Del. Don Scott, a rising star amongst Virginia Democrats with a novel story, has been voted to function Speaker of the Virginia Home of Representatives.
Sasha Pfeiffer, host:
Shortly after the Virginia Common Meeting convenes tomorrow, it is going to have a brand new speaker of the Home — Democrat Don Scott. He would be the first Black speaker within the 400-year historical past of the Virginia Legislature. VPM’s Jahid Khalil not too long ago spent a while with Scott in his residence district and brings us this profile of the politician’s uncommon journey to Virginia’s highest seat.
JAHED KHALIL, BYLINE: In 2018, Don Scott was a profitable trial lawyer in Portsmouth, Virginia. He was representing a metropolis council member accused of forgery. That is what put him within the public eye.
DON SCOTT: A reporter needed to do a narrative, and he stated, ‘I have been to jail earlier than.’ Is that this appropriate? I instructed him sure. If you wish to get the total story, come see me.
KALIL: Scott instructed the reporter that he was convicted of a drug cost whereas in legislation faculty in 1994 and was imprisoned for about eight years. It wasn’t precisely a secret, however the story was now on the entrance web page of the Sunday newspaper.
Scott: I keep in mind getting a textual content from a pricey buddy of mine. He despatched me a message and stated, ‘You are free now.’ So no matter you wish to do now, you are able to do. Nevertheless it form of made me really feel good, and now folks – everybody is aware of. So both they’re with me or they don’t seem to be.
Khalil: Scott’s private historical past was public data, and it gave him the chance to enter politics.
Scott: I used to at all times say that the worst factor that may occur to me would not be shedding the election. So I believe it gave me a bonus.
Khalil: He received his first race for the Virginia Home of Representatives in 2019. He ran for prison justice reform, formed by his time on each side of the authorized system. As soon as there, he continued to advocate for the automated restoration of voting rights for ex-felons. His rights have been restored in 2013 by petitioning the governor. On the ground of the Statehouse, Scott employs a confrontational type filled with quips and asides.
(Audio of archived recording)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The ground is for the delegate.
SCOTT: Mr. President, this has gone too far.
KALIL: In early 2022, Scott criticized Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin over his insurance policies on how race is taught in faculties.
(Audio of archived recording)
SCOTT: And thus far, what I’ve seen from his actions on day one will not be an individual of religion, not a Christian, however somebody who needs to divide the commonwealth. I do know the reality hurts. I do not wish to make you cry, like saying essential race concept, as a result of I do know it hurts your emotions. I simply wish to say…
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The home will come to order.
KALIL: Scott says shortly afterward, Youngkin, who usually speaks about his religion, requested Scott to come back to the governor’s mansion.
SCOTT: (Laughter) I simply laughed. I stated he’s not the principal and I’m not a scholar. If he needs to see me, he can come right here. To his credit score, he got here to see me.
Khalil: Moments like these elevate Scott’s standing inside the Democratic caucus. Lower than six months later, he was chosen as Home Minority Chief and was now accountable for taking again the chamber from the Republicans. Through the marketing campaign, each election speech talked about entry to abortion and the threats to democracy. He remembered it when he noticed the ships proper exterior his workplace window and remembered his time within the Navy.
SCOTT: And I inform those who I really feel like this can be a continuation of fixed surveillance. You realize, we stand and watch our democracy. It does not finish on the statehouse.
KALIL: Democrats took again the total Home final fall and selected Scott as their nominee for speaker. Earlier than heading to Richmond, Scott gathered supporters in his district to bid farewell.
Eugene Swenson: Plenty of them are group leaders. There are plenty of monks right here.
KALIL: Eugene Swenson runs armed and youth intervention applications in Portsmouth. When Scott noticed him, he hit Swenson along with his fist.
SWENSON: That is truly what I really like about it – not the love in it, however the love in it. He form of makes certain the people who find themselves forgotten or the people who find themselves on the backside, he makes certain they get what they want as nicely.
Kahlil: When Scott took the stage, he took a second to understand his rise from the kid of a poor single mom to the chief of America’s first state home. He expressed gratitude to the black legislators who served earlier than him.
Scott: We did not see ourselves even elevating our hand to run for Speaker of the Home, not to mention making it occur. So I am very grateful to have had the chance to face in entrance of those giants. And I would like you all – whenever you all see me within the room, to grasp that I am carrying all of you with me.
Kahlil: And he acquired to know the enslaved Virginians who constructed the Capitol.
SCOTT: Each time I stroll into the Capitol, y’all – and that is true, I promise you – I see ghosts. I see our ancestors who have been there, who would empty folks’s urine and spittle, and construct buildings, and break their backs whereas folks made choices about whether or not or not they have been human.
KALIL: This historical past continues on the eve of Scott’s ascension as the primary black speaker, and he made a request to these taking part on this second.
Scott: I want you all to wish for me as a result of there’s a lot coming my method. I am prepared for it, I believe. However I’ll stay praying, and I hope you’ll too. wishing you a very good evening. Thanks, Portsmouth, Virginia.
Khalil: The Common Meeting begins tomorrow. One of many first orders of enterprise is to vote for Scott to take the gavel.
For NPR Information, I am Jahed Khalil in Portsmouth, Virginia.
Copyright © 2024 NPR. All rights reserved. Go to our Phrases of Use and Permissions pages at www.npr.org for extra info.
NPR transcripts are created on a quick deadline by an NPR contractor. This textual content might not be in its ultimate kind and could also be up to date or revised sooner or later. Accuracy and availability could range. The official document of NPR programming is the audio recording.