Charniele Herring was elected to the General Assembly in 2009 and chosen as Majority Leader of the House of Delegates in 2020. She was the first woman and the first African American to serve as majority leader of the House of Delegates and as Chair of Courts of Justice. Delegate Herring also previously served as Chair of the Virginia State Crime Commission and on the Committee on District Courts. She currently serves as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
Born into a military family, Charniele moved often as a child before landing permanently in Northern Virginia. She and her mother became homeless while Charniele was a teenager, and stayed in a shelter while attending West Springfield High School during the day and her mother searched for work. The experience of being homeless shaped Charniele’s character and taught her the values of hard work, resilience and looking out for those people society often overlooks.
Thanks to the STEP Program that allows students from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to prove they are capable of college level work, Charniele was able to attend George Mason University, where she earned a degree in Economics. She later earned a JD from Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law. After law school, Charniele worked at the oldest African-American owned firm in Greater Washington before opening up her own firm in Northern Virginia. She currently works as General Counsel to Admin & Logistics, Inc, a government contracting firm.
Building upon a rich history of community service, Charniele has brought her strong leadership and ability to work in a bipartisan manner to the General Assembly. She patroned legislation to give small businesses a competitive advantage in the state’s procurement process and is a longstanding champion for education, receiving numerous awards from the Virginia Education Association. Herring also sponsored a bill establishing the first-ever sexual and domestic violence prevention fund in Virginia, for which she was honored with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance’s HOPE Award.
Criminal Justice Champion
Charniele has championed sweeping criminal justice reforms focused on ensuring equity and a safer, more just Commonwealth for all Virginians. She successfully passed the Virginia Clean Slate Act, removing barriers and addressing systemic inequities to provide a clean slate for Virginians who have paid their debt to society or had charges deferred or dismissed; and Writ of Actual Innocence legislation that ensures a fair and expedient process for a person who has been wrongly convicted and is serving time in prison. In 2021 Leader Herring patroned legislation legalizing marijuana in the Commonwealth, providing equitable social and economic opportunity for individuals and communities disproportionately impacted by the failed war on drugs, and ensuring revenues are reinvested in communities harmed by prohibition and over-policing. Herring was also the Chief Co-Patron of legislation that ended the Death Penalty in Virginia, making the Commonwealth the first southern state to end the practice.
National leader in the fight to protect women’s health care
Herring is recognized as a national leader in the fight to protect women’s health care. When she got to Richmond there was no organized caucus for the issue of women’s health care. So Charniele founded the Virginia Legislative Reproductive Health Caucus to educate legislators about women’s health care, birth control, and attacks on a woman’s right to choose. When Governor Bob McDonnell introduced his bill to require women seeking an abortion undergo a forced ultrasound, Charniele fought back in an effort described as “heroic” by the National Organization for Women. And in 2020 she sponsored The Reproductive Health Protection Act, repealing medically-unnecessary restrictions on women’s healthcare in Virginia.
Charniele is a strong defender of Virginia’s environment and natural resources. She supports alternative energy and opposes offshore drilling for oil. The Virginia League of Conservation Voters recognized Charniele’s stewardship with the Legislative Hero Award and the Sierra Club recognized her as an Environmental Leader in 2017 for her commitment to protecting the environment. In 2020, Leader Herring sponsored legislation establishing the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice and the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act which brought Virginia into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, making it the first Southern state to do so.
Commitment to Community
Charniele has lived in Northern Virginia area for over 30 years, most of them in the West End of Alexandria where she has a rich history of community involvement. She is a past Chair of the West End Business Association and Alexandria Commission for Women. Charniele currently serves on the Board of the Parent Teacher Leadership Institute of Alexandria, as a Trustee of Hopkins House—advocating for strong pre-k education, and is a member of The LINKS Incorporated.