State Sen. Janet Howell will retire from the Virginia General Assembly after representing a significant swath of northern Fairfax County for over 30 years.
Rumors that Howell wasn’t planning to pursue another term began circulating during Virginia’s 2021 redistricting process, which paired her with Sen. Jennifer Boysko — a more junior Democrat currently representing the 33rd District — in the newly created 38th Senate District.
Now, at 78 years old, Howell has officially announced that she won’t seek reelection this year, meaning her three-decade tenure in the State Senate will conclude with her current term on Jan. 10, 2024.
In a statement first reported yesterday (Tuesday) by independent journalist Brandon Jarvis and shared today in a newsletter to supporters, Howell said she believes she has accomplished “most” of her legislative goals over her 32 years of service and now hopes to spend more time with her husband, including for travel.
“My focus has always been on education, from preschool through graduate school, and on helping our neighbors in need,” she wrote. “We have made great progress — yet much more must be done.”
State Senator Janet Howell (D) will not be seeking re-election this year. Her statement is below pic.twitter.com/WM2rKTRIO5
— Brandon Jarvis (@Jaaavis) February 28, 2023
Howell first took office in 1992 as senator for District 32, which encompassed Reston, Tysons, Wolf Trap, northern Chantilly and portions of McLean and Arlington County.
Second in seniority only to Sen. Dick Saslaw, who announced retirement plans last week, Howell is the longest-serving woman currently in the State Senate. When Democrats took control of the chamber in 2019, she became one of its most powerful members as the new chair of the influential finance committee, the first woman to hold that position.
According to her office, Howell views her top accomplishments as:
Guiding the budget to significantly increase funding for education and mental health services; reforming family violence laws; passing the first in the nation genetic privacy legislation; receiving national child advocate of the year award from American Academy of Pediatrics for increasing vaccinations.
Congratulations on a great career Janet Howell! I enjoyed my 10 session serving down the hall from you, and being your constituent for most of your 32 year career. pic.twitter.com/ycYASrbTV4
— Marcus Simon (@marcussimon) February 28, 2023
Thank you Sen. Janet Howell for your more than 30 years of service to Fairfax and Virginia. A champion of families, education and health care, and the longest-serving female legislator in Virginia—we will miss you and wish you the best! pic.twitter.com/0xV4wEthjO
— Fairfax Democrats (@FairfaxDems) February 28, 2023
Senator Janet Howell has been an unmatched champion for Pre-K and K-12, is a calming voice of reason in our Caucus when things get heated, a passionate advocate for women's rights, our budget leader & a consummate team player who will be deeply missed by @VASenateDems https://t.co/f2cjBoME8G
— Senator Scott Surovell (@ssurovell) February 28, 2023
Howell joins a slate of at least 16 incumbent state legislators so far opting out of another term, including three others who represent parts of Fairfax County: Saslaw, Reston’s longtime delegate Ken Plum, and McLean delegate Kathleen Murphy.
Though she hasn’t made an official announcement yet, Boysko’s campaign has filed finance reports indicating she will seek election in the new District 38. Her office didn’t return a request for comment by publication time.
On the Republican side, military veteran Matt Lang will attempt to win the seat after unsuccessfully challenging Plum in 2021.
With each party putting forward just one candidate, primaries won’t be needed for this district. The general election on Nov. 7 will have an extensive ballot, with all 140 General Assembly seats, Fairfax County supervisors, the school board, and commonwealth’s attorney up for grabs.
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