Madame Chairwoman: Virginia Democrats Get First African-American Leader

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December 10, 2012 ‐ By Ann Brown

AP Photo/Steve Helber

African-American firsts are still happening, even at this late date. Virginia Democrats just elected the state’s first African-American party chair.

A House of Delegates member from Alexandria became chairwoman of the Democratic Party in Virginia, and not only is she the first African American to chair that state’s Democratic party. She is actually the first African American to lead any major political party in Virginia.

Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) was elected at the party’s Central Committee Meeting in Williamsburg on Saturday, which was attended by many of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor and attorney general. Herring didn’t waste time in calling the party to action.

“The one thing we can’t do is relax. We’ve got to start now to get voters engaged,” said Herring, reports The Washington Post.

It looks like Democrats in that state will have an uphill battle. “History does not favor Democrats going into 2013. In every Virginia gubernatorial election since 1977, Virginia has reversed its support for governor in the years following the presidential election. In 2009, Republicans swept the races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. And Virginia has not had a Democratic attorney general in nearly 20 years,” writes the newspaper.

Gov. Bob McDonnell is currently in office. He campaigned for Mitt Romney and other Republicans who ran for office this past election cycle. According to a separate Washington Post article, he enjoys a good deal of popularity in his state, including among women and black voters.

Herring has a plan. She announced she will continue to focus on voter registration and turnout efforts, which she says will be critical for a Democratic win.

Herring, a lawyer by profession, is a graduate of George Mason University and Catholic University Columbus School of Law. She was elected to the General Assembly in January 2009 in a special election to fill the vacated seat for the 46th House District. She also serves as the Democratic Whip in the House of Delegates and was chair of the Legislative Reproductive Health Caucus. Through her work with the latter, Herring has been outspoken on the Republican legislation passed last session that requires women to undergo an ultrasound before being allowed to have an abortion.

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