With Del. Mark Keam (D-HD35)’s resignation a few weeks ago to go work in the Biden administration, there’s going to be a special election to fill the seat on January 10, 2023. But first, we’ve got the Democratic nominating caucus this coming week (for more details, see here), with two candidates having filed for this overwhelmingly “blue” seat in the Vienna/Tysons area of Fairfax County: 1) “BRAWS” (“Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters”) Founder Holly Seibold and 2) Fairfax County School Board member Karl Frisch.
So with this in mind, on September 25, I emailed both Democratic candidates with a Blue Virginia questionnaire, asking if they could get it back to me by today if possible, since early voting starts this coming Tuesday at 10 am and the caucus is next Saturday, October 8 from 10 am to 4 pm (at the Kilmer Center, Oakton Elementary School and the Patrick Henry Library). The first candidate to respond was Holly Seibold; see here for her answers. And now, see below for Karl Frisch‘s responses (thanks!).
1. What would you most like Blue Virginia readers to know about who you are, what your qualifications are for delegate, and what motivated you to seek public office?
“During these uncertain times, we need more progressive fighters in Richmond – people who will stand up to Governor Youngkin and the far-right and work every day to protect the progress Democrats have made in Virginia and keep our Commonwealth moving forward. That is the kind of leadership I can deliver in Richmond, and that is why I am running for Virginia House of Delegates in the 35th district special election.
For the past few years, school boards across the country have been the target of a well-funded, national right-wing effort tearing at the foundation of public education. Yet, despite the hate mail, death threats, and bigoted attacks, I have never wavered in my commitment to our students, educators, and families.
On the School Board, I have championed efforts to eliminate literacy gaps, teach accurate history, protect school libraries from censorship, expand access to advanced academics, encourage energy conservation, teach the truth about contraception and abortion care, rename schools that honored the Confederacy, keep immigrant families together, protect LGBTQIA+ students, and more.
Before serving on the School Board, I earned a national reputation as an effective and progressive public policy advocate in our nation’s capital. Most recently, as executive director of consumer watchdog Allied Progress, I successfully fought the Trump administration over its betrayal of struggling Americans targeted by predatory payday lenders, unscrupulous student loan processors, and other financial scammers.
As a senior fellow at Media Matters for America during the Obama administration, I developed an early framework for the non-profit’s efforts to hold Fox News and other right-wing media accountable for perpetuating misinformation and baselessly attacking progressive leaders and priorities. When Bill O’Reilly and Andrew Breitbart attacked me, I wore it as a badge of honor.
As Democratic staff for the Rules Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, I was instrumental in helping to expose a pattern of corruption by Republican members of Congress. Some later resigned or faced criminal charges stemming from their ethical transgressions.
I will bring the same fighting spirit to bear for all Virginians, working to protect our world-class and inclusive public schools, defend abortion access and reproductive freedom, build an economy that works for everyone (especially the workers on whose backs it is built), prevent gun violence, take bold climate action, and preserve our democracy.”
2. Ideologically speaking, how would you describe yourself – “moderate,” “progressive,” “liberal,” other?
“If you ask the Fairfax County Republican Committee, they will probably claim I am a woke, Marxist, socialist, commie. But, here on planet Earth, I am what rational people would call a progressive because I believe the government has an obligation to help everyone achieve their full potential – in school, at work, at home, and in the world around them.
That means public schools that help all students succeed regardless of circumstance, employers that pay workers a livable wage with healthcare and other stability-enhancing benefits, people who are free to love who they want and make their own medical decisions, and communities where clean air and water are the expectation.”
3. If elected, in what ways – if any – would your representation of the district be different than/the same as Del. Mark Keam’s?
“Mark Keam represented us well for more than a decade, and we have much to be grateful for in his legacy of leadership and service to our community.
When I ran for school board in 2019, he was generous with his time and counsel – helping me wrap my head around the mechanics of campaigning as a first-time candidate. When we discussed my potential campaign for Delegate, he was no less helpful with advice and counsel. I have always tried to emulate Del. Keam’s example, sharing what I’ve learned as a candidate and elected official with those considering possible future campaigns.
As the School Board member representing nearly 2/3 of his district, I can tell you without hesitation that Del. Keam always made our schools a priority. If I asked him to visit a school with me, he would be there. Serving as the School Board’s state legislative liaison, when I called or visited him in Richmond with concerns about Governor Youngkin’s legislative attacks on public education, he was always eager to help find potential solutions.
In addition to his legislative accomplishments, Del. Keam’s accessibility made him a standout legislator. He was everywhere, making him a good example not only for anyone hoping to fill his seat but for everyone serving in public office at every level.”
4. The Virginia General Assembly is officially part-time, yet most legislators are busy throughout the year serving their constituents, attending regular and special sessions, etc. Do you believe the job of delegate should officially and/or unofficially be more of a full-time job or continue with the “part-time citizen legislator” model?
“As an elected School Board member, I can tell you that ‘officially part-time’ is really full-time if you want to do the job right. That said, few people have employers that will allow them to take the time off needed to serve in the Virginia General Assembly. If we want to attract people with diverse professional backgrounds to public office who will have the time year-round to attend to their constituents’ needs, we must pay a wage that makes it possible for them to step away from their current jobs if needed — $17,000 a year and per diem just isn’t going to cut it. Additionally, allowing unlimited campaign contributions from virtually any source, paying legislators too little, and allowing them to use contributions for most personal expenses is a recipe for ethical disaster.”
5. What would be your top issue priorities to work (and lead) on if you’re elected as delegate?
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s terrifying assault on abortion access is just the beginning from a right-wing bench hellbent on undermining federal authority on a host of critical issues. In addition to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to protect reproductive freedom in Virginia’s constitution, we must be prepared to respond to the activist Supreme Court’s likely future attacks on contraception, marriage equality, environmental regulation, consumer financial protections, and more. Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly need a cross-chamber task force charged with making sure we fix at the Commonwealth level whatever the Supreme Court breaks at the federal level.”
6. How do you view the current Republican Party? And on a related note, if elected, would you look more to work with Republicans in the House of Delegates or to fight for progressive values and to defeat Republicans at the ballot box?
“The current Republican Party is more a cult of personality than a political party with core values and beliefs – what Donald Trump wants, Governor Youngkin delivers. Even Republican officials who may disagree with their conspiracy theorist colleagues end up twisting themselves in pretzels to avoid falling out of favor with the party’s radicalism. That is one of the reasons it is so difficult to conceive of many Republicans in the House of Delegates being willing to partner on issues like protecting reproductive freedom, defending LGBTQIA+ Virginians, combating climate change, preventing gun violence, and other critical priorities. Even if they agreed as a matter of principle, they would be unlikely to step out of line. But, if they did muster the courage to do the right thing, I would gladly work with them to get it done.”
7. Are there any Virginia elected officials, past or present, who you view as role models? Who do you view as the worst current Virginia elected officials?
“Danica Roem has been an exceptional Delegate since her election in 2017. I have watched her handle hateful, sexist, and anti-trans bigotry with grace, humor, and determination. She has stayed laser focused on serving the needs of her community, mastering her work as a Delegate, and passing meaningful legislation. That is a roadmap that all Delegates, especially freshmen, would be wise to follow.
Gerry Connolly is a rare member of Congress who understands the importance of maintaining strong personal relationships with local officials. Perhaps because of his background as supervisor and chairman, the Congressman remains in constant contact with school board members, supervisors, and other local officials, offering advice and sharing important information. This skill has been critically important, especially during the height of the pandemic.
Mark Keam could teach a masterclass on constituent services. In addition to hiring excellent staff to assist him, he helped constituents of all political stripes navigate our state government, worked with stakeholders and local officials to craft impactful constituent-centered legislation, and was (still is!) a constant presence at events across the district, connecting with community members to hear their concerns firsthand.
Is Governor Youngkin still considered a Virginia elected official? He spends so much time in early Republican presidential primary states these days I am not sure if he still qualifies for residency in our Commonwealth. He seems far more interested in appealing to Fox News viewers, special interests, and election-denying GOP candidates for Governor in other states than serving the needs of the people he represents.
With him, cruelty is the point. How else do you explain his Friday night assault on the dignity of transgender and other gender-expansive students and their parents? Even though our School Board will not waver in its support for these students or their families, they are still being forced to listen as their Governor and his supporters debate their worthiness and simple human dignity. I would say he should be ashamed of himself, but I have become convinced he is not capable of shame.”
8. For Democratic voters looking to choose a nominee on October 8th, what would you tell them? Specifically, why should a Democratic voter choose YOU and not your Democratic competitor(s)?
“Throughout this very short Democratic nominating process, I have remained entirely focused on communicating with voters about the assets I bring to the table as a potential future Delegate. From my work in Congress and the progressive movement to my career as a consumer advocate and elected school board member, I have demonstrated my ability to stand up to the far right and work with colleagues to accomplish meaningful, progressive change.
As an elected school board member, I have spent years shepherding public policy from idea to reality, working with stakeholders, constituents, and colleagues to craft, adjust, reach consensus, and implement. We need more of that in Richmond – experienced progressives who will stand up to Governor Youngkin and the far right and work every day to keep Virginia moving forward. People are counting on us for nothing less.”
9. If you had been in the House of Delegates in 2020-2021, would you have voted for or against: a) the Redistricting Amendment; b) the Virginia Clean Economy Act; c) the Virginia Values Act; d) an assault weapons ban; e) campaign finance reform, including setting limits on donations from individuals, corporations and/or from state-regulated-monopoly utility Dominion Energy; f) increasing the progressivity of Virginia’s tax code; g) criminal justice legislation such as repealing the death penalty, legalizing marijuana, etc.
- Against – We needed a better, more independent system for redistricting that would have centered people rather than politics in the process.
- For (and more incentives to transition schools and local governments away from fossil fuels.)
- For (and more support for LGBTQIA+ youth.)
- For (and let’s throw in untraceable ghost guns while we are at it.)
- For (long overdue in our Wild West of a system.)
- For (and a better climate for workers.)
- For (and address the school to prison pipeline.)
10. Is there anything else you’d like Democratic voters and Blue Virginia readers to know?
“Growing up, my father had a union job, and my mother waited tables to help make ends meet. I never imagined I would have the opportunity to serve on the school board, let alone run for Delegate. For those of you who have followed our work over the past three years and have seen the bigoted and homophobic attacks lobbed against my partner and me, you know I do not back down. And that is my commitment to you. If you trust me with your vote, I will never back down in the face of attacks on the values we share.
That is why our campaign is endorsed by Congressman Don Beyer, former Virginia Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, Fairfax County Chairman Jeff McKay, former Chair Sharon Bulova, Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, Providence Supervisor Dalia Palchik, Hunter Mill Supervisor Walter Alcorn – nearly three dozen current and former elected officials including Virginia Delegates, Senators, members of the Board of Supervisors, members of the School Board, and a host of others. If you are reading this and live in the 35th district, I would be honored to earn your support, too.”