The group hopes their expanded ranks can lead to action on criminal justice reform, increased funding for schools
African Americans have been historically underrepresented in Virginia’s legislature, but last week’s election expanded Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus with four new members in the House of Delegates.
Democrats flipped six seats in the election and took control of the General Assembly for the first time in over two decades. They added Josh Cole, Clint Jenkins, Alex Askew, who are all African-American, to their roster, and Don Scott was elected to take over a seat previously occupied by a black representative.
Del. Lamont Bagby, chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, said the group’s expanded ranks could mean action on criminal justice reform, increased funding for schools in low-income neighborhoods and more money for the state’s historically black colleges and universities.
In another sign of progress, Del. Charniele L. Herring (D-Alexandria) was elected as majority leader in the House, becoming both the first woman and the first African American to serve in that post.
Here are a few things to know about the newest members of Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus:
Josh Cole (28th District)
Cole is an assistant pastor at the Union Bell Baptist Church in Stafford County. A Fredericksburg native, Cole went to Stafford County public schools and attended Liberty University for college. Cole also served as chief of staff for Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler.
This wasn’t Cole’s first election campaign. In 2017, he ran to represent Virginia’s 28th District in the Virginia House of Delegates and became the first African-American, and youngest person to receive either party’s nomination along the way. Ultimately Cole finished less than 100 votes shy of having the honor of representing the 28th District.
Cole is the first Democrat to win the 28th District seat since 1982.
Don Scott (80th District)
Scott founded his own law office in 2015 and has represented over a thousand clients. In 2017, Scott shared that he was convicted of federal drug charges in 1994 and spent seven years in prison. That experience inspired him to pursue public office. “Jail really sucks the blood from you,” Scott said. “That’s why I fight.”
Scott’s wife, Dr. Mellanda Colson-Scott, owns her own dental practice in Norfolk. They have a 10-year-old daughter.
Scott is the chair of the Portsmouth Economic Development Authority and is on several other boards, including the Future of Hampton Roads and the Southeastern Employment and Training Association.
Clint Jenkins (76th District)
Jenkins is a Suffolk-area real estate agent and chair of the Democratic Party for Virginia’s 3rd congressional district. He was the lone Democrat to run for the party’s nomination in his district.
Virginia’s 76th district had been represented by Republican Chris Jones since 1998. Jenkins was the first person to challenge Jones in over a decade.
Jenkins’ wife, Karen, is a member of the Suffolk school board, and together they have three adult daughters.
Alex Askew (85th District)
Askew was born in Virginia Beach and educated at Virginia Beach public schools, including Tallwood High School, before attending Hampton University.
Askew served as a legislative aide in the House of Delegates, where he helped craft legislation to expand Medicaid, support safe learning environments for Virginia’s students, and provide affordable housing to those who need it.
Askew is an active member of New Jerusalem Ministries, a founding board member of the New Leaders Council Virginia, and a board member for the Democratic Business Alliance of South Hampton Roads.