Youngkin Picks Conservative Policy Leader Kay Coles James for Secretary of the Commonwealth


Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced that former Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James is his pick for Secretary of the Commonwealth. James has experience in the administrations of both Bushes as well as Reagan. She also served as Former Governor George Allen’s Secretary of Health.

“Secretary James will be a true asset to the administration. Our shared vision combined with her tremendous experience will pave the way for a new day in Virginia. Kay has an extensive public service background; she has always been a leader and innovator in Virginia government. Kay has worked tirelessly as my transition Co-Chair, advising on personnel, policy, and strategic planning,” Youngkin said in a Friday evening press release.

The Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth fills positions on boards, commissions and councils. It also handles other tasks like clemency petitions, extraditions, and commissioning notaries public. The office is also the keeper of the seals of the Commonwealth, officially authenticate court and government records, and provide an official organizational chart of the Commonwealth’s government, including all agencies, departments, and commissions.

James is currently serving as co-chair of Youngkin’s transition steering committee. James founded and chairs The Gloucester Institute which focuses on training college-aged leaders in the African American community.

“The Gloucester Institute is committed to providing an intellectually safe environment where ideas can be discussed and transformed into practical solutions that produce results,” her bio states.

On May 30, James reacted to George Floyd’s death in a Fox News piece: “The senseless and completely unjustified killing of George Floyd – an unarmed black man – by a white police officer in Minneapolis on Monday should shock the conscience of America. While I understand the frustration and anger, I do not condone the violence spreading across this country in response to Floyd’s horrific killing.”

Tucker Carlson blasted her in a monologue: “Meanwhile, Kay Coles James, who is the president of the Heritage Foundation — that’s the largest conservative think tank in the country. You may have sent them money, hopefully for the last time. Kay Coles James wrote a long scream denouncing America as an irredeemably racist nation: ‘How many times will protests have to occur?’ Got that? ‘Have to occur.’ Like the rest of us caused this by our sinfulness.”

Other conservative writers defended James.

“It would be pretty surprising if the head of a conservative think tank wrote on that America is ‘irredeemably racist’ or that Americans deserve to be victimized by violence. But she didn’t say any of these things,” Ramesh Ponnuru wrote for the National Review.

Other Heritage Op-Eds

In her time at the Heritage Foundation, she wrote numerous op-eds discussing conservative policy, including opposing COVID-19 shutdowns, opposing the H.R. 1 election reform bill, calling Trump’s second impeachment a “political weapon,” and fighting cancel culture.

She’s also highlighted the role of churches, charities, and other community organizations as essential to pandemic response. A year ago, she emphasized the need for participating in that year’s March for Life, although it was virtual.

On January 7, 2021, she responded to the violence at the U.S. Capitol the day before, citing the resilience of democracy thanks to leaders like then-Vice President Mike Pence and the Heritage Foundation.

“As members of Congress gathered to certify the electoral votes of the presidential election, a band of criminals decided to take matters into their own hands. As this horrible act is investigated, it will be determined exactly who they were, and they must be held accountable,” she wrote. “And yet, just hours later, I watched one of the most amazing things happen in the same building where the mob had roamed earlier in the day: I watched the durability of that American democracy.”

Secretary of Transportation

On Friday, Youngkin also announced his selection of W. Sheppard “Shep” Miller III to serve as Secretary of Transportation.

Miller served as KITCO Fiber Optics CEO for 20 years before selling the company to Berkshire Hathaway’s Marmon Aerospace and Defense. The company handled fiber optics installations on Navy ships, according to The Virginian-Pilot. He is a member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board and the Virginia House Ethics Advisory Council. He’s a board of trustees member at two colleges, and is the vice-chairman of the Norfolk Board of TowneBank. He donated $10,000 to Youngkin’s inaugural committee but also gave $17,000 in 2018 to current Governor Ralph Northam’s inaugural committee.

Youngkin said in the press release, “Shep will be an invaluable leader as Secretary of Transportation as we fulfill our promises to all Virginians to invest in roads, highways, and transportation infrastructure in every corner of the Commonwealth, so we can jumpstart job growth and keep Virginians moving.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Kay Coles James” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Martin Falbisoner. CC BY-SA 3.0.




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