By Progress Virginia
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Election Day is Tuesday, November 5th
The Progressive Voters Guide compiles the information that allows you to make informed decisions about the races on your ballot, based on your values. Vote in every race on your ballot! It's our right and our responsibility. Please share this guide with your friends and family.
Depending on where you live, you may have one of the below State Senate races on your ballot.
Incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Favola is running unopposed. Prior to her election as a state Senator, she served on the Arlington County Board of Supervisors for fourteen years (1997-2011) and chaired that body three times. During her service with the county, Senator Favola was the Board's leading advocate for children, youth and families, and her contributions to the community include establishing mental health services in public schools.
Senator Favola’s priorities are women’s reproductive rights, health care access, K-12 education funding, workforce training, safety net programs, helping foster children, preventing domestic violence and sensible environmental policies. Favola sponsored numerous progressive bills including one requiring universities to create memorandums of understanding with local sexual assault crisis centers and to provide survivors with access to other community resources. She has also sponsored a Bar Bystander Bill encouraging bartenders and others who serve or sell spirits in an ABC licensed or permitted establishments to undergo training to help prevent risky situations from becoming sexual assaults. Lastly, she has been a leader on making higher education more accessible and affordable.
Senator Favola is the progressive choice.
Incumbent Democratic Senator Janet Howell earned her BA at Oberlin College and her MA at the University of Pennsylvania . She was named National Child Advocate of the Year by the American Academy of Pediatrics for her work on behalf of children. She was the first woman to serve on the powerful Senate Finance Committee in Virginia.
Senator Howell has been a leader in combating the student loan debt crisis impacting Virginians by working with Delegate Marcus Simon and Progress Virginia executive director Anna Scholl to find solutions to the student loan debt crisis. She has sponsored initiatives including a Student Borrowers Bill of Rights and the establishment of an Office of Student Loan Ombudsman. She also fought to require student loan servicers to be licensed. Senator Howell has also been a strong advocate for reproductive rights, gun safety, and redistricting reform.
Her Republican opponent is Arthur Purves. Purves is running because he disagrees with Senator Howell’s support for abortion rights, family life education, ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment and, gun safety measures. Purves is a staunch conservative and once wrote in an article that, “public schools are graduating ‘socialists’, or as the Fairfax School Board puts it, ‘global citizens’.”
Senator Howell is the progressive choice in this race.
Senator Jennifer Boysko and her husband, Glenn, have raised their two daughters in historic downtown Herndon, where they have lived since 1996. Senator Boysko has volunteered with numerous organizations in her community including serving on the board of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. She was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2016 and won a special election to the state Senate in 2019.
Senator Boysko supported legislation to establish hate crime protections for individuals targeted for violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and has voiced opposition to conversion therapy. She has been a champion for immigrant families, carrying legislation to provide in-state tuition to residents regardless of immigration status and establish driving privilege cards so families can safely get to school, work, and worship. She has also prioritized protecting and expanding access to reproductive rights and supporting families through establishing paid family and medical leave.
Her conservative opponent, Republican Suzanne Fox, is anti-choice. Little is known about her stance on immigration, gun safety, and issues impacting members of the LGBT community. Fox has served on the Leesburg Town Council since 2014.
Senator Boysko the progressive choice in this race.
House of Delegates
Depending on where you live, you may have one of the below House of Delegate races on your ballot.
Incumbent Democratic Delegate Kathleen Murphy has been a member of the House of Delegates since 2015. She is a member of the House Finance, Privileges and Elections, and Transportation Committees. Murphy is the mother of four children and two step-children. She and her husband, Bill Sudow, are long-time McLean residents. When the House of Delegates is not in session, Murphy serves as President of Johnson, Murphy, and Associates, a consulting firm. Before becoming a member of the House of Delegates, Murphy served as senior staff to Congressman Charlie Wilson, and she was once a co-writer and producer for Nickelodeon Television. She graduated magna cum laude from American University .
Delegate Murphy is a strong advocate for progressive values. She supports abortion access, believing that people should make decisions for themselves. Delegate Murphy is also a strong advocate for gun violence prevention. She was personally impacted by the issue when her brother was shot and killed by two gunmen. As a Northern Virginia resident, Delegate Murphy wants to come up with transportation solutions but does not support adding tolls to I-66. Delegate Murphy supports equitable education, including funding for pre-K programs and freezing tuition hikes at Virginia’s public colleges and universities. She also supports equal pay for women.
Running against Delegate Murphy is Republican Gary Pan. He is a business owner who supports reducing government regulations that keep us safe and healthy. Pan has chosen to remain silent on important issues like abortion access, gun violence prevention, paid family leave, and raising the minimum wage.
Delegate Murphy is the more progressive choice in this race because of her support of abortion access and increasing teacher pay.
Incumbent Democratic Delegate Rip Sullivan was elected to the House of Delegates in a special election in 2014. He is an attorney who graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law. He served as the President of Legal Services of Northern Virginia, which helps low-income people access legal services in the region. Delegate Sullivan and his wife, Beth, have 4 children and recently welcomed their first grandchild.
As a Delegate, Sullivan has supported increased funding for education, transportation, and affordable health care access. He is an advocate for equality by backing the Equal Rights Amendment and reproductive rights. He opposes discrimination against the LGBTQ community and believes in fair housing.
Delegate Sullivan is running unopposed and is the progressive choice in this race.
Incumbent Democratic Delegate Marcus Simon was elected to the House of Delegates in 2013. He attended law school at American University's Washington College of Law. After graduating, Simon joined the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps as a Captain, where he handled officer misconduct and criminal cases. In 2008, he co-founded the Law Firm of Leggett, Simon, Freemyers & Lyon and Ekko.
Delegate Simon has been outspoken about the need to pass commonsense gun laws like universal background checks. He has also been a champion for student loan borrowers and has proposed a bill that would protect borrowers by creating a Borrower’s Bill of Rights to ensure that predatory lenders can’t take advantage of students. He also supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Delegate Simon is running opposed and is the progressive choice in this race due to his support of increasing the minimum wage and combating the student loan debt crisis.
Incumbent Democratic Delegate Ibraheem Samirah was born in Chicago. He’s a second-generation Palestinian-American whose parents were refugees. On February 20, 2019, he became the second Muslim elected to the Virginia General Assembly.
Delegate Samirah’s priorities are healthcare, transportation, education, and the environment.He believes that healthcare should and must be a right for all Americans. He voted to expand programs in the Virginia Department of Health and fights to preserve Medicaid expansion. He is also a strong advocate of expanding access to public transportation and decreasing the cost of tolls in the busy I-66 corridor. He defends school funding and advocates for universal pre-k. One of his top priorities is preserving the environment and Virginia’s natural beauty. Delegate Samirah promises to fight climate change, expand renewable energy sources, and vows to never accept money from Dominion Energy.
Delegate Samirah is running unopposed and is the progressive choice in this race.
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.
Democrat John Foust has been a member of the Board of Supervisors since 2008. Foust was the first in his family to attend college, and proceeded to obtain a graduate and law degree after his undergraduate degree in economics. He serves as Chairman of the Board’s Transportation and Information Technology Committees, Vice-chairman of the Board’s Budget Committee, and Chairman of the Fairfax County Economic Advisory Commission.
As a member of the board, Foust is proud of helping to balance twelve budgets after the Great Recession and expanding full day kindergarten to the entire county. Foust played a role in creating a more comfortable and affordable living environment for senior citizens by creating a Senior Center and increasing the number of affordable housing units at Lewisville Center.
Foust’s priorities are increasing access to jobs and affordable housing, as well as improving transportation in Dranesville. He wants to ensure that the local government is more transparent and accountable. Foust is concerned with protecting our environment and fighting against climate change. Education is also on his platform, including ensuring schools in the Dranesville district continue to provide a quality education.
Foust’s opponent, Republican Ed Martin, previously served as chairman of the Missouri Republican Party. He has previously run for Congress and Attorney General in Missouri. He believes a Democratic majority will ruin Virginia. In 2016, Martin co-wrote “The Conservative Case for Donald Trump.” Locally, Martin has been vocal about his disapproval of One Fairfax, an initiative to prioritize equity within the county government and school.
Foust is the more progressive choice for this race.
Elaine Tholen has been a resident of Fairfax County for the past 25 years where she currently resides with her family. She received her undergraduate degree in Science Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her graduate degree from the University of Maryland-College Park. Tholen previously worked for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). During that time, she led a staff focused on environmental cleanups for the US Department of Energy. Currently, Tholen is a Virginia middle school science teacher and has worked in elementary, middle, and high schools. She has also held administrative offices in the Fairfax County Public School System such as the Fairfax County Public Schools Get2Green Program which encouraged school-wide care for the environment.
Tholen’s priorities center on equity and safety. If elected, she wants to promote unity, ensuring that there are measures for curriculum and programming to be culturally sensitive to all students. She believes in increased safety for our students, and supports common sense gun laws. Tholen wants increased transparency and accountability for the local government, and would start open office hours for residents, in addition to keeping conversations around school boundaries and capacity open for conversation. She has been endorsed by the Fairfax Democrats.
Anastasia S. Karloutsos is one of two opponents. Karloutsos agrees with Tholen in when it comes to equal quality education to the students. However, while Karloutsos also cites public safety as a priority, she wants to increase law enforcement and police patrol cars instead of pushing for common sense gun laws. She has been endorsed by the Fairfax County GOP.
Ardavan Mobasheri is also running. His campaign is focused on concerns regarding school redistricting. His platform is similar to Tholen on green initiatives and decreasing class size but he fails to note support for teacher compensation.
Tholen is the more progressive choice for this race.
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