HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Could another Hampton Roads legislator make Virginia history this upcoming General Assembly session?
State Sen. Mamie Locke, a Democrat who’s long represented the Peninsula, was endorsed on Tuesday by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus to serve as Virginia’s next Senate majority leader.
She’d be the first Black majority leader ever in Virginia, and succeed state Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax), who’s retiring after 48 years in General Assembly.
She’d also join two other major Hampton Roads legislators who are set to make history in the commonwealth. Del. Don Scott (D-Portsmouth) will be be Virginia’s first Black speaker of the house and state Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) will be the Senate’s first ever Black finance chair when the legislature convenes on Jan. 10, 2024.
“Under Senator Locke’s leadership, Senate Democrats secured the majority for two consecutive cycles for the first time in recent memory. She has repeatedly proven her fundraising prowess and this cycle raised $2 million to support Senate races, the VLBC wrote. “When the Democratic Party was in crisis in 2019, it was a Black woman who led through the storm to take the majority. She is a powerful advocate for Black Virginians, especially in the areas of voting rights and labor.”
The VLBC said while they would “remain open to changing systems to better serve progress,” they pointed to tradition of supporting senior legislators for leadership roles in their decision. Locke is 69, has served in the Senate since 2004 and is the current chair of the Senate’s rules committee.
“It is both convenient and inequitable to disregard a precedent when it is a Black woman’s turn to lead,” the VLBC said in their statement.
“Precedent has meaning – especially when that precedent firmly plants a hardworking Black woman next in line to lead. I support @SenatorLocke as the next Senate Majority Leader because of her diligence, leadership, resilience, and seniority,” added VLBC member Del. Cia Price on X.
While there’s no official challenger to Locke for the position, there have been rumblings that state Sen. Scott Surovell from Northern Virginia, who is white and 17 years Locke’s junior, could throw his hat in for the position. Both were pictured together on election night holding up bricks to symbolize the Democratic “brick wall” against Gov. Youngkin’s legislative agenda, including his proposed 15-week abortion ban.
Democrats held the Virginia Senate this year with a 21-19 majority, and flipped the House of Delegates (now 51-49 in favor of Democrats). The Virginia Mercury’s Graham Moomaw wrote more about what that means for what Democrats and Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin could accomplished with those numbers.