January 13 is just around the corner, and when Richmond’s House of Delegates swears in its newest members, it will be welcoming a fresh face from Falls Church: 38th District Delegate-elect Kaye Kory.
Kory, a Democrat, challenged Democratic Del. Bob Hull in last year’s primary, unseating the 17-year
incumbent and going on to win the November election against two-time GOP candidate Danny Smith with 60 percent of the votes in the 38th district.
Kory leaves behind a long record of service to Fairfax County, where she has lived for over 30 years, most recently in her role as Mason District school board representative, a position she’s held since a 1999 special election.
She will resign her school board seat as of Jan. 12, Kory said.
With years of PTA activism behind her at Falls Church area schools, she is “ready to work very hard to make sure my constituents know what is going on in Richmond,” Kory said in an exclusive interview with the News-Press.
Asked what motivated her campaign, Kory said she believes “all too often the role of state government in local affairs is overlooked,” and that, instead, voters “tend to concentrate on federal- and county-level government.”
Kory said she intends to create “an open environment” in Richmond and at her local office – currently her home – “to allow constituents personal access to what being discussed in Richmond.”
Although a newcomer to Richmond, Kory is no stranger to state-level politics, having been the legislative liaison several times during her school board tenure.
Kory said, however, she “intends to listen and learn” from senior lawmakers and added she “is looking forward to working with fellow freshman in the House.”
“I hope to reach across the aisle and do some work moving the education agenda forward in Richmond, as well,” she continued, noting she has recently met her Republican freshman counterparts from Northern Virginia, Barbara Comstock and Jim LeMunyon.
Comstock ousted 34th district Del. Margaret Vanderhye, a Democrat, in November.
Despite facing yet another GOP-controlled House this session, Kory said she “believes there are ways I can can make a difference in Richmond,” stating she would like to serve on the education committee and has already expressed interest in the position to the Speaker of the House, who makes all the committee appointments.
“The state doesn’t play as determinative a role in Fairfax County’s school budget as it does elsewhere, but I will fight for more flexibility on the local level so the school systems can direct necessary budget cuts as they see fit,” Kory said.
Her underlying philosophy as a state delegate, she added, is “to be visible in my constituents’ community, to encourage their participation in government and bring as much transparency and accessibility to government as possible.”
Kory said her top priority aside from safeguarding K-12 education is advocating tougher environmental and storm water protection.
In preparation for her first general session, which lasts from Jan. 13 – March 18, Kory said she has received plenty of help from fellow lawmakers and legislative aides.
“Some senior delegates in Richmond told me not to worry, that it takes about 10 years to get the hang of things,” Kory joked.
Virginia’s 53rd district delegate, Jim Scott, has served as her immediate, official mentor, Kory said, noting that she has also received advice from 44th district Del. Kristen Amundson.
“Kris is a particular resource for me,” Kory said, “We worked together on the school board when I first started and Kris represented Mount Vernon district and was serving as the chair at the time.”
Susan Southworth, Kory’s personal legislative assistant, along with help from Diane Waltrip, a senior staff member who has helped Kory in her transition to Richmond, have been key assets, she said.
Kory has also attended several workshops in Richmond for freshman delegates.
Another resource for Kory will be learning the rules of order used in Richmond. “They don’t use Robert’s Rules of Orders,” she said. “Instead, I received a copy of Thomas Jefferson’s rule book, which dates to 1812, I believe.”
After Kory is sworn into office on Jan. 13, she will be attending the inauguration of Virginia’s governor-elect, Republican Bob McDonnell.