By Progress Virginia
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Incumbent Democratic Senator Chap Petersen was born in Fairfax. He is married to Sharon Kim Petersen and has four children. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates between 2002 and 2006 and was elected to the state Senate in 2007. Senator Petersen has been an attorney in private practice since 1994 and his peers selected him as one of thirty “Leaders of the Law” in Virginia in 2011.
Senator Petersen sponsored 2008’s SB 510, legislation that guaranteed college students the right to a fairly priced student loan. More recently, he voted against legislation that would prohibit state funding for abortion services for low-income women and in support of raising the minimum wage. In an effort to increase transparency and end wage theft, Senator Petersen voted in support of legislation that would force employers to provide wage statements to employees on a regular basis.
Senator Petersen is running unopposed.
Jeffrey McKay is a Fairfax County native and currently lives in Lee District with his family. Morris Glen, an affordable senior housing complex in McKay’s district, is named after his grandmother. She was a well-known advocate in the area, and McKay cites her as the inspiration for his life in advocacy. McKay received his undergraduate degree in Public Administration from James Madison University, and is a graduate of the Sorensen Institute of Political Leadership at the University of Virginia. Previously, McKay served as Supervisor Dana Kauffman’s Chief of Staff. After over ten years of working with Kauffman, he was elected Lee District Supervisor in November 2007.
He is currently the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Legislative Committees. McKay is working to increase transit options through his membership as Chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) and on the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC). McKay states that his goals include creating inclusion through social and racial equity, including supporting and advocating for his residents against the discriminatory policies of the current administration. McKay supports the policies One Fairfax, an initiative to foster inclusivity and equity throughout the county.
During his time as Budget Chairman, McKay passed a budget to fully fund schools in the area. He aims to continue to make education a priority by increasing teacher pay and expanding equitable programming to all students and districts. He supports clean energy, and if elected will remove barriers to solar power and push forward initiatives to lower the county’s carbon footprint. McKay wants to improve the lives of residents by increasing public transportation and access to affordable housing and healthcare. He also believes in common sense gun violence prevention laws and wants to foster community between the police force and the residents.
McKay’s opponent is Republican Joe Galdo. He ran for Congress in 2014 as a Green Party candidate. He wants to “make Fairfax great again.” While he supports green initiatives, Galdo wants to increase funding for law enforcement as opposed to implementing more equitable practices. He alsos supports collaboration with ICE. Galdo’s website uses pejorative language referring to “illegal” immigrants and urges local police to enforce detainers issued by ICE. This would allow police departments to hold people past their release date so ICE can determine what their next move is, which can lead to deportation.
McKay is the more progressive choice for this race.
Democrat Steve Descano has lived in Fairfax with his family for the past 8 years. He is a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army helicopter pilot. After his time in the military, Descano attended Temple University’s law school. During the Obama Administration, he was recruited through the Attorney General’s Honors Program at the United States Department of Justice, and spent the next six years as a federal prosecutor. In 2016, became the Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel at Paragon Autism Services. His role is to provide behavioral therapy to children who currently lack access to services.
Descano previously served on the board of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and Fairfax County NAACP Criminal Justice Committee. He is currently a member of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.
As Commonwealth’s Attorney, Descano will center community, justice, and equality. He wants to eliminate the cash bail system, which has proven to be an unjust process that incarcerates lower income residents who have not been convicted of a crime. Descano recognizes the economic and racial disparities in the criminal justice system and is committed as Commonwealth’s Attorney to ensuring his office treats everyone equally. Descano wants to end mass incarceration and the War on Drugs.
Descano wants to focus on serious crime and healing of families. If elected, he plans to save the commonwealth money by not spending resources on low level crime and lessening the usage of the death penalty. Descano supports our immigrant communities, and does not believe in tearing families apart. His platform supports transparency and communication between the justice system and residents to foster trust.
Descano’s opponent is Jonathon Fahey, a former federal prosecutor under the Trump Administration. Fahey does not support criminal justice reforms. His major concerns are the opioid crisis and gang violence.
Descano is the more progressive choice for Commonwealth’s Attorney.
A first-generation American, candidate Rachna Seizmore Heizer received her law degree and Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy from the University of California at Berkeley. Her advocacy for students stems from her children. Heizer advocated for her daughter to enroll in advanced classes regardless of her mental health, and for her son to enroll in music classes in tandem with his special needs classes.
She previously taught Constitutional and Criminal Law at George Mason University. Currently Heizer is the Coordinator of Online Human Resource Development Curriculum and Instruction and teaches Employment Law, Leadership, Staffing Strategies, Human Relations, and Diversity and Cultural Competency online at Texas Tech University. Heizer was appointed to the board of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board and the Fairfax County Public School Board’s Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities. She is also a board member of the Fairfax County Alliance for Human Services, the Fairfax County Special Education PTA, and the Fairfax County Public School’s Inclusion Workgroup.
Heizer’s platform is centered on equity and inclusion. She wants to close achievement gaps and ensure all students have an equal opportunity to succeed regardless of who they are or what their interest is. Heizer wants to ensure that teachers have the proper training to support their students so their differences are not seen as limitations or issues. She is concerned about student safety, both mentally and physically. She wants to implement holistic approaches to teaching and supporting, in addition to increasing mental and behavioral health services. Heizer also wants to limit the use of student restraint for extreme cases. If elected, Heizer plans to implement green initiatives and a program that will increase student civic engagement. Heizer has been endorsed by Casa in Action.
Heizer is a progressive choice for this race.
Abrar Omeish is a second generation student of Fairfax public schools. She co-founded GIVE (Growth And Inspiration Through Volunteering And Education), a youth-led non-profit that has been providing free tutoring and mentorship for over 10 years. She chairs the Student Human Rights Commission and is the appointed co-chair of the School Board Advisory Committees. She is President of the county-led Fairfax County Public School Superintendent’s Advisory Council. Omeish amended county policy on bullying with a 12-step plan entitled "Bring It On". She has experience with youth in political fields, including founding the Robinson High School Young Democrats.
Omeish’s first priority is equity in education. She wants to implement programs to close achievement gaps within schools to ensure students have equal opportunity to succeed. Because mental health is another priority, Omeish wants to incentivize anti-bullying procedure and plans within Student Government and Student Council Alliances. She wants to ensure that teachers are treated well, and this concern traverses equitable hiring practices to adequate salaries.
Omeish is a progressive choice for this race.
Karen Keys-Gamarra has lived in Fairfax County since 1990. She received an undergraduate degree from Tulane University and a J.D. from Washington University School of Law. She currently resides in Fairfax with her family, and is a child advocate and attorney.
Keys-Gamarra has been on the school board since September 2017. During her time as a Board member, she supported the One Fairfax policy to address equity and access concerns within Fairfax public schools. Currently, Keys-Gamarra serves on the Governance and Audit Committees, the Community Criminal Justice Board, and the Title I Parent Advisory Committee.
During her time on the School Board, she has fought for equity by seconding the motion to rename Justice High School and aided in creating local policy to choose appropriate names for county schools. She has focused on continuing efforts to improve our discipline process by trying to eliminate disparities and improve restorative efforts to keep students in school.
She was able to adopt a budget that provided improved salaries for our educators. Keys-Gamarra also presented a motion to support menstrual equity, and support efforts to improve the way Fairfax residents care for the environment.
Keys-Gamarra is a progressive choice for this race.
Cheryl Buford previously worked at the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance. This Alliance is known for urging President Obama to allow discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community on the basis of religious freedom. Buford has been endorsed by the Fairfax County Republican Committee.
Priscilla DeStefano is a first generation American and attended Fairfax County Public Schools. DeStefano disagrees with school board actions to rename schools named after Confederate figures, calling these efforts “partisan politics.”DeStefano has been endorsed by the Fairfax County Republican Committee.
Vinson Xavier Palathingal is a resident of McLean, Virginia. He resides there with his wife and two children, both products of University of Virginia. He is originally from Kochi in Kerala State, India, but has lived in the US for 27 years. He has both an undergraduate and graduate degree in engineering. This informs his desire to increase STEM program funding for public schools. Palathingal self-identifies as a conservative, and has criticized the school board for implementing a comprehensive sex ed curriculum while establishing protections for transgender students. Palathingal’s solution for racial disparities in student achievement is school privatization. Palathingal has been endorsed by the Fairfax County Republican Committee.
IIryong Moon is a current member of the Fairfax School Board. He graduated from T.C. Williams Senior High School and later earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and a J.D. from College of William and Mary. Moon cites the expanding of kindergarten to a full day as a top accomplishment.
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