The 2021 Preference Poll candidates for Reston Community Center’s Board of Governors are (left to right) Richard Stillson, Lisa Sechrest-Ehrhardt, and William G. Bouie (courtesy RCC)

With little fanfare, a trio of incumbents will resume their positions following an uncontested election for Reston Community Center’s Board of Governors.

Bill Bouie, who has served on the board since 2003, led the pack with 1,439 votes. He was followed by Lisa Sechrest-Ehrhardt, who has been on the board since 2012 and had 1,396 votes. Richard Stillson, who has been on the board since 2018, received 1,382.

They were selected through this year’s Preference Poll, which iso pen to all Small District 5 residents. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors then formally appoints the selected winners after the poll.

This year was the first uncontested election in several years. Each individual will serve three-year terms that begin on Nov. 1.

Here’s more directly from RCC on the winners:

William G. Bouie has served on the RCC Board of Governors since 2003. He is also chairman of the Fairfax County Park Authority Board. Mr. Bouie is a telecommunications executive who is a passionate advocate for Reston and Fairfax County youth and adult sports and recreation opportunities. He has also served on the boards of the Wolf Trap Foundation, Public Art Reston, Fairfax County YMCA Reston and Reston Youth Baseball.

Lisa Sechrest-Ehrhardt is a 46-year resident of Reston and an RCC Board of Governors member since 2012. A social worker, she is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, and she seeks to use her professional and personal experience to contribute to the social, cultural and educational environments provided by RCC.

Richard Stillson has served on the RCC Board of Governors since 2018. He has lived in Reston for 49 years. Mr. Stillson has been involved in Reston organizations since the community’s early days, including Reston 2020 and the first Reston Comprehensive Plan Task Force.

The board is responsible for strategic planning, policy administration, and community relations, among other areas.

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Del. Ken Plum and challenger Matt Lang

(Updated, 4:30 p.m.) In the race for 36th District, incumbent Ken Plum was outraised by Republican challenger Matt Lang during July and August according to the latest campaign finance reports.

Lang raised just over $12,500 dollars during the summer months while Plum raised about $7,400.

“I’ve already raised more than that in September alone,” Lang tells Reston Now. “Voters are paying attention and like what they see.”

However, due to Plum’s fundraising efforts earlier in the year, the incumbent far exceeds the challenger in regards to both overall cash raised and ending balances.

Plum has raised about $140,500 during this election cycle, while Lang is about a quarter of that at about $33,400. In terms of ending balances, Plum currently has about $73,000 in his coffers while Lang has about $13,600.

Plum’s highest fundraising months were in April and May while he was in a midst of primary challenge against Mary Barthelson, raising more than $50,000 in those two months alone. He won that race easily with about 77% of the vote.

Digging a bit deeper reveals that Lang’s funds since the beginning of the year have come from a mix of individual contributors and Republican-backed political action committees.

The PACs that have given money to Lang include the 11th Congressional District of VA Republican Committee, Virginia Wins (buoyed by a million dollar donation from Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin), and New Mission Commonwealth, which donates to Republican candidates who are veterans.

This a bit of a contrast to Plum, who mainly has gotten money from assorted companies, corporations, and labor unions as well as individual contributors and political actions committees.

The companies and corporations that have donated to Plum include several that are higher profile. This includes Westrock, America’s second-largest packaging company, waste management company Covanta Energy, Anthem Blue Cross And Blue Shield, and Total Wine & More (owned by Maryland Congressman and Democrat David Trone).

All of these companies have a presence in Virginia.

Additionally, Plum also received money this election cycle from Amazon, which is building a headquarters in nearby Arlington, and a cannabis company called Golden Piedmont Labs from South Boston, Virginia. In April, the General Assembly voted to legalize marijuana possession in Virginia and now are looking to speed up the ability to sell it for recreational purposes.

When asked about these contributions, Plum tells Reston Now that sometimes companies and corporations give without him knowing. But he would never let it factor into his decision-making process.

“There’s a perception in the minds of some folks that campaign contribution results in a vote,” says Plum. “It doesn’t work that way… there’s no deal-making. If it’s ever expected, that’s the day I retire because it’s immoral.”

Additionally in July and August, Plum used a chunk of his considerable campaign chest to donate to other Democrats running in Virginia, including Irene Shin, who is running for the delegate seat in the nearby 86th District, and Wendy Gooditis vying for re-election in the 10th District. He also contributed money to Schuyler VanValkenburg’s campaign in the 72nd District and Chris Hurst’s in the 12th District.

“I can’t signalulary get the job done in Richmond,” he says about why he uses his campaign funds to help other candidates. “We need others who are progressive Democrats and share my values to get things done… it’s certainly worked recently.”

Plum says he plans on sending out more checks in the coming weeks to help other candidates.

Lang’s expenses in July and August were majority for consulting services, advertising, and fundraising event-related items.

The reports that were just filed this past week covered campaign financial information from July and August. The last report for this cycle will cover September and October items and will likely be released after the November election.

Early voting started this past Friday (September 17) and will continue to election day, November 2.

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With early voting starting later this week, incumbent Ken Plum is facing off against his first Republican challenger, Matt Lang, in a decade for the delegate seat in the 36th District.

“A fresh set of eyes…and a different set of experiences,” Lang tells Reston Now about what he would bring if elected as the representative for the 36th District, which encompasses Reston to Leesburg Pike in Great Falls to Flint Hill Road in Vienna.

He also noted that he “wasn’t exactly comfortable” with much of the legislation being passed by the General Assembly recently.

“We’ve had a lot of people who have been in the same position for a long time… and I figured, ‘why not?,” he says about why he was challenging the long-time incumbent. “Someone needs to stand up.”

Lang announced his candidacy back in January, making him the first Republican to vie for the seat since Hugh Cannon in 2011. Cannon earned only about 36% of the vote and was easily defeated by Plum.

Plum says he believes he’s being challenged this year, both during the primary and the general election, because there’s a perception that he might be retiring soon.

“My suspicion is that there’s a thought in people’s minds that one of these days, I’m actually going to hang it up,” Plum tells Reston Now. “But I will tell you, I have no such plans currently.”

79-year-old Plum (he turns 80 the day after the election) has served as House Delegate for the 36th District since 1982. He’s the longest-serving member in the Virginia House of Delegates. In June, he handily defeated a primary challenge with more than 77% of the vote.

Plum reiterates that he’s not a status quo candidate, but someone that’s made a career vouching for change.

“I think people who review my record realize that I’m a change agent,” he says.

As examples, he cites his work and chairing committees that are pushing to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, reduce greenhouse emissions in the state, requiring universal background check for gun purchases, expanding voting rights, and abolishing the death penalty.

Plum also notes that while the Virginia Clean Economy Act was a huge step forward when signed into law in April 2020, amendments are already needed to broaden energy efficient programs and hasten the move to electric transportation.

If elected, that will be a major priority of his, he says.

“We’ve seen the most progressive legislation ever in Virginia’s history,” Plum says. “Passing laws that are most beneficial to all citizens.”

Lang says he felt compelled to run during the General Assembly’s 2020 special session, when he says a number of bills were passed “haphazardly and rushed,” particularly around law enforcement.

He is former law enforcement himself; he’s a Marine Corps veteran, once worked in the Fairfax County sheriff’s office, and now a security consultant.

“I looked at a lot of the people who work in the [House of Delegates] and realized a lot of these people are making decisions on things they don’t have a lot of experience in,” says Lang. “And I just don’t agree with that.”

He particularly noted the Senate Bill 5032, which eliminates a minimum term of confinement for those charged with simple assault on a law enforcement officer (as well as judges, others). However, that bill more or less died in the House.

Lang believes that lawmakers are not taking input from those who “are doing the job every day” and are losing the support of police officers due to that. This includes Plum, he says, who is on the Public Safety Committee.

“[Officers] are upset with the fact that they are not able to do their jobs the way they used to be,” he says about his conversations with law enforcement officers. “It’s not because they don’t want to do the job, it’s the fear that extreme oversight infers in the performance of their work.”

Both candidates understand that schools are going to be on top of voters’ minds this election, no matter if they vote on Friday or November 2.

Earlier this year, both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly passed a law that mandated in-person schooling for the upcoming school year. However, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) have had a host of challenges since school started a few weeks ago. Now, virtual options are seemingly back on the table.

“Our first priority is to keep schools open for [in-person] learning,” says Plum. “But we need to follow the medical experts about how you do that.” He admits that could mean returning to virtual for a period of time.

Lang, whose own children attend FCPS, says it’s been “a quilt work of policies” and believes it’s important for children to remain in-person at school. He doesn’t think FCPS should be going back to a virtual option.

He’s also not in favor of vaccine mandates, like the one instituted late last month for all FCPS student-athletes. He is vaccinated himself, though, and encourages all to get it if they want to.

I don’t think that it’s fair to force people to get the vaccine,” he says. “There are a myriad of reasons, [could be] a personal choice, could be health-related, could be religious exemptions, you name it.”

When asked why voters should check his name at the ballot box, Plum says because he brings experience, know-how, and understanding to the table.

“I am a known quantity and have been around a long time,” he says. “I believe the values I possess are the values of this district.”

He also noted that he supports Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe for governor.

Lang supports the Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, but says he’d reach across the aisle if elected.

“Politicians used to work across the aisle routinely, but in the past, 15, 20 years, it’s become less and less common,” he says.”And that’s a shame.”

He insists that he will always make himself available, listen to everybody, and consider their positions.

“It’s like your family. If you have a large family, you’re not going to get along with everybody,” Lang says. “You have to come to some kind of compromise… otherwise, your family holidays are going to be chaos.”

Early voting starts in Virginia this Friday, September 17, and will continue until election day November 2.

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(Updated at 11:10 p.m.) Del. Ken Plum easily defeated his first primary opponent in more than two decades today (Tuesday), earning 75% of the vote, according to the Virginia Department of Elections’ unofficial results.

Plum has served as delegate for Virginia’s 34th House District, which encompasses Reston, since 1982, but he faced a rare Democratic challenger this year in data analyst and political newcomer Mary Barthelson, who announced her candidacy in March.

Plum will now face his first Republican challenger since 2011 in November’s general election, when he will vie for the seat with veteran and security consultant Matt Lang.

Herndon voters got a more competitive primary, as challenger Irene Shin eked out a victory in the 86th House District race over incumbent Del. Ibraheem Samirah, who was seeking his second full term in office.

After Fairfax County took a while to count absentee ballots, all 17 precincts were finally reported just after 11 a.m. Shin received 3,415 votes — or 51.7% — while Samirah got 3,185, or 48.3%, making the race the closest of the night that resulted in an incumbent defeat.

In the statewide races, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe handily won the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination, receiving more than 60% of the votes cast — roughly three times as many votes as his nearest competitor, former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, who was seeking to become Virginia’s first Black, female governor.

Carroll Foy received about 20% of the vote, followed in descending order by state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and Del. Lee Carter, who also lost his seat representing the 50th House District.

McAuliffe will compete in November’s general election against businessman Glenn Youngkin, who won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in an “unassembled” convention in May.

The Democratic ticket will be completed by Del. Hala Ayala (D-51st District), who beat six other candidates to snag the lieutenant governor nomination, and Attorney General Mark Herring, who bested challenger Jay Jones as he seeks a third consecutive term in the position.

The Republican Party nominated former Del. Winsome Sears for lieutenant governor and Virginia Beach Del. Jason Miyares for attorney general.

In its unofficial returns, the Fairfax County Office of Elections reported a voter turnout of 11.1%, a relatively low rate that’s not especially unusual for an off-year primary. The 2017 Democratic primary, the last year with a gubernatorial race on the ballot, saw a 13.4% turnout.

According to the county, 21,493 voters — 2.9% of the electorate — cast absentee ballots either by mail or in-person, while 60,999 people went to the polls on the day of the primary. In comparison, the 2017 Democratic primary saw just 7,105 absentee voters compared to 86,931 primary day voters.

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The Virginia Democratic Party is holding a primary tomorrow (Tuesday), and the ballot will feature some crowded races, including statewide contests for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.

The Republican Party chose to replace its primary this year with a convention in May to select statewide candidates. Some local races are also occurring in the state.

About 7,300 people in Fairfax County have voted early in person, and 50% of the vote-by-mail ballots requested by voters have been turned in so far, county spokesman Brian Worthy said in an email on Friday (June 4).

Here’s what to know:

Casting Your Ballot

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you’re in line by 7 p.m., you will still be able to vote. You generally need an ID to vote, but alternative options are available, which includes signing a statement that says you are who you say you are. You can find your polling place online.

For absentee ballots, the deadline to hand deliver them is 7 p.m. Tuesday. They can be dropped off at polling sites, and other options are available. By mail, absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before June 8 and also received in the county elections office by noon on Friday (June 11).

Unofficial results will be posted on the county’s website on election night as well as the state elections’ website.

The Ballot

While the lieutenant governor race remains crowded, candidate Elizabeth Guzman withdrew from to focus on getting re-elected as a delegate for the 31st House District, which serves parts of Fauquier and Prince William counties. However, her name will still be on the ballot.

For the gubernatorial race, Virginia’s constitution bars governors from running for consecutive terms, preventing Gov. Ralph Northam from seeking re-election this year but opening the door for former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

The state elections board previously drew candidates’ names randomly for their order on the ballot. They’re listed below, and sample ballots are available online.

Governor

Lieutenant Governor

Attorney General

House of Delegates — 36th District (Reston)

House of Delegates86th District (Herndon)

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The Reston Citizens Association officially has a new board of directors.

The nonprofit community organization, which represents about 60,000 Reston residents, announced the new board members yesterday (Wednesday) after holding an election on May 27 to fill four seats on the 13-person board.

The new directors are Yavuz Inanli and Vincent Dory, who won the two at-large seats that were up for election this year, and Joe Leighton, who now represents South Lakes.

RCA also sought candidates for a Hunters Woods seat, but for now, that area will be represented solely by Connie Hartke, who has served in the position since 2013.

“We do still have one other vacancy for the Hunters Woods District and are always receptive to expressions of interest,” incoming RCA President Lynne Mulston told Reston Now.

Effective June 1, here is RCA’s full 2021-2022 board of directors:

  • Hunters Woods: Connie Hartke
  • Town Center/Lake Anne/ Tall Oaks: Lynne Mulston and Craig Stevens
  • North Point: Shawn Endsley and Brian Steiner
  • South Lakes: Joe Leighton
  • At-Large: Dennis Hays, Yavuz Inanli, Gary Maupin, and Vincent Dory

Mulston has been nominated to serve as RCA president for the next year, taking over from Hays. Maupin will succeed her as vice president, with Leighton as treasurer and Endsley as secretary rounding out the new officers.

RCA directors each serve three-year terms and are selected by Reston residents. Everyone present at the board’s meeting on May 27 was entitled to a vote, including members of the public, according to Mulston.

Founded in 1967, the nonprofit says its vision is to “promote Reston’s vision and planning principles, to sustain and enhance its quality of life now and in the future.”

“RCA takes a holistic approach to understanding the Reston community’s needs and desires and proposes results-oriented solutions,” Mulston said in a statement. “The passion and energy that this RCA board brings to advancing RCA’s mission is encouraging.”

Photo via Reston Citizens Association

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(Updated at 11:45 a.m.) Virginia’s lieutenant governor race is coming to Reston.

The nonpartisan community action group #RestonStrong is hosting a forum for the candidates running to succeed current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is vying to become governor, at Lake Anne Washington Plaza on Saturday (May 22) at 11 a.m.

#RestonStrong founder Sarah Selvaraj D’Souza says the group wanted to host the forum to help Reston residents learn how the lieutenant governor candidates address the issues they care about.

“The event is to educate and encourage citizen participation in the upcoming state election on matters impacting Restonians,” she told Reston Now.

Four candidates for lieutenant governor have confirmed their attendance at Saturday’s forum: former Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman, Del. Hala Ayala (D-Woodbridge), Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria), and Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke).

All lieutenant governor candidates were invited, and D’Souza says more may accept the invitation by Saturday.

The other contenders are Norfolk City Councilmember Andria McClellan (D), Arlington businessman Xavier Warren (D), independent Bobby Junes, and former state delegate and Marine veteran Winsome Sears, who clinched the Republican Party’s nomination for the position on May 11 after a convention.

The event will be held at Kalypso’s Sports Tavern with overflow seating at Café Montmartre. D’Souza says #RestonStrong chose those two local, minority-owned businesses as the venues to support them as they try to rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those unable to attend in person, the forum will stream live on #RestonStrong’s website, Facebook, and Instagram, along with the Lake Anne Washington Plaza Facebook. The event will proceed rain or shine. To make reservations at Kalypso’s Sports Tavern, email [email protected] or call 703-707-0660.

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Incumbent Del. Ibraheem Samirah (left) and challenger Irene Shin (right) are competing in the Democratic primary for the 86th District (Photos courtesy Ibraheem Samirah, Irene Shin)

Virginia’s political transformation over the past decade can be summed up by the arc of the 86th House District.

10 years ago, former Herndon mayor and Republican Tom Rust was reelected for a sixth term, running unopposed in both the primary and general elections. Two years later, Jennifer Boysko fell just 54 votes shy of ousting Rust, and in 2015, she turned the district blue after he opted not to seek reelection.

Jumping to 2021, the Town of Herndon and western Fairfax County down to Route 50 in Chantilly are represented in the House of Delegates by Del. Ibraheem Samirah, the Palestinian American grandson of refugees who succeeded Boysko in 2019 as part of a new wave of Democratic leaders that gave the party control of the General Assembly.

As Washingtonian put it two years ago, Samirah represents a “younger, browner — and much less demure — future” for Virginia politics that defies the old “Virginia Way,” a commitment to decorum and tradition that he argues has resulted in a government overly beholden to private interests and a state ranked as the best in the country for business but among the worst for workers.

“I’ve tried my best to work with the old Virginia Way for the benefit of my constituents, but the reality is that the old Virginia Way is outdated,” Samirah said in an interview with Reston Now. “…The old Virginia Way believes that we should only focus on profits over people, that we should get along with each other, even if that means putting down the interests of the people along the way.”

Now seeking a second full term in office, Samirah faces a primary challenger in Irene Shin, a community organizer whose background similarly reflects an increasingly diverse Fairfax County.

The daughter of Korean immigrants, Shin’s past political experience stems from work for nonprofits and election campaigns, including now-Vice President Kamala Harris’s run for the Senate in 2015. She currently serves as executive director of the Virginia Civic Engagement Table.

After building a career recruiting and training candidates for public office, Shin says she decided to become one herself upon watching Harris get sworn in as the first female, Black, and Asian vice president of the United States.

“I felt like I had something different to offer to the community and the folks of the 86th [District] and a different set of experiences — not just professional, but also lived — that I obviously believe will serve our community very well,” Shin told Reston Now.

Among those lived experiences is a firsthand understanding of growing up without health insurance and the challenges of navigating the American health care system, particularly for immigrants and people whose first language isn’t English.

When she was 16, Shin’s father was diagnosed with cancer. The out-of-pocket medical costs became so expensive that her father eventually flew back to Korea, where he was able to get the surgery he needed within a day of landing in Seoul.

Shin says that “pretty drawn-out ordeal” highlighted some of the barriers that still limit people’s access to health care, the ballot box, and other needs. Read More

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The Reston Citizens Association is on the lookout for residents who want to get more involved in the community.

The association will hold an election on May 27 to fill four district seats on its board of directors, which consists of 13 members who serve three-year terms. The filing deadline for candidates is coming in just 10 days on May 24.

A nonprofit, non-partisan organization that serves more than 60,000 residents, RCA says in a news release calling for candidates that this will be an “exciting” year, with the Reston Comprehensive Plan Study Task Force preparing to wrap up its review of a document that will shape the area’s future.

Other issues that RCA expects to tackle in the near-future include major transportation projects like the proposed Town Center Parkway underpass and the ongoing commitment to preserving Reston’s golf courses.

“We have learned in recent years the importance of having an informed and involved community,” RCA President Dennis Hays said. “By working together we are able to have an effective — and if need be loud — voice in preserving the Reston we have come to love and cherish.”

The four board seats up for election this year include two at-large directors, a Hunters Woods District director, and a South Lakes District director.

Candidates must be Reston residents who live in the Reston Community Center tax district, also known as Small Tax District 5. They must also be 18 years of age or older and vote at Reston district precincts.

The application can be downloaded from the RCA website, and completed forms must be submitted by email to RCA Elections Chair Brian Steiner at [email protected]

Any questions can be sent to RCA at [email protected]

Photo courtesy Reston Citizens Association

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Morning Notes

New Fairfax County Police Chief Sworn In — Kevin Davis was formally sworn in as Fairfax County’s new police chief yesterday morning (Monday). The former Baltimore police commissioner begins his tenure amid intense scrutiny of his past conduct and the county’s hiring process. [FCPD]

Republican Attorney General Candidate Calls for Recount — Former Virginia Beach Republican Party Chairman Chuck Smith is requesting a recount after he lost the party’s nomination for attorney general to Del. Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) by a 52-48 margin on Sunday (May 9). The state’s Republican Party held a convention on Saturday to determine its nominees in statewide races for governor and lieutenant governor as well. [WTOP]

Reston Station Architect Killed in Car Crash — Architect Helmut Jahn, 81, died on Saturday (May 8) after he was struck by two separate cars while bicycling in the Chicago suburb of Campton Hills. Jahn’s work includes the plaza at Reston Station and the development’s first office building, where Google is planning to expand. [Patch]

Frying Pan Farm Park Ranks Second in RegionFrying Pan Farm Park was named the second-best park in Northern Virginia by Virginia Living readers in the magazine’s “Best of Virginia 2021” competition, coming behind only Burke Lake Park. The Herndon park features a carousel, equestrian facilities, and Kidwell Farm, a living interpretation of a 1930s-era working farm. [Fairfax County Park Authority]

Herndon Summer Camps and Classes Announced — The Herndon Parks and Recreation Department has released a brochure of summer camps and June classes, which will be tweaked due to COVID-19. Camps will run from mid-June to mid-August, and offerings could expand depending on community health conditions. Registration begins at 10 a.m. on Wednesday (May 12) for town residents and and at 10 a.m. on May 18 for non-town residents. [Herndon Recreation]

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Ken Plum is not used to being challenged.

It has been more than two decades since the long-time delegate for Virginia’s 36th House District last faced a primary opponent, but Plum seems to welcome the challenge presented by Mary Barthelson, who declared her candidacy on March 17.

“I could say it’s inconvenient for me, but it’s a good thing for democracy to have other people get in the ring,” Plum told Reston Now.

Early voting is currently underway in Fairfax County for the June 8 Democratic primary, where Plum and Barthelson are vying for the chance to face Republican Matt Lang in November’s general election.

As the race stands now, Plum has established a comfortable advantage, at least when it comes to finances.

The latest campaign filings indicate that Plum has about $45,500 in funds, including about $19,000 that has been raised since the beginning of 2021. His largest recent individual contribution came from Newport News Shipbuilding, a builder of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and submarines that gave $1,000.

The longest-serving member of the Virginia House of Delegates, the 79-year-old legislator believes he has managed to stay in office since 1982 because of the close alignment of his politics and those of the 36th District, which encompasses Leesburg Pike in Great Falls to Flint Hill Road in Vienna.

“It’s a very progressive group of people,” Plum says of his constituents. “We believe in fairness and equality for all people.”

By contrast, Barthelson is a 27-year-old first-time candidate for public office and has raised about $5,700, a majority of which are from contributions of under $100.

She has yet to garner any major endorsements and paused her campaign in April for a brief time due to “personal reasons,” she told Reston Now.

Nonetheless, Barthelson says she still intends to follow through on the primary challenge, telling Reston Now that she got interested in running for public office after seeing disinformation flourish online during the 2016 presidential race.

She says she’s concerned that state laws have failed to keep up with technology’s influence on society.

“I think a lot of our laws are very behind,” Barthelson said. “Some important bills are getting pushed because legislators don’t understand them and the public is getting confused. Some are important for green technology, some for criminal justice reform and policing. Technology is just becoming more and more integrated with everything that we’re doing.”

Technology has long been a key focus for Barthelson, who attended a STEM-focused high school in Haymarket and obtained a master’s degree in systems engineering from George Mason University. She worked as a data analyst before becoming a security engineer.

She says that, if elected, she would take a different approach in governing than many other legislators.

“I would definitely be a data-driven legislator,” she said. “I’m very good with numbers…I’d speak to all the stakeholders to get a high-level view of everything and communicate what policy I think is best based on data.”

In recent Northern Virginia election cycles, a slew of younger, progressive-minded candidates have challenged incumbents. Some have won, while others are working to be a formidable challenger.

Plum says his progressive bonafides speak for themselves. He cites his work to pass a law that requires universal background checks on all gun purchases in Virginia as well as efforts to expand voting rights and abolish the death penalty.

An advocate for repealing the death penalty for years, Plum stood behind Governor Northam when he signed the law last month.

“If you ask people who followed the General Assembly over the last four decades who are the most progressive leaders in Virginia, they would list me among the top couple of delegates,” Plum said. “That’s who I am. That’s where I come from.”

Barthelson says she’s “probably as blue as the incumbent” but believes she has a clearer understanding of the challenges facing her generation.

Both Plum and Barthelson cite education and the environment as the top two issues raised by voters.

They also both value the welcoming nature of the 36th District.

“This is probably the friendliest place I’ve lived in Northern Virginia,” Barthelson said. “People definitely look out for each other and are very supportive of one another. I think that’s part of Reston culture.”

Plum agrees, saying that history of openness and a belief in fairness is what he loves most about the 36th District.

“Reston was founded as an open community, open to people of all races,” he said. “I am truly honored to represent the district, and I don’t say that lightly.”

Photo courtesy Mary Barthelson, file photo

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Later this week, Fairfax County will kick off voting for its second pandemic primary, and the county officials running the election are applying a few lessons from the last year of early and mail-in voting.

Early voting for the Democratic primary is scheduled to start this Friday (April 23) and will be open to all voters registered in the county.

Voters in last year’s election faced long lines as they waited to turn in their ballots early, but Fairfax County General Registrar and Director of Elections Gary Scott, who is retiring from the position this year, said that scenario is unlikely in this year’s elections.

“What we’re doing is trying to incorporate some of the things we did observe,” Scott said. “There are lessons learned from the general election that don’t necessarily translate well to a primary election. We’re looking at a different electorate and a different level of turnout. But we’re opening more than one location early.”

Scott says that, in addition to the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Parkway), the county will open the North County Government Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive) and the Mount Vernon Government Center (2511 Parkers Lane) for early voting on Saturday, April 24.

For the last week of the primary, the county will open an additional 13 early voting sites starting on May 29. Sites in the Reston/Herndon area include the Great Falls and Herndon Fortnightly libraries.

“For the last week, we will have a total of 16 locations where people will vote,” Scott said. “And we’ve extended hours from 4:30 p.m. to, now, 7 p.m. We wanted to extend further after working hours.”

Scott says it can be difficult to estimate how many voters there will be.

The last gubernatorial primary in 2017 had a 13% turnout, but that year had both a Republican and Democrat primary. This year, it’s Democrat-only, but Scott says his office is still preparing for a 40% turnout, even if that is viewed as extremely unlikely.

“Ordering paper ballots is relatively cheap after a certain point, and I’d rather have 10,000 ballots too many than 10,000 ballots too few,” he said.

Those voting in person should not submit an application to receive a ballot by mail, though anyone who requests a mail ballot can still surrender it when they check in if they decide to vote in-person instead.

“If you submit an application, you’re going to be sent a ballot by mail, and you’d have to return that ballot to back it out in order to vote in person,” Scott explained.

There will be drop boxes around the county after Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill into law on March 31 making permanent a measure that was adopted temporarily last year. Drop boxes will be available at all early voting sites and polling places for those who want to drop off their ballot, according to Scott.

The deadline to register to vote in Fairfax County is May 19 — 22 days prior to the election. The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 8. Virginia is an open-primary state, so the primary is open to all voters.

“There are no Republican races in Fairfax County, so if you’re showing up to vote for republican candidates…there aren’t any,” Scott said. “For top of ticket, they chose convention, and some House of Delegates races had only one qualified candidate for primary.”

In addition to the statewide governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general races, voters in six districts have House of Delegates races on the primary ballot:

“We would encourage people, before they go out to vote, to review sample ballots we will have posted on our website,” Scott said. “So, if they go to vote, they’re prepared, because not everyone in the county is going to see the same ballot.”

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Reston Association has elected two new members and re-elected one to their Board of Directors.

The board’s two open at-large seats went to Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza, who won a second three-year term with 4,275 votes, and Timothy J. Dowling, who was elected for his first three-year term with 3,987 votes.

They both bested John Farrell by a relatively slim margin. The former RA Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee member received 3,719 votes, while 26-year-old software engineer Vincent Dory received 1,221 votes. There were 647 votes to abstain.

Voters could vote for one or two candidates on their ballots.

In the South Lakes District, Jennifer Jushchuk ran unopposed, though about 12% of the votes cast were abstentions.

The results were announced last night (April 13) at RA’s annual members’ meeting. Full results, including vote count and turnout, are publicly available.

The board candidates were announced in February. Voting opened on March 1 and closed on April 2.

RA Election Committee Chair Ed Abbott tells Reston Now that the election ran smoothly and was free of the technical glitches that cropped up last year.

“The Election Committee did not encounter any major issues in the election process,” he said by email. “The use of Zoom for the Candidate Forums and Meet and Greet Sessions went well thanks to the technical support of the RA staff and the cooperation of the candidates.”

Voter turnout also actually went up this year to about 19%, a roughly 5% increase from last year, Abbott notes.

Nonetheless, it remains low, something that the Elections Committee hopes to look into for next year.

“The Elections Committee will evaluate this year’s election process in the coming months and report to the Board of Directors,” Abbott said. “The evaluation will consider, among other things, increasing member participation, reducing costs and improving the overall election process.”

Voters could use either paper or online ballots, though nearly two-thirds of the votes came through online ballots.

The new board will select their officers at their first board meeting tonight (Wednesday). The officer positions include president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer.

Reston Association’s outgoing president Julie Bitzer was first elected to the Board in 2015 and was president for the last year.

Image via Reston Association/YouTube

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Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) has endorsed Irene Shin to represent the 86th District in Virginia’s House of Delegates, Shin’s campaign announced yesterday (Monday).

Executive director of the nonprofit Virginia Civic Engagement Table, Shin announced on Feb. 9 that she would campaign for the 86th District seat currently occupied by Del. Ibraheem Samirah, who is seeking his first full term after winning a special election in February 2019.

The 86th District include the Town of Herndon as well as portions of Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

“When I look for leadership in elected office, I look for approachable, community-focused leaders who listen to people first and work to deliver solutions in state government,” Howell said in a statement. “Irene Shin is the epitome of this kind of leadership. Irene will bring effective, pragmatic leadership back to the 86th District, and will represent the Democratic values that we all support.”

According to her campaign website, Shin is the daughter of Korean immigrants and a resident of downtown Herndon. Her political experience primarily comes from work as a community organizer for campaigns, nonprofits, and startups.

In addition to working for VCET, which supports and trains progressive nonprofits and activists, Shin currently serves on the board of the Competitive Commonwealth Fund, which helps recruit and raise funds for Democratic candidates in Virginia.

When she announced her candidacy in February, Shin said that she was inspired to run for office after watching Vice President Kamala Harris get sworn in on Jan. 20 as the first female vice president in U.S. history. According to her LinkedIn profile, she worked on Harris’s Senate campaign in 2015 as a finance director.

“My top priorities as a candidate for the House of Delegates are ending the pandemic and rebuilding Virginia back to be a better, fairer society, finally bringing access to Universal Pre-K for all families, and refocusing the office of delegate on community-based collaborative leadership,” Shin said in a statement to Reston Now.

Shin says she is proud to get Howell’s support, along with endorsements from current Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem and former mayors Lisa Merkel and Mike O’Reilly.

Samirah’s endorsements so far include Herndon Vice Mayor Cesar del Aguila and Councilmembers Naila Alam, Pradip Dhakal, and Jasbinder Singh. He is also backed by Hunter Mill District School Board Representative Melanie Meren.

On his campaign website, Samirah says that he sees “improving public health as the central issue that touches all others,” but he also highlights housing affordability, gun safety, and criminal justice, among other topics.

Shin and Samirah will face off in the Democratic primary on June 8. The ballot will also feature a battle for the 36th House District between incumbent Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) and challenger Mary Barthelson, along with statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.

Early voting for the primary will begin on April 23 at the Fairfax County Government Center. The first mail ballots will also be sent out that day.

Fairfax County will not have a Republican primary this June. The state party opted instead to select its nominees through a convention with remote voting.

Photo courtesy Irene Shin

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Morning Notes

Marijuana Possession Will Soon Be Legal in Virginia — “The Virginia General Assembly agreed Wednesday to make it legal for adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana on July 1, nearly three years sooner than had been approved by the legislature in February.” [The Washington Post]

County Residents Share Thoughts on Police Chief Search — Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk hosted a public input session on Tuesday (April 6) as part of the county’s ongoing search for a permanent successor to retired Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. McKay said the board will hold interviews for the position over the next week. [WTOP]

Reston Delegate Holds Post-Session Town Hall — After the Virginia General Assembly adjourned yesterday, Del. Ken Plum and State Sen. Janet Howell are holding a virtual town hall meeting at 7 p.m. today to discuss the 2021 session. Anyone interested in attending can register in advance for the Zoom link and submit questions to [email protected] [Ken Plum]

Metro General Manager Calls Silver Line Phase 2 “A Priority” — Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld declined to commit to a “hard start date” for when the Silver Line’s second phase will open, but he told the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance yesterday “want to get that out as quick as we can” because of the potential impact on ridership and the region’s economic development. [WTOP]

Democratic Candidates for Governor Spar in First Televised Debate — Five candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination to become Virignia’s next governor discussed the pandemic, gun violence, and criminal justice reform during an hour-long event hosted by Virginia State University in Petersburg. [Virginia Mercury]

Reston Company Lands Billions in Defense Contracts — “On the heels of an $830 million U.S. Army contract won in February, Reston-based Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) has landed two more Army contracts worth a combined $4.4 billion, it announced today.” [Virginia Business]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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