by Kyle McDaniel, a candidate for the Democratic endorsement for Fairfax County School Board, at-large.
It is a question I’ve gotten a few times since announcing my campaign. Its’s a fair question. And it’s a question I’ve answered in the same way: I grew up, learned, and it’s a great story.
It’s no secret that some time ago I found myself on the other side of the aisle. As a young, idealistic boy with no real-life experience to speak of, my political opinions were drawn from family: a Christian conservative family from Mississippi. I was privileged being able to grow up without many of the struggles families in Fairfax County face. And that privilege shaped my views.
My first job out of college was as an aide to a County Supervisor. I understood public policy because of my strong academic background in public administration, and I applied policy analysis in a very academic fashion.
The last straw of my time with the GOP was Donald Trump’s appalling comments on the Haitian people, a people with whom I have broken bread many times in Port-au-Prince. At that time I was in a leadership position within the party, and I knew that a resignation would create headlines and that I would be resoundingly condemned by Republicans, but that didn’t matter to me. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, and I accepted that. In early 2018, I quit the Republican party and politics entirely. Disgusted with the direction the GOP had taken over the years, I felt that focusing on my family and career was a wiser endeavor.
Over that year, I quietly watched as Republicans sank farther and farther into bigotry, hate, and cynicism. With Trump’s iron clad grip on the GOP forged, I watched as they used governments to impose harmful policies on people. I watched the then-Springfield District School Board Member use her position to bully LGBTQ+ kids, meanwhile disappearing from the day-to-day governing responsibilities to pursue what I could only imagine to be a much-needed paycheck as a right-wing talking head.
I’d had enough, and I wanted to see someone else represent Springfield District on the School Board. I ran a campaign to bring to light the horrible record of the Republican incumbent. The incumbent lost, and Laura Jane Cohen has been a marked improvement, and I am proud to have her endorsement. I quietly returned to private life and focused on my family and career.
Over the last four years, I have supported Democratic candidates and policies, albeit behind the scenes, in a host of ways. I’m not particularly extroverted, and I don’t really like getting my picture taken. I’m probably the least likely person to seek out a camera.
Experiences over the last several years confirmed what I knew since 2018: I’m a Democrat. Breaking with your “team” is hard enough. Breaking with your “team” and immediately joining the other is not only harder, but some would argue insincere. In fact, when I left, I was told it was wrong to not immediately declare myself a Democrat. My response? “Maybe.” But I needed to stabilize my career, take care of my family, and have an overall political detox. I think that’s reasonable.
The 2021 elections reignited my political fire. I had the added benefit of a flexible job, and we were welcoming our second daughter into the world. Things were looking up. I volunteered for some of my Democratic friends, and I was looking forward to strong Democratic leadership in Richmond to bring us out of COVID. We all know what happened. As Glenn Youngkin was sworn in, I knew I couldn’t stand around. I joined FCDC in January 2022.
Two watershed events happened last year that shook me: The Supreme Court, for the first time in history, rolled back fundamental rights with the Dobbs ruling; and on May 24th a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 teachers in Uvalde, TX. I had flashbacks to being a 4th grader watching Columbine. And I remembered my wife telling me of the trauma she experienced watching police run into West Ambler Johnston Hall on the morning of April 16th, 2007 at Virginia Tech. I was shaken, and I believe millions of Americans were shaken.
On May 25th, I dropped Alice off at preschool. As I walked out, I stopped and thought, “What if this is the last time I ever drop her off?” The rest is history. And here I am seeking the Democratic endorsement for School Board At-Large. I’ve been asked what my values are. Let me tell you in my own words:
>I believe women have a fundamental right to dictate the autonomy of their own bodies. In fact, when the Dobbs ruling came down I volunteered to personally fly women to states that would not ban abortions through a non-profit.
>I believe that commonsense gun reforms, and a robust mental health system, are both key to addressing the crisis of gun violence in our country.
>I believe that union jobs promote a stronger, more equitable economy, and lead to an overall better community. In fact, in a video interview I gave in 2018, I stated that I never understood, or shared, the Republican disdain for unions.
>I believe that election denial is a fundamental threat to our democracy and must be exorcised from mainstream discourse.
>I believe climate change is an existential threat to our planet. In fact, I pioneered a first-of-its-kind program within my aviation company to allow my customers to purchase credits to offset the carbon for their flight training.
>I believe that our LGBTQ+ community needs our support and protection, especially kids. In fact, I am proud to be endorsed by Robert Rigby, Co-President of FCPS Pride.
>I believe that ALL children deserve the highest quality education we can possibly give them in a safe and welcoming environment. My platform is aimed at just that.
>I believe government, fundamentally, is a force for good and can be used to address deep inequities that exist across our communities.
>I believe that there is no greater policy goal than expanding opportunity and lifting people out of poverty.
>I believe that bringing our country together, in a common pursuit of happiness, is fundamental to Democratic governance.
I could go on and on. While one singular incident started the journey that landed me here, it was just one experience followed by another, and another, and another, that shaped the values I hold. These are my values. These are our Democratic values. And these are the values I will protect and advance. My values are shaped by my real lived experiences over the last decade. I wasn’t born into them, but I learned them, as an adult, through real life and struggles.
I am asking for your support, and for 1 of your top 3 endorsement votes. In the words of Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.” I’m here because I know better. Let’s do better for our kids.