Eileen Filler-Corn announces campaign for open House seat in Northern Virginia

The former Virginia House Speaker plans on centering the Democratic primary campaign on her stalwart support for Israel

Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) speaks after being sworn in during opening ceremonies of the 2020 Virginia General Assembly at the Virginia State Capitol on January 8, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia.

Eileen Filler-Corn, the first woman and first Jewish speaker of Virginia’s House of Delegates, is launching a new campaign for a competitive open congressional seat in Northern Virginia, she announced in an exclusive interview with Jewish Insider.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the right time for me to step up,” Filler-Corn, a Democrat, said on Tuesday. “I look at what is going on in Washington, D.C., or I should say what’s not going on. The chaos. The MAGA Republicans. The perception of us in the eyes of the world. How this affects our economy, our allies, just everything. It became clear to me that Congress needs help.”

The 59-year-old state legislator, who will formally declare her candidacy today, is centering her campaign launch around her Jewish faith and unwavering support for Israel in the wake of Hamas’ terrorist attacks.

“My connection to Judaism, my connection to the State of Israel, to the security of Israel, has always been part of who I am,” she told JI. “I am a very proud American Jew. I’m proud of my connection to Israel. I always speak out about my experiences in Israel and the importance of having a strong Israel-U.S. relationship, but also the importance of standing up to terrorism and against Hamas.”

The recent atrocities “have just been devastating,” said Filler-Corn, who has friends and family in Israel and spent a gap year before college living near the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon, which has been targeted by Hamas rockets from Gaza.

Meanwhile, the reactions from some lawmakers who have since downplayed the attacks, she said, have only strengthened her commitment to upholding support for Israel and its “right to defend itself” in the House. “For all these reasons, I am looking forward to running and soon serving in Congress.”

Her focus on Israel is the most high-profile demonstration of how Middle East policy is now shaping several House races across the country. In Pittsburgh, for instance, Bhavini Patel, a new challenger to Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA), is drawing sharp contrasts on Israel, while in Minneapolis, Don Samuels, a former city councilman, is preparing to announce a rematch against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), whose fierce criticism of Israel he plans to highlight during the primary.

But Filler-Corn’s candidacy represents a more crystallized version of that trend, owing to her deep personal commitment to Jewish causes, which she has frequently highlighted as an elected official.

The Democratic lawmaker has long been actively involved in organized Jewish life and currently serves as a board director with the American Jewish Committee. “I’ve always been guided by the concept of tikkun olam and focused on repairing the world,” she explained. “Doing what’s right, helping those most vulnerable, rooting out evil and discrimination.”

“That goes for all people. We have seen, however, that there has been a stark increase in antisemitic activity over the years, and it’s a concern again right now,” said Filler-Corn, who faced anti-Jewish harassment during her speakership. “There are literally people in federal prison for attempting to kill me when I was speaker, as a Jew.”

Filler-Corn is the first Democrat to declare intention to run for the seat now held by Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), who said last month that she would not seek a fourth term after being diagnosed with a rare and incurable neurological disorder. Filler-Corn, who called Wexton a “good friend” and “wonderful legislator,” said that she was “devastated” for the 55-year-old congresswoman. “It’s just horrific.”

Filler-Corn is a prodigious fundraiser and well-known to voters in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, centered in the Northern Virginia suburb of Loudoun County. Filler-Corn has represented a state legislative district in Fairfax County during her time in the state legislature.

Until recently, Filler-Corn, who announced last March that she would not seek reelection to the state legislature, had been weighing a bid for governor in the 2025 election. But the veteran Democrat, who was narrowly ousted as House minority leader after her party lost control of the chamber last cycle, said her thinking had changed amid what she viewed as increasing dysfunction in Washington — and a firm belief that she could advance legislation by working across the aisle. “I’m confident I’ve got the record of accomplishment,” she said. 

As the conflict in Israel has unfolded in recent days, Filler-Corn indicated that she is now even more motivated to seek federal office — a perch that will allow her to take a direct role in shaping foreign policy. “Do I think it will continue to resonate and continue to be an issue?” she said of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. “I absolutely do.”

The Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, during which more than 1,400 Israelis were murdered, “is a moment in time for all of us, and things are never going to be the same again,” Filler-Corn vowed. “I think everybody is watching and listening and nervous and anxious about what this means.”

Filler-Corn said there are “several different steps” she would “like to see” lawmakers take, including continued demands that Hamas release the hostages it is holding in Gaza. “I think all members of Congress should be speaking out about that.”

While she voiced appreciation for President Joe Biden’s strong solidarity with Israel, Filler-Corn said she has watched with dismay as a handful of left-wing House members have equivocated over the attacks or renewed calls for conditioning military aid to Israel, among other things.

“For all of us who are just reeling in pain from this, I think the silence has been deafening,” she said. “Hamas is a terrorist organization whose charter seeks the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people,” she added. “That every member of Congress has not openly come out against terrorism and against the terrorist attack against Israel and the Jewish people is obviously disturbing and needs to be called out.”

Filler-Corn dismissed calls for de-escalation amid Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza, accusing Hamas of using “innocent civilians” as “human shields,” which she described as “horrifying” to watch. “I think everyone wishes that there would be less violence and that people would be able to be safe and free,” she told JI. “But we have to recognize the reality, and taking into consideration the proximity and the size, Hamas is a terrorist organization that needs to be stopped.”

“It’s really hard, I think, for people who haven’t been there to understand,” said Filler-Corn, who recalled seeing Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system “in action” during a visit to the Jewish state just a couple of months ago. “When that works, there are also Palestinians who work in Israel who are protected. It’s just essential to continue with unconditional support for Israel.”

As a state legislator, Filler-Corn worked to pass resolutions condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and commemorating Israel’s 65th anniversary.

In the interview with JI on Tuesday, she touted her record on voting rights, gun violence prevention and supporting abortion access — all issues she attributed to the Jewish values she hopes will now guide her to the House in next year’s election.

“I’m proud of who I am,” Filler-Corn said. “I’m proud of my support for Israel and I’m proud of my Jewish upbringing and identity. I’m looking forward to bringing all of this to my campaign and then to Congress.”

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.