Another year, another great Mardi Gras party by the Mt. Vernon Democrats. Last night, there were around 200 Democrats there to eat, socialize, and hear the candidates for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair, Commonwealth’s Attorney, At-Large School Board Member and Lee District Supervisor. See below for videos and get to know the candidates a bit (only two minutes each, but it gives you a flavor of who these folks are and why they’re running)!
Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA08) jokingly started off by saying “Welcome to Don Beyer Subaru – just kidding.” That’s a reference, of course, to the fact that the Mt. Vernon Dems’ Mardi Gras event has been held for years at Don Beyer…actually, Volvo. LOL Beyer than proceeded to make a series of groan-inducing “straw” puns.
Next came speeches by Fairfax County Board Chair candidates.
First, Tim Chapman, who said he’s concerned about kids still going to school in trailers in one of the wealthiest counties in the country, that free-and-reduced lunch is increasing, etc., and that these are things that need to be changed. Chapman – a real estate developer, specializing in affordable housing – then talked about how Fairfax values real estate, which if not done right can “put more pressure on our residential real estate.”
Next, Fairfax County School Board at-large member Ryan McElveen, who argued he’s the only candidate in this race on the School Board, with a child in the public school system, who has endorsed the Green New Deal, who has signed the “Fairfax for All Pledge.” McElveen also noted his leadership on gun violence prevention, sex trafficking prevention, LGBTQ protections, etc. He also argued for the importance of affordable housing.
Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay argued he has an “outstanding record in lifting up all people in Fairfax County,” pointed to fully funding schools in Fairfax County, being the “architect of our legislative package…fighting for school funding, fighting for our environment, fighting for mental health.” McKay argued that “experience really matters,” that the Chairman of the Board job is “not a job you show up to one day and do; you need to have a record of success.” McKay also pointed out that he’s been “endorsed by every Democrat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, by our Fairfax County firefighters…by Gerry Connolly, by so many people in the state legislature….those relationships matter.”
Finally, Alicia Plerhoples argued that “we live in two Fairfax Counties” and that she’s running “to close the gap.” She argued that Fairfax County has an affordable housing and a workforce housing crisis that it’s doing nothing about.” She argued that she has the “empathy, the experience and the vision to lead our county forward.” She said she knows land use and real estate development, went to Harvard and is a professor at Georgetown Law School, but that “my head is not in the clouds, it is on the streets.” She made the case that “Fairfax County has a decision to be made: it is 2019, we are done with dynasties, we need somebody who not only has experience, but has the vision to lead this County forward.” She concluded that Fairfax County needs to “be the leader in this region on so many things where we have not been the leader before.”
For Commonwealth’s Attorney, we first heard from challenger Steve Descano, who pointed out his background as a federal prosecutor. He argued that he’s focusing on three values: 1) “community”; 2) “equality”; 3) “justice.” He referred to “overcriminalizing” things like “simple possession of marijuana.” He made a series of charges/attacks against incumbent Ray Morrogh, including that Morrogh’s (supposedly) “a leader in a conservative organization that endorsed Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General.” Hmmmm….
We then heard from incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh, who talked about his 35-year record of service, of “bring my progressive values to the job” (drug court, Veterans court, mental health court, diversion-first) and bragged that Fairfax County is one of the safest counties in the country, with the “jail population is at an all-time low,” as is the juvenile detention center population. Morrogh said he fights hard to help people, NOT to put people in jail. He said he’s never asked for a cash bail in his life. He said Descano is not at all qualified for the job and pushed back hard on Descano’s criticisms, for instance noting that he did NOT vote for Jeff Sessions, but instead that “I voted for Loretta Lynch.” He noted that the prosecutors association is made up of many Republicans and Democrats who don’t always agree.
For Fairfax County Supervisor from Lee Magisterial District (which Jeff McKay is vacating to run for Chair), we first heard from Kelly Hebron. She said she’s a 20-year resident of Lee District and has been “active.” She emphasized multiple times that she’s a lawyer but has never worked for a law firm. She said “I am living the same life as the people I want to represent.” She said she has a “diverse background” and the “commitment” to do this job. “I have chosen a career of public service.”
We then heard from Larysa Kautz, who said she’s a problem solver. She said we have to advocate for opportunity for everyone who lives in Lee District and Fairfax County. She said she when Donald Trump was elected, she started an organization called “Lawyers for Good Government that now has over 125,000 lawyers around the country volunteering for projects like the Muslim Ban, helping undocumented immigrants reunited with their children,” etc. She said the policies being made at the federal level “need to be addressed at the local level.” She said she serves on four Fairfax County boards.
Next, we heard from Rodney Lusk, who said he’s lived in Fairfax County for 30 years. He said he’s worked in human services, in the offices of two Board of Supervisors’ members, to serve as the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority’s Director of National Marketing and to work on the Committee to Prevent and End Homelessness. He said he’s had the opportunity to make a difference and is committed to doing more.
For at-large School Board, first we heard from incumbent Karen Keys-Gamarra, who I strongly supported the first time she ran in the summer of 2017 and am strongly supporting for reelection. Keys-Gamarra said she’s very well aware of the “power of we,” that she doesn’t do this alone. She said that since she’s been on the School Board she’s worked to remove a Confederate name from a school, produce a balanced budget that provides competitive salaries for teachers, reduces class sizes, addresses disparities in discipline referral that inappropriately impact people of color.” She said “you can do what you put your mind to” with the “power of we.”
Next, incumbent Ilryong Moon emphasized that there’s going to be a lot of turnover on the School Board, with numerous incumbents retiring or running for other offices, and that’s one reason why voters should reelect him, given his 20 years of experience (including as Chair and Vice Chair of the School Board). He said he grew up in a poor family in Korea, and he believes that through education, kids can succeed in life, just like he did.
Third, Abrar Omeish said she’s grown up in Fairfax County and went to Fairfax County public schools. She said she’s served on various School Board committees, started a non-profit organization that provides free tutoring and mentorship for kids across the county. She said she’s running to help kids overcome barriers to achieve their aspirations. “I believe in these children.”
Finally, we heard from Rachna Sizemore Heizer, who said she’s the only candidate running for at-large School Board who has a child in the schools right now; that she works with diverse stakeholders to get things, that she’s an educator (college professor) that knows “what skills your kids need.” She referred to her “long-haired rock star” son, who is autistic, and about his experience in the general education classroom, finding his seat “in the back of the room at the table with only kids with autism…he was only seen for autism, and not for who he was.” She said “we do a great job in Fairfax County if you fit in the bucket we put you in,” and she wants to provide a “holistic, strengths-focused education,” where every child is seen for “what they CAN do, not what they CAN’T do.”