House Minority Leader Don Scott, D-Portsmouth. Courtesy of Don Scott for Delegate.

RICHMOND – Democrats in the House of Delegates elected Del. Don Scott Jr., D-Portsmouth, as the new minority leader. The party’s caucus voted behind closed doors Wednesday as the legislature reconvened at Richmond’s state Capitol to take action on the proposed state budget. 

Scott, who orchestrated the ouster of his predecessor, Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, via secret ballot in April, has now shifted his focus on fighting back against Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s “extreme agenda,” according to a statement released by House Democrats after the vote. 

“I’m not afraid to stand up and say it: Youngkin and his party don’t care one bit about effective governance or how their decisions impact everyday Virginians,” Scott said in the statement. “They are happy to sit back and stoke the flames of the culture war while our constituents struggle to make ends meet.”

 Scott, 52, defeated Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, and Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Fairfax, who also competed for the leadership spot. His new role marks the latest accomplishment in a steep rise to power since he was first elected in 2019, filling a vacancy left by former Del. Matthew James in the 80th House of Delegates district. A Houston native, Scott currently works as a criminal defense attorney in Portsmouth. 

On April 27, the same day that the General Assembly returned to Richmond for its so-called veto session, Scott spearheaded an intra-party effort that resulted in Filler-Corn being stripped of her title as the chamber’s top Democrat. 

The shakeup came less than a week after Scott had called for a change of leadership, stating his willingness to become the next minority leader. Before throwing his hat into the ring, Scott resigned as the caucus’ vice-chair for outreach. On Wednesday, the caucus elected Del. Dan Helmer, D-Fairfax, to fill the vacancy. 

For Democrats, winning back their lost seats in the House is a top priority as they hold on to a slim majority in the state Senate, where several of Youngkin’s policies stalled during the legislature’s regular session earlier this year.

“The issues at stake right now are momentous,” Scott said in his statement. “From abortion rights, gun safety, and criminal justice reform to wages and benefits that aren’t keeping up with the rising cost of housing, health care and basic necessities. The status quo was working well for the rich and connected, but it’s not working for everyday Virginians.”

Markus Schmidt

Markus Schmidt is a reporter for Cardinal News. Reach him at markus@cardinalnews.org.