Kay Coles James, Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin’s new secretary of the commonwealth, is a staunch conservative with an unconventional origin story in Virginia.
James was born in Portsmouth, grew up in public housing with a household she has described as “dysfunctional” and was finally raised by her aunt and uncle.
As a seventh grader, she was among the many first Black college students to combine Richmond’s Chandler Junior Excessive College in 1961. She later grew to become the primary lady and the primary African American to guide a distinguished conservative think-tank in D.C., The Heritage Basis.
After graduating from the traditionally Black Hampton College, she went on to work for conservative teams, Republican presidential administrations and was the chief architect of a welfare reform overhaul for Republican Virginia Gov. George Allen. She additionally reduce Virginia state worker employees ranges as a part of a broad down-sizing effort.
For her subsequent stint in Virginia authorities, James, 72, will function Youngkin’s secretary of the commonwealth. The secretary of the commonwealth helps the governor fill appointments on boards and commissions and processes and critiques pardon petitions for “government clemency,” amongst different duties.
“Our shared imaginative and prescient mixed together with her great expertise will pave the best way for a brand new day in Virginia. Kay has an intensive public service background; she has at all times been a frontrunner and innovator in Virginia authorities,” Youngkin stated in an announcement Jan. 7 asserting the appointment. “Collectively we’ll change the trajectory of the commonwealth as we ship on the Day One guarantees.”
There are at the moment greater than 100 appointment openings on Virginia boards and commissions that may fall underneath her purview– starting from the Maternal Mortality Evaluate Workforce, College Readiness Committee, Clear Vitality Advisory Board, Virginia Lottery Board and schooling boards.
Youngkin’s choice of James falls according to his marketing campaign effort to attempt to attraction to all Republicans and ought to be a “massive plus” to assist him preserve credibility with conservatives, in line with creator and politics professor Mark Rozell. Rozell is dean of the varsity of coverage and authorities at George Mason College.
“Kay Coles James has spectacular social gathering institution credentials for certain, and but she additionally is totally acceptable to the dominant Trump-wing of the Republican Celebration, particularly the evangelical conservatives. That’s the type of individual Youngkin wants to assist maintain the Trump social gathering base and the extra conventional Republican teams all according to his agenda,” Rozell stated. “She generally is a type of bridge to the differing social gathering factions.”
Youngkin’s workforce stated James was not accessible for an interview.
James has labored for each Republican president of her maturity besides Trump. She served within the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations and led the Workplace of Personnel Administration underneath President George W. Bush. As head of OPM, she helped the Bush administration begin the brand new Division of Homeland Safety after the assaults of September 11, 2001.
She has tried to stroll the road with Trump supporters. She served on Trump’s transition workforce and publicly said that she had needed a place in his administration however stated she was blocked by actuality TV star and former White Home aide Omarosa Manigault Newman.
She stepped in as president of the Heritage Basis in 2018, after the board ousted former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, a frontrunner within the Tea Celebration motion.
Previous to working for Allen in 1994, James was on the board of the conservative evangelical group Deal with the Household and senior vp of Household Analysis Council, a conservative Christian proper group and lobbying group.
An alarming choice for progressives
James’s work with Heritage and different conservative teams is a priority for teams like Equality Virginia, which advocates for LGBTQ+ Virginians.
“We’re alarmed that Governor-elect Youngkin has named Kay Coles James because the secretary of the commonwealth,” stated Vee Lamneck, government director of Equality Virginia.
One purple flag for the group: whereas at Heritage, James opposed the Equality Act, an government order and legislative proposal that will give civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ folks. James tweeted in 2019 that the Equality Act is “something however equality,” saying it will shut down companies and “open each feminine toilet and sports activities workforce to organic males.”
“That is unacceptable. Youngkin claims that he needs to ‘make Virginia the most effective place to stay, work, and lift a household,’ and that should embody LGBTQ+ Virginians and their households,” stated Lamneck.
Beneath James’ management, Heritage additionally opposed President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, finally submitting a lawsuit in opposition to it. Final week, Youngkin introduced his personal plans to problem the mandate, although it was partially struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court docket on Thursday. Google opted to tug the plug by itself synthetic intelligence ethics council in 2019 after an worker backlash when the corporate requested James to serve on the physique. The “Googlers” complained about James’ views on gender and immigration.