Former Trump admin official among newly elected McLean Community Center board members

From left to right: Kathleen Cooney-Porter, Gloria Marrero Chambers and Katie Gorka have been elected to the McLean Community Center’s governing board (courtesy MCC)

The McLean Community Center (MCC) has a new governing board after a relatively quiet election cycle.

A total of 1,473 McLean residents voted in the race, which saw Kathleen Cooney-Porter, Katie Gorka and Gloria Marrero Chambers emerge victorious from a slate of five adult candidates.

The preliminary vote totals, tallied by the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area, are as follows:

  • Kathleen Cooney-Porter: 1,047 votes
  • Gloria Marrero Chambers: 729 votes
  • Katie Gorka: 629 votes
  • Matt Colsia: 582 votes
  • Lincom Thillaichidambaram: 500 votes
  • Write-ins: 18 votes

The top vote getter, Cooney-Porter has lived in McLean since 1998 and has worked in intellectual property law for nearly 30 years, including as a senior trademark policy advisor for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

“I believe my experience will advance the programs of MCC and increase representation of our diverse community,” she said in a candidate statement. “I enjoy cooking, reading, tennis, walking and spending time with family and friends and our beloved French bulldog.”

In her candidate statement, Chambers highlighted her volunteer work, including serving as board vice president for The Langley School. A McLean resident since 2013, she’s also a past president of the Greater McLean Republican Women’s Club and was appointed in April to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Citizens’ Advisory Council on Furnishing and Interpreting the Executive Mansion.

“As a member of the MCC Board, I will ensure that programs and events engage every member of our community,” Chambers said in her statement. “I will be a responsible steward of your tax dollars, and I will commit my decades of leadership and board experience to give back to our community.”

A second campaign turned out to be the charm for Gorka, who also sought a MCC governing board seat last year.

A resident of McLean since 2008, Gorka served in Donald Trump’s administration as a senior advisor in the Department of Homeland Security and press secretary for Customs and Border Patrol. She also had stints as a columnist for the right-wing media outlet Breitbart and as a research fellow for the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank.

“My priority is to support the McLean Community Center, which is a treasured community resource; to ensure that it provides programming of interest to all members of the community; and to ensure fiscal responsibility,” Gorka told FFXnow by email. “Organizations that receive taxpayer dollars, as the Community Center does, should use resources responsibly and transparently.”

Gorka didn’t respond to a follow-up asking for her stance on MCC’s stated commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, concepts she has criticized as “Marxist-inspired ideology.” During her tenure in the Trump administration, she reportedly pushed anti-Muslim policies and cut grants to address right-wing extremism.

Cooney-Porter and Chambers didn’t return FFXnow’s inquiries about their priorities as new MCC board members.

New youth members elected

The 11-member board will also get two new teen members in Eleanor Ague, a junior representing the McLean High School area, and Sophia Bruno, also a junior who will represent the Langley High School area.

With 111 votes, Sophia bested a crowded field of six candidates — including incumbent Langley High representative Charlotte Loving — while Eleanor got 103 votes in a four-way race. A total of 210 youth voters participated in the election.

With most voters casting ballots absentee rather than on McLean Day this past Saturday (May 20), turnout dipped from last year’s governing board election, which drew over 2,000 voters in an unusually tumultuous contest with nine adults vying for three seats.

The tension was driven in part by some vocal critics of a “Drag Storybook Hour” that MCC co-sponsored in June 2021 with Dolley Madison Library. Since then, drag events aimed at kids and families have become a frequent target of conservative politicians and anti-LGBTQ extremists across the country.

The all-volunteer governing board helps set policies and oversees programming, facilities and the budget for the community center, which is located at 1234 Ingleside Avenue and is funded by a special tax district.

The 2023 results were certified by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (May 23). The new board members will be sworn in when their first meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7.