From complete Richmond schools to the GOP establishment: a look at Va.’s new secretary of the commonwealth 


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(Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)


Kay Coles James, Gov.-elect glenn Youngkin’s brand-new secretary the the commonwealth, is a staunch conservative with an unconventional origin story in Virginia. 

James to be born in Portsmouth, flourished up in public real estate with a family she has described as “dysfunctional” and was at some point raised by she aunt and uncle.

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As a saturday grader, she was amongst the very first Black student to incorporate Richmond’s Chandler small High college in 1961. She later ended up being the an initial woman and also the an initial African American to command a significant conservative think-tank in D.C., The heritage Foundation. 

After graduating native the historically black Hampton University, she walk on to occupational for conservative groups, Republican presidential administrations and was the chef architect the a welfare reform overhaul for Republican Virginia Gov. George Allen. She likewise cut Virginia state employee staff levels as component of a vast down-sizing effort.

For her next stint in Virginia government, James, 72, will serve together Youngkin’s secretary that the commonwealth. The secretary that the commonwealth helps the branch fill appointments on boards and also commissions and processes and also reviews pardon petitions for “executive clemency,” amongst other duties.

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Kay Cole James, former president the the conservative legacy Foundation, is Gov.-elect glen Youngkin’s nominee to it is in the next secretary the the commonwealth. (Youngkin transition Team)

“Our common vision merged with her tremendous experience will pave the means for a new day in Virginia. Kay has an extensive public organization background; she has always been a leader and also innovator in Virginia government,” Youngkin stated in a explain Jan. 7 announcing the appointment. “Together we will adjust the trajectory the the republic as we provide on the job One promises.”

There are currently more than 100 appointment openings top top Virginia boards and commissions the will fall under her purview– varying from the Maternal Mortality testimonial Team, institution Readiness Committee, Clean power Advisory Board, Virginia Lottery Board and also education boards. 

Youngkin’s selection of James drops in line through his project effort to shot to very nice one to all Republicans and should be a “big plus” to assist him keep credibility through conservatives, follow to author and politics professor note Rozell. Rozell is dean the the institution of policy and government in ~ George Mason University. 

“Kay Coles James has actually impressive party establishment credentials because that sure, and also yet she also is totally acceptable come the leading Trump-wing the the Republican Party, particularly the evangelical conservatives. That is the type of human Youngkin requirements to assist keep the trump card party base and also the more traditional Republican teams all in line through his agenda,” Rozell said. “She can be a sort of bridge to the different party factions.” 

Youngkin’s team said James to be not obtainable for an interview. 

James has worked for every Republican president of her adulthood other than Trump. She served in the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush managements and led the Office the Personnel monitoring under president George W. Bush. As head the OPM, she assisted the Bush management start the brand-new Department of Homeland defense after the assaults of September 11, 2001. 

She has actually tried come walk the line v Trump supporters. She offered on Trump’s transition team and also publicly stated that she had wanted a place in his administration but stated she was clogged by truth TV star and former White home aide Omarosa Manigault Newman. 

She stepped in as president the the Heritage structure in 2018, after ~ the plank ousted former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, a leader in the Tea Party movement.

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Prior to functioning for Allen in 1994, James to be on the plank of the conservative evangelical group focus on the family members and senior vice president of family members Research Council, a conservative Christian best group and lobbying organization. 

an alarming selection for progressives

James’s job-related with Heritage and other conservative teams is a concern for teams like Equality Virginia, which advocates for LGBTQ+ Virginians. 

“We room alarmed the Governor-elect Youngkin has named Kay Coles James as the secretary of the commonwealth,” claimed Vee Lamneck, executive, management director of Equality Virginia.

One red flag because that the group: while at Heritage, James opposed the Equality Act, an executive order and legislative proposal that would provide civil legal rights protections to LGBTQ+ people. James tweeted in 2019 the the Equality act is “anything yet equality,” speak it would certainly shut under businesses and “open every female bathroom and sports team to biological males.” 

“This is unacceptable. Youngkin claims that he wants to ‘make Virginia the best place come live, work, and also raise a family,’ and also that must encompass LGBTQ+ Virginians and their families,” said Lamneck. 

Under James’ leadership, Heritage likewise opposed president Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, ultimately filing a lawsuit against it. Critical week, Youngkin announced his own plans to challenge the mandate, though it was partly struck under by the U.S. Can be fried Court on Thursday. Google opted to pull the plug ~ above its own artificial intelligence principles council in 2019 after ~ an employee backlash as soon as the firm asked James to offer on the body. The “Googlers” complained about James’ see on gender and immigration.