Virginia Black Caucus Votes Not to Accept Black GOP Member

The state capitol building in Richmond, Virginia.

The only Black Republican in the Virginia House took to the chamber floor Thursday to criticize the legislative Black caucus for rejecting his application for membership.

A.C. Cordoza's speech prompted a sharp rebuke from Democratic members of the caucus, whose chairman confirmed that the group had voted against accepting the freshman member but questioned his intentions for seeking to join.

Cordoza said when he reached out to the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus about membership, he was given a policy questionnaire about whether he supported a wide range of liberal priorities.

“I asked myself what any of those things mentioned have to do with being Black? The answer is, it has nothing to do with being Black. It’s about being leftist,” he said.

He called the rejection disheartening, but not shocking.

Del. Luke Torian, a caucus member, responded on the floor pointedly: “Sometimes people can speak prematurely and not have all the facts.”

Del. Lamont Bagby, the caucus chair, told reporters later that Cordoza went through the same application process as anyone seeking to join.

“He's not the first individual that did not receive enough votes to be a member. He’s the first one to use it for political gain,” said Bagby, who declined to name the other individual he said had been rejected.

Bagby said he had questions about whether Cordoza's application had been in good faith.

“I don’t know whether he really wanted to be a Black caucus member or not, or if members of his leadership on the other side have encouraged him to be a member so that they can have some intel,” Bagby said.

Cordoza didn't respond to an interview request sent through caucus staff.

A political newcomer, he defeated Democratic incumbent Martha Mugler last year to win election to the 91st House District, which encompasses Hampton, Poquoson and York County.

The Black caucus does not currently have any Republican members, but it has had at least one in the past, current Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears.

Earle-Sears joined the group after becoming the first Black Republican woman elected to the chamber in 2001.

She would later say she had been excluded from some caucus meetings because of her political affiliation and eventually resigned, citing her difference of opinion with other members over the treatment of a circuit court judge.

Earle-Sears, who presides over the state Senate as part of her role, is not currently a member.

On Thursday evening, Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Rich Anderson said in a statement that the party was “profoundly disappointed” in the caucus's “divisive decision.”

“Republicans and Virginians everywhere condemn this position,” he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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