This afternoon, I made a road trip out to Manassas for the Atif Qarni for State Senate campaign’s kickoff. Last year, Qarni ran for House of Delegates again one of our “favorite” Republicans of all time, “Sideshow Bob” Marshall, and almost beat him, losing by just 498 votes out of 17,429 cast. This cycle, “Sideshow Bob” will be opposed by Democrat Don Shaw, who I had a chance to meet in person today at the Qarni event, while Qarni runs for the State Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Chuck Colgan — Virginia’s longest-serving senator.
Others in attendance at the Qarni event today included Democrat Rick Smith, who is planning to run against Prince William County Board Chair (and xenophobic-demagogue-in-chief) Corey Stewart; Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke); former Democratic candidate for Prince William County Board chair Babur Lateef; Alexandria Democratic Committee Chair Clarence Tong; Democratic Asian Americans of Virginia President Dewita Soeharjono; Democratic Asian Americans of Virginia Treasurer Rose Chu; etc.
In his speech, Atif Qarni talked about his service in the Marines, including his deployment to Iraq in 2003. Qarni said that he had a lot of time to reflect in Iraq, “especially in the evenings or at nighttime with only scorpions to keep me company in the desert.” He decided he “wanted to do something meaningful with my life,” which is why he left his job in DC to become a teacher in the Prince William County schools. As a math teacher, Qarni said he teaches his students to think critically and to solve problems, which contrasts sharply with what we see in Richmond with Republican politicians “creating a lot of problems.”
Qarni said he’s been doing a lot of listening, and he’s been hearing from teachers and parents a great deal about overcrowded classrooms, about low teacher pay, about lack of support for public education. Qarni says if he’s elected, he will make it his top priority to increase funding and support for public school education and teachers.
Other than education, Qarni pointed to traffic as a major problem that adversely impacts people’s daily lives — “we spend time in our cars and less time with our families; that’s unacceptable.” Qarni proposes making smart investments in infrastructure, as well as things like telework and other ways to get cars off the roads, which he notes is better for the environment as well.
Qarni also spoke about the struggles small business owners have in finding skilled workers. Qarni believes that “the state needs to compensate small businesses for training individuals and creating a larger skilled work force.”
Qarni concluded with the Marine Corps motto, “Semper Fidelis” (“always faithful”). He noted that this is “what and who I am.” He further pledged that he will be “always faithful to the people of Prince William County.”
For more video, check out the “flip.” Also note that this is likely to be a hotly-contested, three-way contest for the Democratic nomination, the other two likely candidates being Jeremy McPike and Del. Michael Futrell. Last but not least, I’d point out that this district, which stretches from Dale City and Woodbridge on the east to Manassas and west, went for Terry McAuliffe by 18 points over Ken Cuccinelli last year, and for Barack Obama by 29 points over Mitt Romney in 2012. So, the bottom line is that this is a district Democrats should win and must win if we’re going to have any chance of taking back the State Senate. Let’s do it.