Home 2017 Races We Don’t Ride the Blue Wave, We Build it Ourselves: How Karen...

We Don’t Ride the Blue Wave, We Build it Ourselves: How Karen Keys-Gamarra Won


Normally, I’d do a full write-up on everything I’ve seen and heard on the ground regarding a race. I’d break down all of the events I saw, the candidates involved, and the general feel-good narrative of how we took an obscure rainy day race like this and turned it into an epic win, and a statement that the Virginia GOP is on notice.

Instead, I’ll leave you with some factoids and then let pictures tell you most of the story before closing:

  • Republicans forced this to be a Special Election instead of being held in November by having the former occupant of this seat resign 10 days earlier than necessary.
  • By doing this, the GOP cost taxpayers close to $250,000 and several hundreds of man hours of election officials and electoral administration. This includes proper notices, setting polling locations, ensuring that voting information and system is tested and ready, and setting up deadlines for registration, absentee voting, etc.
  • They did it this way because turnout is historically low for elections like this (usually between 4-6%) and historically low turnout is great for Republicans and terrible for us.
  • In the end, though, turnout is much closer to 10%, and Karen ended up winning in precincts that tend to lean Republican.

So this is how we won:

You’re likely starting to see a pattern here. Democrats did not stay in their silos and keep to their own races during this special election; quite the opposite. You’ll notice candidates on all levels of the ticket pitching in to help Karen. You’ll also notice college Dems, ex-candidates, Congressional candidates, and everyday volunteers willing to help in any way that they can.

That isn’t to say the GOP didn’t have some of the same – Ed Gillespie and Barbara Comstock were out helping Chris Grisafe, but the difference in teamwork and selflessness was like night and day. Delegate candidates who’s districts overlap with Fairfax – and even those whose didn’t – adopted Karen’s campaign as part of their own.

There’s also the fact that Karen’s race had massive coverage online, being featured multiple times on both Blue Virginia and Daily Kos. A few weeks ago, Virginia Kos hosted a diary storm in which almost a dozen different writers posted about this special election, ensuring it caught the eyes of Democrats nationwide. That WaPo endorsement probably helped, too.

It was truly a Coordinated Campaign, and it shows that when we leave it all on the field, we can win big no matter what the GOP tries to throw at us.

The Republicans didn’t have the best approach to marketing this race, either. Their candidate was endorsed by a white supremacist group (which I don’t believe they ever denounced) and on election day the Fairfax GOP sent out the following:

Not the most inspiring message, and now makes them look really silly with how things panned out.

The main takeaway is that there isn’t some magic bullet to winning these elections, and that they days of all of us running in silos need to be long gone if we want to keep winning. That isn’t only referring to candidates, either – Fairfax came down to help us in Prince William during Jacqueline Smith’s race for Clerk or the Court, and we returned the favor this time around.

As Democrats, our entire philosophy centers around the idea that together we can accomplish things that we could never achieve on our own. These elections are starting to prove that, and this kind of unity is our one true key to taking back our commonwealth and our country.

After all:

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”

– Bobby Kennedy

And, finally, here is my official statement about Karen’s landslide win:

Congratulations to Fairfax School Board At-Large-Elect Karen Keys-Gamarra for her stunning victory in today’s special election.

A big shout out to Peter Dougherty and the rest of Karen’s campaign team for organizing such a well-run campaign in such a short time, and for the legions of volunteers who knocked on doors, wrote postcards, made phone calls, and staff the polls today in the pouring rain. This victory belongs to you, too!

Another big shout out to Kathy Tran for DelegateKarrie Delaney for DelegateDonte Tanner For DelegateJustin Fairfax for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia and all of the other Democratic candidates that devoted their own campaign time and resources to assisting with this big win. We’ve proved that moving outside of our own campaign silos is how we win big, and our unity couldn’t be stronger.

Congratulations to Chris GrisafeSandra D. Allen, and Michael Owens on their campaigns as well. Putting yourself out there to run for office is no small endeavor, and each of your deserve our respect for stepping up. Seeking to represent your community is commendable.

Fairfax County Public Schools will have great leadership with Karen Keys-Gamarra joining the ranks of the school board. Have a great school year!

  • A_Siegel

    Ken — thanks for this discussion/point. Yes, good to see how broad the engagement was from numerous candidates, D groups, otherwise …

  • CASA In Action Endorses Progressive Candidates in Virginia

    Every week until election day, the pro-immigrant group engages thousands of voters to cast their vote on November 7


    Falls Church, VA – With great pride and joy, CASA in Action announces the endorsement of extraordinary visionary leaders that represent the new Virginia.

    “Our goal is to build political power for immigrants and people of color in Virginia for years to come,” expressed Gustavo Torres, President of CASA in Action. “We are facilitating greater electoral engagement by providing political education to voters – particularly Latinos and people of color – and getting them to the polls to vote for the progressive candidates we have endorsed.”

    The following leaders have earned CASA in Action’s endorsement as they have shown incredible commitment to work on policies that support working families thrive and have also acknowledged the numerous contributions immigrants make every day to the Commonwealth.

    CASA in Action 2017 Candidate Endorsements in Virginia:

    · Ralph Northam – for Governor
    · Justin Fairfax – for Lieutenant Governor
    · Mark Herring – for Attorney General

    · Hala Ayala – for Delegate, District 51
    · Jennifer Carroll Foy – for Delegate, District 2
    · Karrie Delaney – for Delegate, District 67
    · Elizabeth Guzman – for Delegate, District 31
    · Danica Roem – for Delegate, District 13
    · Kathy Tran – for Delegate, District 42

    Through a multi-touch general election program, CASA in Action is engaging voters through several methods including Get-Out-The Vote activities and social media engagement. This election program has a focus on Northern Virginia since the area has experienced significant population growth in the past decade – growth that has been driven largely by Latinos and other immigrants.

    With 94,000+ lifetime members, CASA in Action is the largest electoral organization fighting for immigrant rights in the Mid-Atlantic region. For more information, please visit CASAinAction.org.

  • Jennifer

    I have been writing postcards for the November election via Postcards4VA (www.postcards4va.com) but actually received one myself reminding me about this special election that came from Postcards to Voters – was realy excited that they focused on this school board race and hopefully their effort helped bring out some voters who might not have paid attention to this important race. Thanks!

    • Awesome!

    • Kenny Allen Boddye

      Thanks so much for helping out!