Filler-Corn, Lewis join Virginia General Assembly exodus
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Two more Virginia state legislators, one of them a former House speaker, announced plans Tuesday to step down after their current terms end, bringing to at least 20 the number of lawmakers retiring rather than seeking re-election under new electoral maps.
Democratic Del. Eileen Filler-Corn of Fairfax County, who joined the House of Delegates in 2010 and served as speaker in 2020 and 2021, said she would not run for a House seat this fall. She was the first woman and first Jewish person to hold the speakership. She said in an interview she is considering a run for governor in 2025.
“I have been thinking of and talking publicly about exploring for governor and realizing that’s what I need to focus on,” she said.
Democratic Sen. Lynwood Lewis, from Accomack on the Eastern Shore, also said Tuesday he would not seek re-election. Lewis currently represents a district including coastal areas like Norfolk and Virginia Beach, as well as Mathews County on the Middle Peninsula. The decision against running was a tough one, Lewis said in a statement.
Filler-Corn and Lewis are joining a General Assembly exodus that could still grow. Both would have faced other incumbents had they chosen to run. The district where Filler-Corn lives now includes another Democratic delegate, one of many incumbent pairings created by new district boundaries all General Assembly candidates will run under this year. Lewis was pitted against GOP Sen. Bill DeSteph in a new Republican-leaning district.
All 140 seats are on the ballot this year and candidates will run for the first time under maps that were overhauled during the redistricting process ended in late 2021.
The maps were drawn without regard to protecting incumbents, resulting in multiple sitting legislators being forced to run against each other, move or step aside.
Filler-Corn said her decision came down to where she thinks she can effect the most change. A strong fundraiser, she said she planned to continue to helping General Assembly and down-ballot Democratic candidates get elected.
“I think it’s important that I use my voice and my ability to elevate some of these great like-minded candidates so that we can win back the House, so that we can grow our majority in the Senate. And yes, the next step will be the executive branch because we need to be back in control so that we can make true progress — as I was able to make during my tenure as speaker,” she said.
Democrats were in full control of state government when Filler-Corn presided over the House, and her two years as speaker were marked by the legalization of marijuana, loosening abortion restrictions, tightening of gun laws and abolishing the death penalty.
But Republicans flipped control of the House in 2021 in a wave of GOP electoral wins and months later Filler-Corn was ousted by her peers as minority leader.
Among the lawmakers who previously announced retirement plans are: Senate Democratic leader Dick Saslaw; Senate Republican Leader Tommy Norment; Janet Howell, the Democratic co-chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriation committee; Sen. John Bell, who recently disclosed he is battling cancer; and four House GOP committee chairs.