Former Virginia House Speaker Filler-Corn will forego run for governor and seek congressional seat

Oct 18, 2023, 3:16 AM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn has decided against a bid for governor in 2025 and will instead run next year to represent the competitive northern Virginia congressional seat being vacated by a fellow Democrat, U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton.

Filler-Corn, who has served in the Virginia General Assembly since 2010 and was the first woman and first Jewish person to hold the post of speaker, discussed her decision with The Associated Press on Tuesday afternoon before filing official paperwork.

She made the case that she had overseen a period of tremendous progress in Richmond and said she wants to bring her legislative expertise to a “broken” Washington where a speaker-less GOP House majority was “truly taking us backward, making America weaker.”

“I have a record for getting the job done, protecting Virginians from all sorts of Republican chaos and extremists,” Filler-Corn said.

Filler-Corn’s move leaves two other presumptive candidates, U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, in the 2025 Democratic gubernatorial primary field that could still grow.

Filler-Corn, who confirmed in March she was exploring a bid for governor, said she began to be approached at political events about the possibility of a run in the 10th District after Wexton announced last month she would not seek reelection in 2024.

Wexton, a well-regarded former prosecutor and state legislator whom Filler-Corn said is a personal friend, disclosed in April that she had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Wexton said at the time that she hoped to keep serving for years to come, but she then shared in September that she had received a modified diagnosis of a more severe form of the disease. Wexton has said she will serve out the remainder of her term.

“This is an unfair, devastating reality that she now has to navigate,” Filler-Corn said, adding that she had discussed her plans with Wexton.

The open seat dynamic in the Loudoun County-centered 10th District — Filler-Corn said she lives just outside it — could set up a competitive race with implications for party control of the U.S. House. Wexton ousted Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock in 2018, and the district became slightly more conservative in the last redistricting process, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.

Filler-Corn is a strong fundraiser who led the Democratic House caucus during the national scandal and party strife that exploded after the 2019 discovery of a racist photo in former Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook.

While representing her Fairfax County-based district, she helped the party flip control of the House and Senate later that year and took over the speakership in 2020. Democrats used two years in full control of state government to act on reams of progressive priorities, expanding voting rights, rolling back limits on abortion, passing greater restrictions on firearms, legalizing marijuana and ending the death penalty.

But the party lost its House majority in the 2021 election cycle, and Filler-Corn — who works outside the Legislature in her own strategic consulting business — was ousted as the Democratic caucus’s leader.

In the interview, Filler-Corn, 59, said she thinks her legislative record will resonate with voters, and she pledged to be a strong voice for the Jewish community in Congress.

The Commonwealth prohibits its governors from serving consecutive terms. That’s led to intense speculation about Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s next political move, as well as early jockeying in effective shadow campaigns for the office.

Among Democrats, Spanberger has declined to lay her plans out publicly. But while saying she’s focused on this year’s legislative races, she seems to have also edged closer to confirming a run in public remarks. She recently told a publication at her alma mater, the University of Virginia, “there is no better place” than the governor’s mansion for a “Wahoo,” using a school nickname.

A person close to Spanberger and a second person, a Democratic Party activist, told the AP they had heard directly from the congresswoman that she planned to run in 2025 and forego seeking reelection in her current 7th District, another key swing seat that will be up for election next year. Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity to not pre-empt a formal announcement.

Connor Joseph, a spokesperson for Spanberger, said she’s focused on 2023 and won’t be commenting on future elections at this time.

Spanberger’s apparent decision could lead to a competitive Democratic primary in the 7th. A handful of Republican candidates have also already announced campaigns.

As for other potential gubernatorial candidates, Stoney is expected to make a decision after the November legislative elections, according to Kevin Zeithaml, a spokesperson for his political operation.

Among Republicans, Attorney General Jason Miyares and Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears are widely seen in political circles as likely contenders. Neither has publicly committed to a run and both have also said they are focused on this year’s legislative races.

Outgoing state Sen. Amanda Chase may also run, she said in an interview.

Chase, who lost a June primary and ran unsuccessfully for the party’s nomination for governor in 2021, said she’s ruled out running for the U.S. Senate next year and is contemplating another run for governor or lieutenant governor, characterizing the latter of those two as more likely.

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Former Virginia House Speaker Filler-Corn will forego run for governor and seek congressional seat