‘On the shoulders of giants’: Don Scott, VA’s first Black speaker designee talks making history, reaching across the aisle

After Virginia Democrats achieved success in Tuesday’s election, and delegates met Saturday to elect leaders, Del. Don Scott moved into a position that has made him a part of history: The first African American nominated by his party to be Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates.

Scott is expected to become speaker when the full House votes during its first legislative session in 2024.

“I cannot express enough how humbled I am to be named the next Speaker of the House by my colleagues, said Speaker-designee Scott after Saturday’s leadership vote. “Virginia voters sent a resounding message on Tuesday that they wanted a Commonwealth that moved forward and that is exactly what I intend to do as your next Speaker.”

Scott has served in the House since 2020.

He became the chamber’s Democratic leader in 2022 after the previous leader, Eileen Filler-Corn, was ousted from the position when Democratic lawmakers lost control of the House following the 2021 election.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Scott said in an interview with WTOP. “It’s amazing.

“I know I stand on the shoulders of giants, so I don’t want to squander this opportunity,” Scott said. “I want to make sure I do the best job of any speaker who just happens to be Black.”

Scott said the prospect of making history was “awe-inspiring,” particularly since Richmond was once the capital of the Confederacy.

“It’s continuing the journey toward progress that America has made, and continuing the American dream,” Scott said. “It says a lot about the Commonwealth that we continue to move forward.”

Reaching across the aisle

The new makeup of Virginia’s government will include Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and a General Assembly completely controlled by Democrats.

That means both sides will need to find ways to work together.

“I think the voters expect us to come together on bipartisan ideas,” Scott said. “People don’t realize there are a lot of things that we agree on.”

The two parties recently did come together on a bipartisan state budget that provides $1 billion in tax relief and boosts spending on public education and mental health by hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to Scott, they can do that again on issues, including transportation infrastructure, economic development, raising teacher salaries, addressing concerns with mental health and opioids, and dealing with the ongoing problem of learning loss due to COVID-19.

“There are so many issues that have nothing to do with the culture wars that we see every day,” Scott said. “We’ll be able to agree and come together on some bipartisan policy solutions.”

Scott said he and Youngkin spoke privately after the election this week.

It was “very cordial” and “very professional,” Scott said.

“He’s ready to roll up his sleeves and I am, too,” Scott said. “Now, it’s time to do the work that the voters sent us to do and take care of the Commonwealth, and we’re all in this together.”

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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