Aird Is a Woman to Watch

by James A. Bacon

Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, as one would expect, is playing on her identity as a young, African-American woman in her bid to become the next Speaker of the House. But there’s more to her appeal to fellow Democrats than identity politics. She has a plan — a plan for the Democrats to get off to a fast start in the 2020 General Assembly session.

Aird lays it all out in her “60 Day Plan for a Stronger Commonwealth,” which she has posted online and disseminated widely. (I presume she distributed it widely if I got a copy.) Therein she lays out her ideas for the internal caucus structure of the House of Delegates (seen in the diagram above). I have never covered the General Assembly as a beat, so  I don’t know how novel this structure is. (Perhaps Steve Haner could fill in details). Whatever the case, Aird clearly has spent a lot of time thinking about it. This chart suggests to me that the young woman, 33 years old, has considerable organizational acumen.

Four of the positions in the org chart would be elected by House Democrats. I assume that the Speaker would have considerable sway over who is appointed to the other leadership positions. Am I being too cynical if I suspect there might be some vote-for-me-and-I’ll-appoint-you-as-vice-chair-of-whatever maneuvering going on?

Click image to enlarge.

Aird also describes the organization of the new Democrat majority’s leadership team: an operations workgroup, a finance workgroup, a legislative workgroup, and a personnel workgroup, and she provides a “transition timeline” between mid-November and early January for getting things done.

Has any other would-be Speaker drafted such a plan before? Has anyone published it as a slick document and put it online for the world to see? If nothing else, the transparency is unprecedented.

There is considerable speculation in the media about who will become the next Speaker. Northern Virginia’s delegation will exercise disproportionate clout in the Democratic caucus, and there is widespread expectation that Del. Eileen Fuller-Corn of Fairfax has the edge. However, three of the four announced contenders are from NoVa. If votes of the NoVa delegation split three ways, and if Aird lines up strong support from the downstate contingent, especially among African-American delegates, she may have a realistic path to victory.

Even if Aird doesn’t win the top prize, there can be little doubt that she will elevate her visibility within the party. I would be surprised if, at the very least, she does not wind up with a senior leadership position of some kind. As a fresh face in the Democratic Party, she is definitely a woman to watch.

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8 responses to “Aird Is a Woman to Watch”

  1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    At least half (27 by my count) of the Delegates represent NoVA districts. Three of the candidates for Speaker are from NoVa. The members could rationalize not supporting Torian with the idea that he would otherwise get the chairmanship of Appropriations, a very big prize in itself. Ken Plum is a nice guy and one of the longstanding, old-fashioned liberals. Maybe because he is too nice, he has never had much pull. I can’t see him getting much support for Speaker. That leaves Filler-Corn. If the Northern Virginia delegation sticks together, she would have to pick up only one or two votes downstate to win the Speakership. (Interestingly, one website has already proclaimed her as Speaker.

  2. djrippert Avatar

    This brings up an point I have been mulling. Was this election more of a Democratic victory over Republicans or a NoVa victory over the Richmond-centric Virginia political philosophy. For example, the death by sub-committee of last year’s marijuana decriminalization bill required a sub-committee with five rural Republicans. Meanwhile, all the decriminalization and legalization bills have ben sponsored by NoVa politicians (as I recall). Is there any chance similar legislation will be killed in sub-committee in the 2020 session? I don’t see it. If NoVa controls the Dems in the House and the Dems control the House it seems to me that NoVa controls the house.

    Payback time?

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      I think the election itself was a Democratic victory over Republicans. Northern Virginia accounted for only one of the Republican seats that got flipped–Hugo’s. That being said, NoVa. will certainly be in the driver’s seat in both houses. It is a good chance that the next Speaker will be from NoVa. NoVa legislators are also in line to chair these committtees: Appropriations; Finance; Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources; Counties, Cities, and Towns; Courts of Justice; General Laws; Education; Health, Welfare, and Institutions; Militia, Police, and Public Safety (Gun bills); Privileges and Elections; Rules (chaired by Speaker); and Science and Technology. Almost all of them. Transportation is the only major committee that someone from NoVa. is not in line to chair.

      In the Senate, the line up is almost as good for NoVa. Senators from that area are in line to chair: Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources; Commerce and Labor; Finance (the big enchilada); Local Government; Education and Health; Rehabilitation and Social Services; Rules; and Transportation (maybe).

      So, yes, it is probably pay back time.

  3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Expanding on Don’s comment, the best thing that Democrats in the House could do to enhance representative government and transparency would be to do away with the rule that bills can die in subcommittee. Until that rule was instituted when Republicans got the majority, subcommittees were used to examine bills in detail and propose amendments where needed, but the bills would then be referred back to the main committee, with a recommendation, for a final vote on whether to send them to the floor. With the new subcommittee rule, a group of 5-7 legislators, with a majority of 3-5, could kill a bill. For a long while, subcommittee votes were not even recorded. The Republican leadership finally relented under much criticism and changed the rules to require recorded votes in subcommittee.

    The justification given for the rule allowing the subcommittes to kill bills related to efficiency. According to this rationale, many bills obviously were not going to pass, so by killing them in subcommittee, the full committee would not have to waste time on them. The rule certainly made the process more efficient, but it also allowed very few legislators to kill bills that may have had enough support to pass and it allowed legislators to avoid taking uncomfortable votes.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    I agree that the practice of sub-committees to kill prospective bills – often without even a recorded vote is an affront to representative government that some legislators seemed just fine with – a standard practice.

    But I’d also ask – pretend there is NO NoVa or Charlottesville or Tidewater – would there be any complaints about the way the GA operates or it’s legislation outcomes?

    So that’s obviously not true so what’s the driving forces now?

    What do urban/suburban voters REALLY want from the Va GA that to this point, it has ignored or refused to provide?

    I DO NOT want to see the Dems do their version of what the GOP has been doing – myself. That’s would just continue practices that I feel did a disservice to true representative government.

    I’d STILL like to see some form ability of citizens to initiate referendum at the local and state level – as a check on Local/State government refusal to take up issues that citizens want taken up. Not the California style wild-wild west type referendum but more “genteel” version where the onus is on those who want referendum to demonstrate widespread support of citizen inerta. In other words neuter the ability of Richmond to refuse to act even when the citizenry want action either through party rule or the opposite – an inability of the body itself to move issues that citizens want addressed.

    Richmond should represent citizens not parties – especially urban/suburban citizens that comprise the largest segments of Virginia voters these days.

    No, I’m NOT advocating “mob rule” – just a legislature that recognizes the wants and desires of most Virginians and does not obstruct bringing these issues to the GA to address the issues and be accountable for doing so or not, instead of having them die in committee and never get to the floor for a full vote.

    The GA should forthrightly represent Virginians on issues they want addressed whether it’s confederate memorials or health care or pot/weed.

    Citizens have a right for the legislature to address issues of concern to them – and to be transparent and accountable for those votes and that includes electric utilities Dominion, AEP and the rural electric coops.

    Right now – for a lot of things – the Va GA functions a lot like a black hole where issues and votes disappear and what emerges is something different with a lot of other things “carried over”.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      I agree generally, except about citizen initiatives. When legislatures refuse to act on issues the citizens want, the remedy is elections. That is what the Republicans just discovered. By the way, I don’t agree with some commentators that the court-ordered redistricting made the difference. It was the deciding factor in Chris Jones’ district and perhaps the one in Newport News, but I think the Democrats would have taken over in both houses without the redistricting.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        On that issue, we’ll amicably disagree because the norm these days is they say one thing at elections then do something else after safely seated.

        The citizen-initiated referendum forces them to address the issue or citizens will. No more legislative shenanigans like killing things in secret or manipulating how an issue gets voted and/or embedded quietly in other legislation.

        Virginia has gotten into a very bad habit that is rooted in the “Virginia Way” (us leaders know best).

        Not like California ..more like Colorado…

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        On redistricting – computers can easily make truly compact districts and stop the creation of these convoluted shaped districts that are obviously drawn in arbitrary ways to benefit some demographic.

        Computers ignore all that stuff and just draw a generic compact district.

        We need to get people out of that process in my view. Even “appointed” end up getting chosen to suit the purposes of who chooses them.

        And yes, I don’t think it will change the Democratic tide and make actually accelerate it – because the demographics of the State are more and urban and suburban and those folks believe the govt has a strong legitimate role in things like health care, minimum wage, affordable housing, universal Pre-K, etc… and though taxes are important to them, they are willing to pay for these things. They typically are not “small government” , low-tax folks.

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