Brought to you by Progress Virginia
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 Senator Adam P. Ebbin took office in 2012 after serving for eight years in the House of Delegates. Senator Ebbin is highly regarded in his community because of his track record of supporting progressive issues. He has fought to advance progressive priorities including preventing gun violence, making it easier to vote, and fighting for equality for all Virginians. He sponsored a bill that would provide prenatal care for undocumented mothers. He has also championed legislation that would provide equality for members of our LGBT community.
He is a member of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, the School Readiness Committee, the Commission on Economic Opportunity for Virginians in Aspiring and Diverse Communities, the Task force to Commemorate the Centennial Anniversary of Women's Right to Vote, and the Joint Commission on Technology and Science. He is also the Co-Chair of the General Assembly Gun Violence Prevention Caucus and a steering committee member of American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention.
Running unopposed, Senator Ebbin is the progressive choice in this race.
Senator Dick Saslaw grew up in Washington, D.C. He served in the U.S. Army for two years before earning a B.S. in economics from the University of Maryland. In college, he was a member of the track team and is still an active runner. He is a successful local businessman in the gasoline and auto service industry. Senator Saslaw and his wife, Eleanor, are proud grandparents and have lived in Northern Virginia since 1968.
Senator Saslaw, the Democratic leader in the state Senate, helped lead the charge to expand Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of Virginians without access to healthcare. He has always been consistent in his support for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment and establishing commonsense gun laws. He supports universal background checks, banning the sale mechanical devices that accelerate the firing mechanism on weapons (such as bump stocks), and prohibiting civilian use of assault-style weapons.
Senator Saslaw is running unopposed.
Senator Scott A. Surovell has represented parts of Fairfax, Prince William, and Stafford Counties since 2015. Prior to his time in the Senate, Surovell served six years in the House of Delegates. Surovell lives in Mt. Vernon with his wife and four children. He practices law and has dedicated his legislative career to fighting for Northern Virginia’s fair share, protecting consumers, and preserving our environment for future generations.
He supported legislation that would require background checks for all firearms transfers, prohibit the sale and ownership of assault weapons, reinstate Virginia’s “one-gun-a-month” law and prohibit concealed carry in restaurants, while consuming or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Senator Surovell also sponsored a bill that would establish a paid family and medical leave program. He voted to expand Medicaid in Virginia to 400,000 individuals and to raise the commonwealth’s minimum wage.
Senator Surovell is running unopposed and is the progressive choice.
Incumbent Democratic Senator George Barker was first elected to the Virginia Senate in 2007. He moved to Northern Virginia 35 years ago and has been active in a number of civic and community organizations ever since. He is married with two grown children and has multiple grandchildren.
Senator Barker has two degrees from Harvard University, including a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Public Health and a master's degree in Health Policy and Management. For three decades he worked for the Health Systems Agency of Northern Virginia. He currently consults on health care issues.
Barker was rated 100% by Virginia ACL-CIO due to his suport of legislation that supports unions and workers and 100% by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia because of his strong support of reproductive rights. He has also supported commonsense gun laws, including one that would penalize anyone who left guns unattended around minors. He also voted for Medicaid expansion and to raise Virginia’s minimum wage.
S. W. Hillenburg is the Republican candidate and a disabled veteran. Hillenburg is anti-choice and opposes commonsense gun laws. He has prioritized transportation improvements in his campaign.
Senator George Barker is 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.
Vivian E. WattsDemocrat
Incumbent Democratic Delegate Vivian Watts was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1981, but left in 1986 to serve as the Virginia Secretary of Transportation and Public Safety. She was again elected to the House of Delegates in 1996 and has served ever since. She is married and has two children and six grandchildren. Watts has been involved in many community groups and served as the Executive Director of Fairfax CASA.
As Delegate, she serves on the Courts of Justice, House Finance, and Science & Technology committees. Delegate Watts is a strong supporter of education and supports reducing class sizes and increasing teacher pay. She also supports access to reproductive health care, including access to birth control and abortion. In addition, Delegate Watts voted for Medicaid expansion and supports increasing access to mental health services for all Virginians.
Delegate Watts is being challenged by Republican candidate Nick Bell. He decided to run because of his opposition to abortion access, which is the only issue he talks about on his website.
Due to her support of reproductive rights, Medicaid expansion, and increased funding for our schools, Delegate Watts is the more progressive choice in this race.
Mark D. SicklesDemocrat
Incumbent Democratic Delegate Mark Sickles has served in the House of Delegates since 2004. He currently sits on several committees centering the environment, including the House committees on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources, and the Energy and Environment Commission. He also sits on the Appropriations committee and the Privileges and Elections committee.
Delegate Sickles is a member of the LGBTQ community and co-sponsored a bill that would criminalize discrimination based on sexual or gender identity. He also voted against a bill that would allow adoption agencies to discriminate based on sexual or gender identity. Delegate Sickles has voted against requiring specific, state issued photo IDs for voting, a bill that made it harder for some people to make their voices heard in our democracy. He is a supporter of the immigrant community and voted against legislation that prohibited sanctuary cities in Virginia. Delegate Sickles also supports access to abortion and affordable health care access for everyone. He voted for Medicaid expansion, which allowed an additional 300,000 Virginians to see a doctor when they need to.
Delegate Sickles is running against Independent G. Gail Parker. Parker’s primary stance as a member of the Green Party is mandated clean energy and usage of renewable resources.
Delegate Sickles is the more progressive choice in this race because of his positions on health care access, equality, and voting rights.
Paul E. KrizekDemocrat
Incumbent Democratic Delegate Paul Krizek was elected to the House of Delegates in 2015. He is a strong supporter of gun violence prevention. He has sponsored several bills, including one that would mandate universal background checks that would have ensured community safety. Delegate Krizek also supports increasing the minimum wage and raising teacher pay. He is a strong supporter of immigrant rights and has fought against prohibiting sanctuary cities in Virginia. He supports expanded access to affordable health care and voted for Medicaid expansion.
Delegate Krizek’s Republican opponent, Richard Hayden, doesn’t support abortion access and believes that politicians should be able to make medical decisions for people who are pregnant. He doesn’t take firm stances on other issues on his website.
Delegate Krizek is the more progressive choice in this race because of his support of gun violence prevention, increasing the minimum wage, and raising teacher pay.
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.
Rachna Seizmore HeizerIndependent
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 E. OmeishIndependent
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.
Rodney Lusk is a native Virginian and has lived in Lee District for 18 years. He received a degree from the University of Virginia. He has worked for Fairfax County for the past 29 years. He is currently the National Marketing Director for the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA). Lusk is involved in his community through his membership of the Fairfax County Committee to Prevent and End Homelessness and the Affordable Housing Resource Panel.
Lusk believes in equity within the justice system. He wants to ensure that those who are released from incarceration are able to integrate into society, and to eliminate racial biases within the system. He wants to reallocate funding to increase options for affordable housing and support pay raises for educators. Lusk is also concerned about protecting and preserving our natural environment. He wants to address the impact of storms for the Fairfax area, and for buildings to use as little energy as possible.
Lusk is running unopposed and is the progressive choice for this race.
Tamara Derenak KaufaxIndependent
Tamara Derenak Kaufax is the current school board member for Lee District, the vice chair of the board, and is running unopposed. She is a long-time advocate for children’s causes and education issues with 20 years of experience as a marketing professional and small business owner.
Last year she voted to change the district’s nondiscrimination policies to include transgender students, calling it a way to “provide an environment which promotes equality where every student and employee is treated with dignity and respect.”
She is the progressive choice for Lee District School Board.
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