New state NAACP president chastises Democrats for selecting Scott Surovell instead of Mamie Locke for leadership role
Jeremy M. Lazarus | 11/22/2023, 6 p.m.
The Rev. Cozy E. Bailey Sr. used his first public statement as the new state NAACP president to tongue-lash the Democratic Caucus in the state Senate for failing to elect Hampton Democratic Sen. Mamie E. Locke as the next majority leader.
The Prince William County minister, who was installed as state president Nov. 11 at the abbreviated 88th State NAACP convention, expressed deep disappointment in the vote of the 21-member Democratic Caucus.
The caucus bypassed Sen. Locke, 69, who has served five terms, and instead jumped a more junior member, two-term Fairfax Sen. Scott Surovell, 52, previously vice caucus chair, over her for the top job, stated Rev. Bailey, who took over from Robert N. Barnette Jr.
The action was even more notable given that Sen. Locke is Black and Sen. Surovell is white.
“By every conceivable metric, Sen. Locke should have been elected majority leader,” Rev. Bailey stated on behalf of the state’s oldest civil rights group. “We believe she was the natural choice given her level of seniority and demonstrated leadership,” including raising more than $2 million to help ensure Democrats retained control of the General Assembly’s upper chamber.
Rev. Bailey described the decision as “an opportunity missed” to have the first ever Black majority leader of the Senate in 2024 at the same time that the House will have its first ever Black speaker, Portsmouth Democratic Delegate Don L. Scott Jr.
The Senate vote “broke from the historic precedent of the majority caucus chair becoming the majority leader,” Rev. Bailey stated, adding that even though “the Virginia NAACP will continue to work with the leadership of both houses and both parties, political sharecropping must end.”
Sen. Surovell, who will take over the top Senate party post from Fairfax Democratic Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, who did not seek re-election, also will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Locke was re-elected chair of the 21-member Democratic Caucus and also will chair the Rules Committee.
Richmond’s two senators, Lamont Bagby and Ghazala Hashmi, also gained leadership posts. Sen. Bagby, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, will share the whip duties with Arlington Sen. Barbara Favola, while Sen. Hashmi will serve as treasurer of the Democratic Caucus and chair the Education and Health Committee.
Two other Black senators also will be part of the Senate Democratic leadership team, Virginia Beach Sen. Aaron R. Rouse will serve as secretary of the caucus and also chair the Privileges and Elections Committee while Sen. L. Louise Lucas, will serve as Senate Pro Tem and chair the Finance and Appropriations Committee.
Alexandria Sen. Adam P. Ebbin also was elected Democratic Caucus vice chair and will chair the General Laws and Technology Committee.
Other Senate committee leaders in the 2024 session will include Fairfax Sen. David W. Marsden, who will head Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources; Charlottesville Sen. Creigh Deeds, who will chair Commerce and Labor; Prince William County Sen. Jeremy S. McPike, who will chair Local Government; Sen. Favola, who will chair Rehabilitation and Social Services; and Fairfax Sen. Jennifer Boysko, who will chair Transportation.
In the House, along with the pending history-making elevation of Delegate Scott to speaker, two other Black members will hold top positions. Alexandria Delegate Charniele L. Herring will be reinstalled as Democratic majority leader, a post she has held since 2020, while Prince William County Delegate Luke E. Torian will again lead the budget-writing Appropriations Committee.
House Democrats also have made history in tapping Fairfax Delegate Kathy K.L. Tran to chair their caucus in 2024. Born in Vietnam, she will be the first Asian-American to hold the post.