was led by one term freshmen who are totally green and almost certainly not capable of raising the more than $4 million dollars that Eileen did in 2021 or leading us through 2023. They did not even understand how to execute this “coup,” proving their lack of competence. They ousted our leader but could not elect a new leader leaving the House Democratic Caucus headless.
It is particularly galling that these over ambitious green politicians who owe some part of their careers to this leadership, looked around and said “we won so manly seats that we might just have the votes to seize power.”
It is understandable that people don’t like to “wait their turn” to get into leadership and “waiting your turn” should not be the sole criteria for obtaining leadership. But Virginia Democrats have a right to expect that their representatives will follow and learn from their leaders and achieve some level of experience and competence before seeking leadership positions themselves. One would also expect them to understand the appropriate time, method, and place to conduct something like this.
First, if the Caucus had a legitimate issue with Eileen (which there is no evidence of), they could have replaced her before the session. Second, if they had problems with how she was handling the session, (although she brilliantly messaged the nature of the extreme Youngkin agenda they were fighting), they could have removed her at a later caucus meeting.
Instead, they chose to remove her now and made the news story about chaos in the Democratic House Caucus when it should have been about Youngkin’s agenda. Furthermore, to do this while the session that Eileen led the Caucus through was ending, was nothing but a gratuitous slap in the face by a bunch of selfish and overambitious politicians.
Democratic activists need to make clear that this is unacceptable behavior by declaring they will not support any of the individuals involved in this during the 2023 cycle – of course, absent a competitive General Election race. No volunteering and no donations.
While I would never suggest an issue like this is a reason to initiate a primary challenge, there will be primaries it at least some of these races, especially in cases where legislators have been paired due to redistricting. In those cases, serious consideration should be given to the candidate that did not engage in this destructive behavior.
It is sad that it is the base that needs to set the standard for our leaders, but that is where we are. Democrats must be able to stick together if we are going to win elections.
A key reason Republicans win so much more than they should is because they stick together while Democrats don’t. We need to send a message to our representatives that we expect them to put the Democratic team over their personal grievances and ambitions.
Finally, Ken Plum signaled his hope that Eileen would run again, and he would support her. Sadly, I don’t know why someone would put themselves through that after being so badly stabbed in the back. But we can hope. Her re-ascension would also be the best signal that we have our house in order to the Republicans who are celebrating the turmoil and hoping they will be running against an inexperienced team in 2023.