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 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.
Incumbent Democratic Senator Dave Marsden is a lifelong resident of Northern Virginia. Senator Marsden lives in Burke since 1977 with his wife, Julia, and three sons. He graduated from W.T. Woodson High School in 1966, Randolph-Macon College in 1970. After college, he began a career in juvenile justice as a probation officer with the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. He went on to establish and operate Fairfax County’s shelter home for youth with severe family problems and was later appointed as the first Superintendent of Fairfax County’s Juvenile Detention Center. He served in the House of Delegates for 4 years before he was elected to the state Senate in 2009.
Senator Marsden has supported a number of progressive priorities including legislation that would ensure in-state tution for undocumented students. He also supported legislation that prohibits discrimination on basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. He has long advocated to raise Virginia’s minimum wage. He has also proposed policies to expand access to voting, including automatic voter registration. He voted to expand Medicaid in Virginia.
Senator Marsden 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.
Incumbent Democratic Delegate Mark Keam became the first Asian-born immigrant and the first Korean-American elected to any state-level office in Virginia when he was elected in 2009. Delegate Keam is an attorney who served as in-house counsel for a Fortune 15 tech company. Delegate Keam and his wife reside in Vienna where their two children attend public schools.
During his time as a Delegate, he has sponsored dozens of state laws to improve public education and healthcare, create green jobs, support military veterans and public safety, reform tax codes and business regulations, and provide more government transparency, accountability, and efficiency. He voted for Medicaid expansion, which allowed an additional 300,000 Virginians to get access to affordable health care. Delegate Keam also co-sponsored a bill that required feminine hygiene products be provided to incarcerated people who need them free of charge.
Running unopposed, Delegate Keam is the more progressive choice for this race.
Incumbent Democratic Delegate David Bulova was elected to the House of Delegates in 2006. He currently serves on the General Laws, Education, and Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources committees. Delegate Bulova and his family live in the Middleridge community of Fairfax. He and his wife have three children.
Delegate Bulova supports increased transportation funding with investments for expanding Metro to Centreville, bike paths, and walking trails. He also supports giving local governments the power to require sidewalks when new developments are proposed. Delegate Bulova is a strong advocate for the environment. He sponsored a solar energy bill and supports investments in clean, renewable energy. He also supports fair redistricting reform so that voters can choose their representatives, not the other way around. Delegate Bulova voted for Medicaid expansion so an additional 300,000 Virginians can access affordable health care.
Delegate Bulova is running unopposed and is the more progressive choice for this race.
Democratic candidate Dan Helmer is running against incumbent Republican Delegate Tim Hugo. Helmer is a combat veteran. His wife, Karen, is a public school teacher in Fairfax County. They live in Fairfax with their children.
Helmer is in favor of increasing teacher pay and investing in public schools. He supports Medicaid expansion and other solutions to increase access to affordable health care. He also supports abortion access and believes abortion is health care. As a progressive, Helmer also supports increasing the minimum wage, gun violence prevention, clean energy, and fair redistricting reform.
Delegate Tim Hugo was elected to the House of Delegates in 2003. He voted against Medicaid expansion. In 2012, he voted in favor of legislation that required people seeking an abortion to undergo a mandatory, medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound. He also has a record of making it harder to be an immigrant in Virginia by voting to prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving in-state tuition at Virginia colleges and universities.
Dan Helmer is the more progressive choice in this race because of his support of increasing the minimum wage and health care access.
General Progressive: Progress Virginia
Incumbent Democratic Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn has served in the House of Delegates since 2010. She is currently the Minority Leader, the first woman to hold that role. Delegate Filler-Corn is a member of the Rules, Finance, and Commerce & Labor Committees. Prior to her election as Minority Leader, she served as Vice Chair for Outreach of the House Democratic Caucus and the House Democratic Whip.
Delegate Filler-Corn is an advocate for abortion access and has supported bills that would increase birth control access and promote consent-based sex education. She supports gun violence prevention and she sponsored a bill that would have eliminated sales tax from gun sales under $1,000. She also sponsored a bill that would have increased the felony threshold to $1000, ensuring that people who make a one-time mistake aren’t branded a felon for the rest of their lives. Delegate Filler-Corn also supports increasing the minimum wage so that all Virginians can afford to live with dignity. She was a strong supporter of Medicaid expansion.
Delegate Filler-Corn is being challenged by Rachel Mace, a Libertarian, and John Wolfe, an Independent. Mace is against gun violence prevention. She also is opposed to meals taxes that help fund important projects like affordable housing. Additionally, she opposes the elimination of student debt, but offers no solutions to the student loan debt crisis. Little information is available on Wolfe’s positions on key issues.
Delegate Filler-Corn is the more progressive choice in this race because of her support of abortion access, criminal justice reform, and Medicaid expansion.
Incumbent Democratic Delegate Kathy Tran was elected to the House of Delegates in 2017. She is one of the 15 progressive candidates who were elected that year. Tran and her parents came to the United States as refugees from Vietnam when she was a child. Delegate Tran and her husband, Matt, live in West Springfield with their four children, Daven, Charlotte, Quinn, and Elise.
Tran is a strong progressive champion who supports access to abortion, gun violence prevention, immigrant rights, clean renewable energy, and investments in public education. She sponsored a bill to ban assault weapons in the commonwealth.
Republican candidate Steve Adragna is running against Delegate Tran. He believes the government should be as small as possible and that taxes should not be used to create a safety net for the most vulnerable members of our communities. Adragna does not support access to abortion. He would not have supported expanding Medicaid and does not believe that the government should be responsible for finding solutions to our health care crisis.
Delegate Tran has been a strong champion for Virginia families and is the progressive choice in this race.
Incumbent Democratic Delegate Karrie Delaney is dedicated to bringing innovative economic growth, world-class education, and healthcare for all to Northern Virginia. She is a mother of two and former Communications Director for Shared Hope International, a non-profit working to end sex trafficking.
A Delegate since 2017, Delaney has been fighting for Fairfax as an advocate for women and children. She sponsored a bill that would invalidate settlement agreements and NDA clauses when a sexual harassment victim is not represented by counsel.
Delegate Delaney is running unopposed and is the progressive choice for this seat.
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 Linda Sperling has lived in Fairfax her entire life. She received an undergraduate degree from George Mason University and a graduate degree in Public Communication from American University. She also attended the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership's Campaign Training Program. Sperling later taught college at George Mason University, Northern Virginia Community College, and the University of Phoenix. She has guest lectured at Georgetown University and the University of Maryland. She now resides in Fairfax with her family.
Sperling supports clean energy initiatives, and if elected would start with reducing fossil fuel usage. She wants to improve transportation and lessen traffic in Fairfax. Sperling supports more affordable housing for residents, especially those within the workforce, young families, and seniors. Sperling believes in education accessibility. She wants the Board of Supervisors and the School Board to work together to plan and budget to ensure that all children have an opportunity for success.
Her opponent is Republican Pat Herrity. Herrity supports cooperating with ICE, using pejorative language like, “illegal aliens” on his website. He supports giving more funding to the police in the name of safety, but does not include bodycams. He does not mention increased de-escalation training or any racial disparities within policing. He claims to support education, but does not mention paying teachers more or reducing class size.
Sperling is the more progressive choice.
Laura Jane Cohen has been a Fairfax County resident for nearly 20 years and is the mother of two Fairfax County Public Schools students. She was a former preschool teacher and long-term substitute for FCPS before starting her own small business in Clifton. Cohen will advocate for higher teacher and staff pay and the need for increased mental health professionals in our schools. She is committed to being a voice for ALL our students and believes a successful experience in FCPS should be attainable no matter your abilities, race, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. She has been endorsed by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee and the Fairfax Education Association.
Elizabeth Schultz is the current school board member from the Springfield District. She has been an outspoken, right-wing conservative on the board, leading opposition to comprehensive sex education and protections for transgender students. She has also been vocal in criticizing gun violence prevention efforts. She opposes gun-free school zones and criticized Parkland students for their advocacy for gun violence solutions, stating, “This [gun violence prevention] is not a job for traumatized children.”
Kyle McDaniel is also seeking the Sully district seat. He is a former Republican who left the party over his opposition to Donald Trump. While he supports efforts to make FCPS more sustainable, Cohen is the progressive choice due to her support for increasing teacher pay and supporting equity within our schools.
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