(Updated at 9:50 a.m. on 5/19/2023) A slate of four candidates running to represent Reston in the House of Delegates aired their ideas on housing affordability, mental health issues and post-pandemic recovery at a candidate forum last night (Wednesday).
Organized by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce and the nonprofit Cornerstones, the forum at the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation (1441 Wiehle Avenue) challenged the District 7 candidates with questions from a panel, followed by meet-and-greet time with the audience.
The race is among the most crowded in years, as longtime delegate Ken Plum retires.
The most fundamental differences between the four Democratic candidates arose in a question about the one piece of legislation they would propose if elected to office.
Paul Berry — a teacher who frequently referenced his experience as a board appointee in former governor Ralph Northam’s office — said he would introduce an optional firearms buyback program. The program wouldn’t be mandatory in order to get Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s signature.
(Correction: This article previously said Paul Berry is an attorney who worked in Northam’s office. He works as a teacher and in data science, and his role in Northam’s office was as an appointee to advisory boards, according to his campaign website. Fellow candidate Karen Keys-Gamarra is an attorney.)
Karen Keys-Gamarra, an at-large member of the Fairfax County School Board, said she would go a step further by advocating for an assault weapons ban. Shyamali Roy Hauth, an Air Force veteran who previously worked in the office of Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, said she would get rid of a disability waiver waitlist that has existed for years.
Mary Barthelson, a systems engineer at SAIC who squared off against Plum in the 2021 Democratic primary, said she hopes to study entry barriers to Virginia’s workforce.
All candidates said they would oppose state legislation to override local zoning ordinances in order to permit more dense housing, a move championed by one-time 86th District delegate Ibraheem Samirah. Arlington recently passed legislation that effectively ended single-family-only zoning in the county.
But the proposed solutions to combat housing affordability issues varied.
Barthelson said increasing the capital gains tax and incentivizing developers to include more affordable housing was her priority, along with using commercial buildings for transitional housing.
“I think I’d look at a multifaceted approach,” she said.
Berry prefaced his answer by stating that high eviction rates are particularly alarming.
“Before we start taking about supply in the future, I want to keep people in their homes right now,” he said.
He added that there may be opportunities to transform paved and underutilized surface areas into affordable housing.
“The value has to be there for a developer,” Berry said.
Hauth said she hopes to provide local boards of supervisors with the tools they need to boost their affordable housing stock. Read More
Early voting for the 2023 Democratic primary begins today (Friday) in Fairfax County with a number of notable races on the ballot.
Three locations in the county will open this morning for early in-person voting on weekdays through June 17.
Those include the Fairfax County Government Center from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. as well as the Mount Vernon Government Center and North County Governmental Center, both open from 1-7 p.m.
Voting will also be available on two Saturdays — June 10 and 17 — from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at all three locations.
Starting June 10, 12 government centers and libraries will be open for in-person voting from 1-7 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on those two Saturdays (June 10 and 17) as well:
- Burke Centre Library (5935 Freds Oak Road)
- Centreville Regional Library (14200 St. Germain Drive)
- Franconia Governmental Center (6121 Franconia Road)
- Great Falls Library (9830 Georgetown Pike)
- Herndon-Fortnightly Library (768 Center Street)
- Lorton Community Center (9520 Richmond Highway)
- Mason Governmental Center (6507 Columbia Pike)
- McLean Governmental Center (1437 Balls Hill Road)
- Providence Community Center (3001 Vaden Drive)
- Sully Governmental Center (4900 Stonecroft Blvd)
- Thomas Jefferson Library (7415 Arlington Blvd)
- Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library (7584 Leesburg Pike)
- West Springfield Governmental Center (6140 Rolling Road)
There are also ballot dropboxes at the Fairfax County Governmental Center for those who requested an absentee ballot by mail. One box is inside the complex, and one is outside near the handicapped parking spaces.
Curbside voting will be available for residents who are 65 and older or have a physical disability.
Perhaps the most hotly contested race on the primary ballot is for Fairfax County commonwealth’s attorney, with incumbent Steve Descano facing a challenge from prosecutor-turned-defense attorney Ed Nuttall.
In a recent radio talk, Descano accused Nuttall of associating with “MAGA, antisemitic conspiracy theorists,” while Nuttall retorted by calling Descano a “liar” and “incompetent.”
While both are running as Democrats, they have shared differing positions, methods, and visions for the office. No Republican challenger for the seat has emerged.
The Democratic nomination for county sheriff is also up for grabs between incumbent Stacey Kincaid and Herndon High School football coach (and former D.C. police officer) Kelvin Garcia. Kincaid was the county’s first female sheriff when she took office a decade ago. Garcia is positioning himself as a more progressive option.
Elsewhere in local races, all Board of Supervisors seats are up for election in November, but only two incumbents are on the primary ballot: Chairman Jeff McKay, who has been challenged by retired CIA staffer Lisa Downing, and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, who is facing off with Maritza Zermeño. Read More
The primary race for Virginia’s 37th Senate District pits an “old-fashioned” incumbent against a “progressive” who’s relatively new in Virginia politics.
Facing off for the Democratic nomination are longtime state Sen. Chap Petersen and Fairfax Young Democrats vice president Saddam Azlan Salim. Last week, a second challenger, Erika Yalowitz, dropped out to support Salim.
On the surface, the race is a classic match-up between a veteran lawmaker and a fresh face, but the candidates also have considerable political and policy differences, as evidenced in a recent debate that touched on Virginia as a “right to work” state, healthcare access and reproductive rights for women, and gun laws.
In an interview with FFXnow, Salim said he decided to run because he feels Petersen no longer reflects the political and population demographics in the 37th District, which includes Vienna, Tysons, Merrifield, and the cities of Falls Church and Fairfax.
“When I started talking to community leaders…about what they were looking for in a future senator, they wanted somebody who’s progressive,” Salim told FFXnow, “…when it comes to affordable housing, when it comes to the environment, when it comes to reproductive rights…and they’re not getting that from their current senator.”
Petersen told FFXnow he doesn’t “get caught up in ideology” and instead focuses on improving people’s lives in the community, calling himself “old-fashioned.”
He acknowledges the demographics in the district he currently represents and the new one created by redistricting have changed, becoming more diverse and “more oriented toward an immigrant population.” However, he says residents have the same basic concerns.
“A lot of the sort of older population that had worked at the Department of Defense, worked at the Pentagon has retired or moved. So, that core Republican constituency is diminished,” Petersen said. “I don’t think that necessarily changes the issues, per se. When I go door to door, people talk about property taxes. People talk about frustrations with the school system. [It] doesn’t change the state and local issues.”
One of those issues regionally is affordable housing, both candidates agreed. Salim said an insufficient supply has prevented essential county workers from living in the place they serve.
“Teachers can’t afford to live in this area. Richmond has the ability to work together with localities, to find workforce housing that works for workers that are in the county,” Salim said, charging Petersen with not being vocal enough about the need “to ensure that teachers stay in the area.”
Building new developments and housing around public transportation would help teachers and other workers more easily get where they need to go without relying on a car, Salim noted.
Petersen agrees about the need for more dense and vertical housing around public transportation hubs, but cautions that there isn’t “one great solution.” Read More
Community organizer Erika Yalowitz has suspended her campaign for the Virginia State Senate’s 37th District.
One of three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination, Yalowitz announced today (Thursday) that she is withdrawing from the race and will instead endorse her opponent, Saddam Azlan Salim, a financial consultant and vice president of the Fairfax Young Democrats.
After launching her campaign in February, Yalowitz says she has decided to work with Salim in a bid to defeat incumbent Chap Petersen, who has represented voters in the now-defunct 34th District since 2008.
“If we want to make progress on the issues we care about, such as gun safety, reproductive justice or housing affordability, we need to elect a different senator,” Yalowitz said in a statement. “That is why I am making the decision to suspend my campaign and endorse Saddam Salim in this race. Saddam is a good candidate that I know supports a lot of the same issues that I do.”
Yalowitz’s campaign has stopped accepting donations and will use its remaining funds to cover remaining expenses, such as staff compensation, she said in a message to supporters. She plans to give any funds leftover after that to Salim’s campaign.
Created by Virginia’s redistricting process in 2021, the new 37th Senate District incorporates Tysons, Merrifield and Falls Church City into the former 34th District’s boundaries, which included Vienna and Fairfax City.
An Arlington Circuit Court officer, Yalowitz lives in Tysons and has held leadership roles in several community organizations, including the Providence District Council, Tysons Community Alliance, and the Fairfax Federation. She also advocated for preserving Oakton’s Blake Lane Park when it was being eyed as a potential school site.
She previously ran for the Providence District seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2019.
Both Yalowitz and Salim have criticized Petersen for breaking with Democrats on issues like an assault weapons ban and marijuana legalization.
In a statement released by his campaign, Salim thanked his former opponent for her support:
I want to thank Erika Yalowitz for bringing a progressive voice into this campaign and advocating for important issues like reproductive rights, the fentanyl crisis, gun violence prevention and public education. I also want to thank her for her endorsement – I appreciate it deeply and I look forward to working with her on the campaign trail to give the people of the 37th District a new choice for the first time in sixteen years. Erika will have a great future in the Democratic Party and I look forward to supporting her wholeheartedly in her next endeavors.
Petersen said that he spoke Yalowitz earlier today and wishes her well, but her decision won’t affect his campaign for reelection.
“We’ll continue forward with a positive message focused on our constituents,” he told FFXnow.
Petersen has raised the most money of the 37th District candidates so far, as of Monday (April 17), when the campaign finance reports for the first three months of the year were due.
The Democratic primary will be held on June 20, with this year’s general election coming on Nov. 7. The lone Republican candidate is Ken Reid, a former Loudoun County supervisor.
Del. Kaye Kory, who represents Annandale and Lake Barcroft, will not run for reelection this year.
The six-term lawmaker in the Virginia House of Delegates made the announcement on social media this morning (Monday). She said it was a “difficult decision” and that her husband’s health challenges played a major role in deciding not to run again.
“My husband, Ross, who’s been the best partner and my biggest fan, is facing some health challenges to which I want to devote my full attention,” Kory wrote. “I am grateful to him and to my children for making our home a team environment that empowered me to pursue public office…Now it’s my turn — I want to be there for my family.”
My husband, Ross, who’s been the best partner and my biggest fan, is facing some health challenges to which I want to devote my full attention. I am grateful to him and to my children for making our home a team environment that empowered me to pursue public office.
— Del. Kaye Kory (@KayeKory) April 3, 2023
Another possible contributing factor is redistricting pairing Kory with colleague Del. Marcus Simon in House District 13, meaning the two long-time incumbents would have had to face each other in the June Democratic primary.
Simon announced his intent to run for election in the district back in December, while Kory previously told FFXnow she hadn’t made a decision yet.
The 75-year-old Kory has served in the House of Delegates since 2010, representing the 38th District. Prior to that, she was a Fairfax County School Board member representing the Mason District for about a decade.
Kory’s decision continues the loss of experienced legislators from the Virginia General Assembly. Five Fairfax County lawmakers have now said in recent months that they will not be running for office again this year.
That includes Del. Ken Plum, Sen. Dick Saslaw, Sen. Janet Howell, and former House speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. While this does allow new candidates to emerge, the trend has concerned some, since it means that a deep sense of institutional knowledge will be departing along with the long-time officials.
The departures may also signal a shift in power for the Democratic Party away from Northern Virginia, where much of its senior leadership has been located in recent years.
While age certainly has played a part, 2021’s redistricting also been a significant factor in these announcements, pairing a number of lawmakers with colleagues in re-drawn districts.
In her Twitter thread, Kory said her proudest accomplishments include helping to rescue beagles from the Envigo research facility, passing legislation that stops cosmetic testing on dogs in Virginia, and introducing a bill that provided incarcerated women free access to menstrual supplies.
She also mentioned hosting an art show highlighting the work of artists with developmental disabilities, organizing food drives for non-profit Feed Mores, and founding the Women’s Health Care Caucus a decade ago.
As it stands now, Del. Marcus Simon is the only Democratic candidate on the ballot to represent House District 13. However, as Kory noted, a portion of her constituents are now part of District 14, which is currently represented by Del. Vivian Watts. She has announced her intent to run again this year.
“Delegate Watts is the hardest-working legislator in the House of Delegates, and I am fortunate that the vast majority of my current district’s constituents will soon be represented by Delegate Watts in District 14,” Kory wrote.
The lawmaker did not mention Del. Simon in her announcement.
Photo via Kaye Kory/Facebook
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.
In the wake of her retirement news, colleagues and the Fairfax County Democratic Committee lauded Howell as a “champion” for education, women’s rights and health care. Read More
Longtime Virginia lawmaker Dick Saslaw, who’s represented parts of Fairfax County for nearly five decades, is retiring.
The 83-year-old Saslaw (D-35) made the announcement on the State Senate floor on this afternoon that he won’t be running for reelection in November.
“It has been the highest honor to serve the people of the 35th District for more than four decades in the Virginia State Senate,” Saslaw said in a statement. “…We’ve still got a ways to go, but I am proud to have played a role in the vast improvement we’ve seen in how marginalized communitiesare treated in the Commonwealth.”
— Senator Dick Saslaw (@DickSaslaw) February 23, 2023
Saslaw has served in the State Senate since 1980, representing the 35th District. That covers a chunk of Fairfax County, including parts of Annandale, Springfield, Falls Church, Lincolnia, Bailey’s Crossroads, and West Falls Church. He was first elected to public office in 1976 as a Virginia Delegate in District 19.
Saslaw is currently the Senate Majority Leader and the longest-serving member in the Senate by more than a decade.
Known throughout his career for being direct and having a colorful personality, Saslaw’s announcement on the Senate floor was true to form.
“Fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly. And Saslaw’s gotta move on. Thank you all,” he said, according to Virginia Mercury reporter Graham Moomaw.
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw making his retirement official right now on the Senate floor.
He says his "sell by date" is Jan. 10, 2024.
"By then I will have been in the General Assembly 48 years, including 44 in the Senate."
— Graham Moomaw (@gmoomaw) February 23, 2023
Saslaw will serve out his final term, which will end on Jan. 10, 2024.
The legislator’s retirement doesn’t come as a shock, considering his longevity and the long-held rumors, but it does clear up some election intrigue in regard to the recently redrawn 35th District.
2021’s redistricting process placed both Saslaw and fellow veteran lawmaker Sen. Dave Marsden into the same district. Last month, Marsden confirmed to FFXnow that he will run for election in the 35th District.
With Saslaw’s retirement, Marsden will no longer have to face off against a fellow incumbent, though he will have an opponent in June’s Democratic primary.
Saslaw is not the only long-time local lawmaker to announce their retirement in recent days.
Yesterday, long-time Del. Ken Plum announced he’s ending his 44-year career as a Virginia lawmaker. Plum has represented the Reston area in the General Assembly for 44 years.
He told FFXnow that the accomplishments he’s most proud of are helping to expand LGBTQ+ rights and protecting reproductive rights.
Almost immediately, four candidates jumped into the race to take over Plum’s seat next year.
Elsewhere in the county, some senior local elected officials are also heading for retirement. Both Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust announced they won’t seek reelection after their terms end on Dec. 31.
(Updated at 3:35 p.m. on 2/24/2023) Four candidates have officially entered the now-crowded race for the House of Delegates seat in District 7, as longtime legislator Ken Plum plans to retire this year.
Plum, a Democrat, announced that he will not seek reelection after more than four decades in office.
Paul Berry, Shyamali Roy Hauth, Mary Barthelson, and John Farrell will compete in the June 20 Democratic Primary. No Republican candidates has come forward yet.
Berry, a Fairfax County Public Schools teacher who works in data science and previously was a budget and policy advisor to Gov. Ralph Northam, says his top priorities are education, the environment and creating jobs.
“The number one challenge is the cost of living and attainable housing,” Berry’s campaign said. “Paul believes that discussing either separately creates an artificial divide along socioeconomic categories when we need to be addressing economic inequality and the way people work and live in the same space in the post-Covid economy in a holistic manner.”
Hauth is an 10-year Air Force veteran and community organizer who worked with Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn up until this week. She is also mother, former educator and community organizer who helped Virginia become a state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, according to a release.
She told FFXnow that her top priorities are mental health care, climate change and attainable housing that people can afford.
“There is a great deal of intersectionality on these issues with my other priorities of standing up for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, addressing gun violence, public safety, and ensuring we continue to have a top quality public education system,” Hauth said.
Barthelson, a systems engineer at SAIC who squared off against Plum in the 2021 Democratic primary. She received nearly 23% of the vote as the lone challenger against Plum.
“I am committed to using my engineering knowledge and expertise to ensure that Virginia’s laws keep pace with the rapidly evolving landscape of technology, including areas such as green energy and data privacy,” Bartelson wrote in a statement. “In a time where technology has an increasingly significant impact on our daily lives, it is imperative to have legislators who possess a deep understanding of the associated policies and are not overly reliant on lobbyists.”
Her top priorities are housing, mental health and technology.
Reston Patch first reported that Farrell has filed his candidacy.
Farrell sits on Reston Association’s Board of Directors, where he’s currently seeking another term. He is president of the Colonial Oaks Homeowners Association. Professionally, he is an attorney at McCandlish and Lillard.
As he told Patch, Farrell says that, if elected to the General Assembly, his first bill would be to obtain a city charter for Reston.
“I want home rule for Reston,” he told FFXnow.
Early voting for the primary begins on May 6. Voters must register by May 29 to take part in the primary. The absentee ballot deadline is June 9.
In the Nov. 7 elections, Fairfax County voters will determine new representatives for the Virginia House of Delegates, State Senate, Commonwealth’s Attorney, the Board of Supervisors, and school board.
Del. Ken Plum is ending a 44-year-long career in the Virginia House of Delegates.
The Democrat, who has represented Reston, will not seek re-election, Plum confirmed today (Wednesday).
In a statement, Plum said he is proud to be part of progressive Democrats who controlled the General Assembly in 2020-2021.
“We have made significant strides, but as the current session of the General Assembly has shown we need to be vigilant and continue our efforts,” Plum wrote in a statement.
Of his years of service, Plum said that issues related to the ratification of the Equal Rights amendment, expansion of human rights protections for the LGBTQ+ population and the protections of women’s reproductive rights stood out.
Here’s more from his letter to constituents:
I could not be prouder than I am of the members of the Democratic caucus who succeed me. The caucus is made up of more women than men, persons of color, a different generation, and a broader perspective than has ever been represented in the State Capitol.
Even Capitol Square looks different than it did when I first arrived. The oversize statue of Robert E. Lee that dominated the original House of Delegates chamber has been removed. The statue of Governor and later Senator Harry F. Byrd that stood by the sidewalk between legislative offices and the Capitol is gone as is the tight hold of his conservative grip on state government that stifled the state’s development for more than a half-century. Signifying the changes that have occurred over recent years is a memorial dedicated to the Indigenous people who occupied the area we now call a state for thousands of years before the English arrived. A unique memorial pays tribute to the women who contributed mightily to the state’s history, and a civil rights memorial now stands featuring Barbara Johns who led a school walkout that launched the Civil Rights Movement in the state and led to the end of school segregation.
Plum said he entered politics to pursue a lifelong dream that Virginia could “do better than being a backward Southern state.” When he entered the House of Delegates in 1978, it was made up of 76 members who were Dixiecrats and a few Republicans who he described as “more moderate.”
He has previously served on the boards of Celebrating Special Children, the Virginia Literacy Foundation, and the Dulles Corridor Rail Association Board. He was a teacher from 1967 to 1997.
Plum, a former teacher and school administrator, served as a member of the house of delegates in 1978. His current position representing the 36th district kickstarted in 1982.
Following his announcement, Paul Berry — a former budget and policy advisory to previous Gov. Ralph Northam and a teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools — announced his candidacy for the seat.
A new candidate has entered the race for the State Senate seat in the 37th District.
Organizer Erika Yalowitz announced today that she’s challenging to be the Democratic nominee in the newly-redrawn district, which includes Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.
She will face off against fellow challenger Saddam Azlan Salim and incumbent Chap Petersen in the June 20 primary.
“Our new Senate District deserves a voice that is aligned with our community’s priorities, and our party’s values.” Yalowitz said in a press release. “I understand those values, because I’ve been living them for the 12+ years that I’ve called Tysons home. That means supporting working families, prioritizing pedestrian safety, protecting our community from gun violence, and committing to science based solutions for protecting our neighbors from future public health crises.”
As a community organizer, she successfully advocated for Blake Lane Park to be transferred to the Fairfax County Park Authority instead of being replaced by a new school. She also noted that she’s a union member, a mom, a Latina, a “non-profit leader,” and a court officer for Arlington Circuit Court.
Yalowitz previously ran to represent Providence District on the Board of Supervisors in 2019. She finished in third place in the Democratic primary, with about 14% of the vote. She did capture the majority of the votes in several precincts, though.
In a follow-up email with FFXnow, Yalowitz said Petersen has a “history of representing center-right positions,” and she’s a “progressive” who better represents the “demographics and values of the district.”
Petersen is running for his fifth term, having served in the senate since 2008. With redistricting, only about 44% of his former constituents will move with him to the 37th District.
Because of that, Yalowitz told FFXnow that it’s an open seat and Petersen is not a “full incumbent.”
Currently, no Republican has announced their candidacy for the senate seat. The general election is set for Nov. 7, 2023.
Elsewhere, redistricting has added significant intrigue to a number of 2023 state senate races. Several incumbents were paired in the same district, including in District 35 and District 38, which could lead to primary battles.