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 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.
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.
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 Ken Plum was elected to the House of Delegates in 1982 and currently serves as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. He is a retired teacher and school administrator. Plum and his wife, Jane, are the parents of four children. He graduated with a BA from Old Dominion University and earned his Masters of Education from the University of Virginia.
Plum supports many progressive priorities like increasing the minimum wage, reforms to make voting more accessible for everyone, gun violence prevention, and driving privileges for undocumented immigrants. He wants increased job opportunities, better funding for schools and teacher salaries, and to ensure the safety of his constituents.
Running unopposed, Delegate Plum is the more progressive choice for this race.
David L. BulovaDemocrat
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.
Dan I. HelmerDemocrat
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 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.
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.
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.
Democratic candidate Kathy Smith is a current member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. After graduating from Muhlenberg College with a BA in Sociology and Elementary Education, Kathy taught first grade in New Jersey and second grade at an International School in Saudi Arabia. She and her husband, Steve, have lived in Sully since 1984, raising their four children here.
Education is a top priority for Smith. She has worked to increase school funding and raise teacher pay and will continue to pursue those policies on the board. She has also supported implementing the equity goals of One Fairfax. Protecting the environment is also important to Smith. She is concerned with protecting local streams and open space while finding ways to tackle climate change on the local level.
Srilekha Palle is the Republican candidate for Sully District Supervisor. She was born and raised in India. She lives in Fairfax with her husband and two kids while working as a health care executive and entrepreneur. While Palle supports criminal justice reforms including alternatives to incarceration and expanding the use of body-worn cameras, she also wants to increase the county’s cooperation with ICE to target and deport immigrants. She also expresses support for privatizing and outsourcing local government responsibilities and advocates for an expansion of school privatization schemes like charter schools.
Smith is the more progressive choice for Sully District Supervisor.
Stella Pekarsky is the Democratic Committee-endorsed candidate for Sully District School Board. She is the daughter of Greek immigrants and a graduate of George Mason University. She previously worked as a substitute teacher before she co-founded a family air charter business. She and her husband live in Centerville with their six children.
Pekarksy is running to ensure every child has the resources and opportunity to succeed in Fairfax County schools. She wants to invest in mental health supports and teacher retention while eliminating school trailers and overcrowded classrooms.
Thomas Wilson is the current member of the Fairfax County School Board from the Sully District. He was elected in 2015and is a graduate of Lake Braddock Secondary School, Cornell University, and the Northwestern University School of Law. After college, Wilson served in the U.S. Army during the Gulf War. He has been living in Fairfax County with his family for more than two decades. He has been an attorney in private practice.
Wilson has been endorsed by the local Republican committee. He abstained from votes on comprehensive sex education and nondiscrimination protections for transgender students after complaining that the proposals were brought to the board by individuals hostile to people of faith.
Stella Pekarksy is the progressive choice for Sully District School Board.
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