(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 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
(Updated on April 4) John Farrell, an attorney and longtime Reston resident, has officially withdrawn his candidacy in the crowded race for District 7 in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Farrell, who is currently running for a seat on Reston Association’s Board of Directors — a body he currently serves on — said the move was motivated by the inclusion of another candidate in the race.
In an email to FFXnow, Farrell said he is endorsing Karen Keys-Gamarra for the seat.
When Karen Keys Gamara announced her candidacy, I knew we had our candidate. She has spent her career representing kids in need of services before the courts More than 18,000 residents in HD 7 have already voted for Karen multiple times. We know her, we know her values and her commitment to our future and our children’s future. We’ve also seen her in action, fighting for our community and standing firm against efforts to force a far right agenda on Fairfax County schools.
Farrell said he entered the race in an effort to fight for Robert Simon’s founding principles for Reston.
Plum announced his intention to retire in late February following more than four decades in public office.
Keys-Gamarra has served on the school board since 2017. She is currently chair of the comprehensive planning development committee, a member of the Board Audit Committee, and a liaison to the Title I Parent Advisory Committee, the Fairfax County Planning Commission, and Educate Fairfax.
She also works as an attorney who handles family law matters, and she serves as a court-appointed guardian and litem in Northern Virginia.
She will face fellow candidates Paul Berry, Shyamali Roy Hauth and Mary Barthelson in the June 20 primary for District 7, which extends from Route 7 north of Reston down to Waples Mill Road near Oakton.
Early voting for the primary begins on May 6 and the Democratic primary is set for June 9. The general election is slated for Nov. 7.
(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.
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.
Seven incumbent delegates have confirmed to FFXnow that they are gearing up to run in 2023, the first election since redistricting.
With all 100 Virginia House of Delegate seats up for a vote next November, a number of incumbents representing parts of Fairfax County — all Democrats — have started making plans to run for reelection in the recently redrawn districts, including:
- Irene Shin in District 8
- Karrie Delaney in District 9
- David Bulova in District 11
- Vivan Watts in District 14
- Paul Krizek in District 16
- Kathy Tran in District 18
- Eileen Filler-Corn in District 18
In addition, Del. Marcus Simon announced his reelection campaign for District 13 last week in a Falls Church News-Press column. While both Shin and Delaney told FFXnow they plan to run, they said formal announcements will come early next year.
The redistricting process, which drew new electoral lines based on population changes over the past 10 years, has shaken up at least a few races.
Most notably, both Filler-Corn and Tran have committed to running in the redrawn District 18, which encompasses a large portion of Springfield to the county border in Occoquan. It’s made up of residents from four previous districts, including ones that the delegates each previously represented.
With both being Democrats, they’ll have to face each other in a June primary to earn the Democratic nomination for the November general election.
In October, Tran announced on social media that she will seek reelection “to fight for our rights and build a more just and equitable future for all of our kids.”
I’m excited to announce my campaign in the new 18th House district!
I’m proud to live in the heart of the district, raise my kids here & already represent so much of the community. I’m running to fight for our rights & build a more just & equitable future for all of our kids. pic.twitter.com/Id0rC3akCH
— Kathy Tran (@KathyKLTran) October 6, 2022
A spokesperson for Filler-Corn, the former House speaker, told FFXnow in an email that she plans on “running in the district where she lives, which is HD18.”
FFXnow asked them about running against one another in the primary, but neither has responded as of publication.
That isn’t the only district where incumbents may be pitted against one another in a primary in about six months from now.
While Simon has already announced his reelection bid in District 13, which includes Merrifield through Falls Church City and to the border with Arlington, longtime Del. Kaye Kory told FFXnow by email that she has not made a decision yet on running.
“Right now, I am focused on preparing legislation for the upcoming 2023 Legislative Session in Richmond,” she wrote. “Since the filing deadline is not until April 2023, I will have plenty of time to act following adjournment.”
In District 6, which covers Great Falls and McLean, Delegates Kathleen Murphy and Richard “Rip” Sullivan would potentially face each other as well. So far, neither has announced their candidacy or respond to FFXnow’s inquiries as of publication.
Del. Ken Plum (D), whose 40-year tenure representing Reston and other portions of the county makes him the longest-serving member of the House, told FFXnow by phone that he’s still considering whether to run again in District 7.
“I’m getting through these legislative sessions and will make a decision, probably, in February,” Plum said. “I haven’t really decided yet.”
The cold and rain didn’t dampen enthusiasm for the opening of Metro’s long-awaited, $3 billion Silver Line Phase II.
Yesterday marked the much-anticipated public opening of the 11.4-mile extension of the rail line from Reston into Loudoun County. Along with six new stations, this marks the first time that locals can take a train to Dulles International Airport.
Over multiple ribbon-cutting ceremonies throughout the chilly, wet November day, local officials touted the debut of the line as a “game-changer” and a “new era” for western Fairfax County and the D.C. region as a whole.
“It really is the establishment of a new identity for the Dulles corridor,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said at the new Reston Town Center station. “Now, what we’re going to see is the Dulles corridor tied together with transit in a way that was really never anticipated…We are in a new era.”
Riders, too, recognized what this could mean for the region and their daily travel.
“It’s going to change my life,” Raj Paradaar told FFXnow while riding the extension’s first passenger-filled train heading westbound. He lives in Ashburn and works near the Reston Town Center station, so he plans to ride the Metro most days.
Inside the Innovation Center station, commuters came and went, including a United Airlines flight attendant headed to work at Dulles. He lives in an apartment building across the street from the new station, along with a number of other flight attendants, FFXnow was told.
“That’s where we live,” the United Airlines flight attendant said pointing outside. “And that’s where we work…Honestly, taking a train is just much easier.”
Other riders said the extension won’t significantly affect their day-to-day habits, but they agreed it will make getting to the airport simpler.
Franconia resident Terry Rice, clutching luggage, happened to have a trip to Italy scheduled on the extension’s opening day. While planning, she realized that Dulles Airport was now only a train ride away.
“It may not change my life, but it’s going to make my life much easier,” Rice said.
Pulling into Reston Town Center station, the first stop on the new line. pic.twitter.com/83JP2LwMQh
— Matt Blitz (@WhyBlitz) November 15, 2022
During yesterday’s ceremonies, officials tried to make clear that the Silver Line extension’s impact is anticipated to go beyond simply being a link to the airport, reiterating a message that many have been saying for years.
“We have within our grasp…the ability to completely reinvent, reimagine [this corridor] as mixed-use development, as transit-oriented development, as environmentally friendly, as improving quality of life, as reducing carbon emissions, and as restoring choices for people who live in Northern Virginia,” said newly reelected Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11) at a ceremony outside of the Innovation Center station. Read More