Virginia governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced this weekend that Kay Coles James will serve as Virginia’s Secretary of the Commonwealth—Virginia’s equivalent of secretary of state. Until last year, James served as president of the Heritage Foundation, a Trumpist right-wing think tank that has aggressively promoted bogus claims about widespread voter fraud that are used to justify more restrictive voting laws.
James has opposed federal voting rights legislation such as the “For the People Act,” which she denounced as a “federal takeover of elections” and a “threat to election integrity.” She claimed last year that “the left’s real agenda isn’t about helping minority voters; it’s about helping themselves: They believe voter fraud favors their candidates, plain and simple.”
As a leader of former President Donald Trump’s transition team, James had hoped for a job in the administration but claimed that she was blocked by former Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman. Instead, one year after Trump’s election, she was named to lead the Heritage Foundation, where she has been on the board of trustees since 2005, and she ensured that the think tank continued to have an active advisory role to the Trump administration. The Heritage Foundation, along with the right-wing Federalist Society, vetted Trump’s judicial nominees, and Trump’s short-lived sham “commission on election integrity” relied on Heritage Foundation claims about voter fraud.
James has also participated in the Council for National Policy, a secretive and influential network of leaders and activists from overlapping right-wing movements. According to internal videos of CNP meetings that were reported on by the Washington Post, James reflected the “air of desperation in the air” among right-wing leaders in the months before the 2020 presidential election. “Today we’re as close to losing this nation as we ever have been,” James said at one CNP meeting reported by the Post. “And make no mistake about it: This November is not about winning or losing an election. It’s about winning or losing our country.”
One week after the violent Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, James objected to the idea of Congress impeaching Trump over his role in instigating the attack, suggesting that holding Trump accountable would interfere with “healing.” While James claimed there were “legitimate questions” raised about election fraud and “unconstitutional” changes to state voting laws in the 2020 election, she publicly supported former Vice President Mike Pence’s position that he did not have the power to block congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s victory as Trump had demanded.
Under James’ leadership, the Heritage Foundation created and James “spearheaded” an official-sounding “National Coronavirus Recovery Commission” that sought to use the pandemic to promote the think tank’s right-wing policy agenda on multiple fronts.
The Heritage Foundation has also been a major opponent of legal equality for LGBTQ Americans and continued to peddle misinformation about LGBTQ Americans under James’ leadership. James previously served as dean of the school of government at televangelist Pat Robertson’s Regent University, a position now held by former Rep. Michele Bachmann.