In 2012, Delegate Herring was elected the first African-American Chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia. That year she led the party to a historic victory where they captured all three statewide offices and gained a seat in the House of Delegates. This past spring, Herring made a primary bid for her district’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, but ultimately decided to discontinue her candidacy.
Herring has lived in Northern Virginia for almost 30 years. Prior to her 2012 election, she was actively engaged in her community by working on issues affecting the homeless and children, an issue that touched her personally after experiencing homelessness as a child. Her career started as a Volunteer in Service to America with Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services in Alexandria, VA. There she worked to raise money for the agency’s housing programs.
Her relentless effort as a participant with Social Action Linking Together (S.A.L.T) earned her the Monsignor Geno Baroni Award for her work to get full funding for the Homeless Intervention Act. She also founded and co-chaired the Virginia Privileged Communication Task Force, and was appointed twice to the Council on the Status of Women by Governor Tim Kaine.
Elected to the General Assembly in January 2009, Herring made history by becoming the first African-American woman from Northern Virginia ever elected to the more than 400 year old Virginia legislature. While in office, she has served on the Joint Subcommittee Studying Strategies and Models for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment, Governor McDonnell’s internal working group on voting rights restoration, and the Virginia State Crime Commission.
Delegate Herring serves as the Democratic Whip in the Virginia House of Delegates, where in the face of the 2011 TRAP legislation she re-formed the Virginia Legislative Reproductive Health Caucus and served a term as its Chair. In 2012, she joined the Virginia State Crime Commission.
In this “Sista to Watch” profile, we catch up with Herring to talk about her recent bid for a House seat and her plans for the future.
Higher Heights: What inspired you to want to work in the political arena?
Del. Herring: My own experience being homeless as a teenager. An economic downturn affected my family just like many others. One program that had a particular impact on me was a state program in Virginia called STEP (Support to Eliminate Poverty). It allowed me to prove I could go to college at George Mason University.
This experience helped me realize that homelessness could be prevented, and its effects mitigated, with smart economic, housing and educational policies. The effects of living homeless are long-lasting, especially when a child goes through that experience. I am not a one-issue public servant, but this issue inspired my fight to make sure that our government is implementing policies that allow opportunities for everyone. For me this means making sure we have the best public education system possible, that equality is our watchword, and that we are constantly working to make sure that we are promoting a healthy economy through job creation and partnering with business and labor.
Higher Heights: What do you feel is the single most pressing issue facing Black women today and why?
Del. Herring: An issue facing all women, particularly Black women, is representation at the table. There is a drought of women elected officials across the country. The diversity of voices in the chambers of governance only strengthens the policy that comes out in the end. Increasing our representation at all levels of government, from School Board to Congress, is the only way we are going to be able to make sure that issues that are important to us get results that really work for our communities—everything from pay equity to housing policy to education.