But the Petersburg delegate calls it 'a testament to the progress' that she, Filler-Corn were viable candidates

RICHMOND — Even though she was not successful in securing the House of Delegates speakership, Del. Lashrecse D. Aird emerged from Saturday's caucus voting excited about being part of the first Democratic majority in the House in two decades.

“I am so proud to serve in the oldest legislative body in America, and I am especially proud for the first time in 400 years, that body will be led by a woman," Aird, D-Petersburg, said Saturday afternoon. She was referring to Democratic floor leader Eileen Filler-Corn of Springfield, who was nominated by the caucus and is assured of becoming speaker when the House convenes in January.

"It’s a testament to the progress we’ve made that either of us even had the opportunity to run for speaker," said Aird.

Aird, who was re-elected Tuesday to a third term in the House from the 63rd House District, was an early favorite among Virginia progressives. Shortly after re-election, Aird unveiled her desire to challenge Filler-Corn for the speaker's role, and even introduced a 60-day "transition plan" as the GOP cedes its 20-year political control. Her candidacy generated a great deal of buzz, and several of her House colleagues took to social media last week backing Aird for the job.

"I could not be more grateful for the outpouring of support, hope, and belief that was shown in my candidacy," she said. "Though I may have come up short this time, I am proud to have helped pave the road for young, black-women with dreams of rising to leadership."

No matter who won the nomination for speaker, history would have been made. There has never been an African American or a woman serving as speaker in the 400-year history of the Virginia legislature. Del. Luke Torian of Prince William County, who also is black, was the third announced candidate for speaker.

Filler-Corn also will become the first Jewish woman to serve as speaker.

With the speaker's office now decided, Aird said she could not wait to "roll up my sleeves" and get to work in Richmond. With Democrats controlling both the House and state Senate, Aird said the party can now move forward with its legislative initiatives that had been previously blocked by statehouse Republicans.

"For the first time in a generation, there will be a unified government in Virginia," Aird said, referring to Democratic control of both the legislative and executive branches. "We will have the opportunity to pass legislation on long-stalled priorities that Virginians have been demanding such as gun violence prevention, increased access to the ballot box, campaign finance reform, investing in renewable energy, ratifying the ERA, and increasing access to affordable health care."

If she had been successful, Aird would have been the second Tri-City area legislator in a row to be the House speaker. Republican M. Kirkland Cox of Colonial Heights had held it for the past two years. Even though he won re-election Tuesday, he will step down from the speaker's podium since the GOP will no longer be in control.

Cox, a 30-year House veteran, said last week he will not seek any Republican party leadership roles in the House during the next session.

Bill Atkinson can be reached at batkinson@progress-index.com or 804-722-5167. On Twitter: @BAtkinsonpi.