Voting in the 2022 Reston Association Board of Directors election will run from March 1 through April 1. This week, we will begin posting profiles on each of the candidates. The complete election schedule is available online. All races are uncontested, but a 10-percent quorum must be met.
Featured here is Irwin Flashman, who is running for Lake Anne/Tall Oaks District Director With the exception of minor formatting edits, profiles are published in unedited form. Each candidate had an opportunity to answer the same questions in their own words.
How long have you lived in Reston? What brought you here?
My wife and I moved to Reston in 2009. I had lived in Puerto Rico for forty years and we were looking for a place to live following my retirement. We took several trips to the Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia area. One of my friends mentioned Reston to us. We visited and were attracted by its environment, its lovely treed setting and wooded areas, its trails, lakes and streams. The availability of many facilities in the area and its proximity to Washington, D.C. were clear pluses.
What inspired you to run for the board?
In 2013, the RA Board proposed trading RA land for other land that would be useless to it. I went before the Board and explained in detail my reasons for opposing the proposal. The Board did not change its mind. Since then, I have followed the Board’s and several committees’ activities closely. I served on the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) for 9 years, 6 of them as its Vice Chair. I have also supported candidates running for the Board. This time, some friends urged me to run for the Lake Anne/Tall Oaks seat and thus become a full participant. I agreed that by being on the Board I could do more than by commenting at its meetings for three minutes.
What are three of the biggest concerns you have for Reston and what do you hope to accomplish by being on the board?
The preservation and enhancement of Reston’s environment is paramount, especially in the face of the existential challenge presented by climate change. It is well past time for Reston to take the environment and climate change fully into account as it considers its actions. Additionally, RA needs to minimize its contribution to climate change by becoming energy conservation conscious and avoiding the production of CO2. Among other things, RA can plan to convert its fleet of vehicles to electric vehicles over the next few years. Of course, the preservation of the open space is an essential part of this approach, not only of RA land, but also the land of the two golf courses that have been dedicated as such since the inception of Reston.
Another point of concern is the protection of RA’s interests in the Reston Comprehensive Plan, whose draft revision is currently being finished up and will be placed before the public for comment. Due recognition of RA’s contribution to recreational facilities and amenities, including its trails, should be given in the Plan. New developments already constructed and to be constructed, especially in the TSA, should be encouraged to join RA and participate fully as members. Additionally, the County should provide that some portion of the proffers from developers should be granted to RA for the continued maintenance and creation of adequate facilities which are and will be used by the residents of these new housing units. The growth contemplated for Reston should be accompanied by adequate and timely infrastructure to meet the increasing demands from that growth. At the same time, the characteristics which make Reston Reston should be preserved.
The third issue is the need for greater transparency from the Board. RA is a membership organization. Its obligations are to protect and enhance the value of real property covered under the Deed, as well as to maintain it, the recreational facilities and common areas for the benefit and use primarily of its members, and to promote the peace, health, comfort, safety and general welfare of its members. To do so, the Board needs to have consistent and meaningful two way communication with the RA membership. The Board has done this at a basic level, but on some matters, it has been less than open. It can improve its transparency by keeping the membership timely apprised of not only the good things it does, but also of the issues which arise and present problems.
I want to work with other members of the Board to address these concerns in meaningful ways for the benefit of the membership.
How will your personal or professional experience help you in your role with RA?
During my service on the EAC, it evolved into a group with expertise in many areas. This resulted in the creation of the Reston Association State of the Environment Report (RASER) and the later inclusion in it of an initially separate report on Climate Change. The report examines impacts on Reston, and ways to reduce its contribution to and enhance its resilience to climate change. This experience and knowledge will assist me making things happen regarding the first item of concern noted above. I have over many years closely followed the Board’s and some of the committees’ work and am aware of how things get done or not. I have been on other membership corporation boards. Communication is a basic element of getting things done. I am aware of the importance of good clear communication, not only with Board members, but also with the RA members. I will listen to the members from my district and keep their concerns in mind while looking for solutions to the issues they may bring to the fore.
Photo via Reston Association
This is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.
In the general election in 2021 through a constitutional amendment, Virginia voters decided to transfer the majority party responsibility of turning the census count of persons in the state into as much as practicable 100 House of Delegates districts, 40 Senate districts and 11 congressional districts to a nonpartisan election redistricting process. The outcome of the vote was not even close–2.77 million in favor and 1.45 opposed. The process to keep the outcome as independent as possible was clunky and inefficient but in the end produced a defensible result that will move Virginia into a leadership role of independent redistricting. A reform goal I had worked on for more than 40 years has become a reality.
A scan of the new maps as drawn by the Supreme Court when the commission could not come to a conclusion on a set of maps does not contain any salamander-shaped districts or any grotesque shapes designed to protect the interests of incumbents. The Washington Post described the outcome of the new redistricting procedure as “ending a contentious redistricting process that for the first time gave no say to the state’s elected officials.”
Although there had been much criticism that the Supreme Court could not render an unbiased decision because they are political appointees proved to be misguided. As the Court Order stated, it has” fully complied with federal and state law in the following order of precedence:
- The United States Constitution, particularly Article I, Section 2, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment;
- Applicable federal statutes, particularly the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 52 u.s.c. § 10301;
- The Constitution of Virginia, particularly Article II, Sections 6 to 6-A; and
- Applicable Virginia statutes, particularly Code §§ 30-399(E), 24.2-304.04, and any other relevant provision in Chapter 3 of Title 24.2 of the Code of Virginia.
Although it may have taken you a decade to learn the number of your delegate and senate districts, be aware that all those numbers have changed. My previously numbered 36th district is now the 7th House of Delegates district. Details of the new districts can be found at https://www.vacourts.gov/courts/scv/districting. Discussion of the impact of the new maps is available at www.vpap.org.
Not everyone is happy with the new maps. Having witnessed the redistricting of the Virginia General Assembly over 40 years I can confirm that it is never a smooth and easy process because every incumbent argues for safe districts for themselves and for their party. Every redistricting has been followed by a decade of court suits. That is not likely to occur this year. The legislature can get underway with the important tasks in front of it and spend less time on redistricting as the people indicated in their vote for the constitutional amendment.
Del. Ken Plum will head back to a very different Virginia State Capitol next month.
As the delegate for the 36th District, he says he’s looking to advocate for changes that Democrats heralded in during the last two years when they controlled both houses in the legislature and the governor’s office, a trifecta that hadn’t been since 1993.
“The election outcome represents a dramatic turnabout from the course we’ve been on the last two years, which has been one that has led to us passing some of the most progressive election laws in Virginia, election laws in the nation,” Plum told Reston Now. “I don’t want to see us turn back the clock on that.”
Virginia will become one of only three states in the country with split legislative control between Democrats and Republicans.
“Unfortunately, both parties in both Houses seem to insist on strict partisan voting, and that is really too bad,” he said. “It stands in the … ways which we could work together cooperatively and reach common solutions.”
With the results of the November election, Democrats will lose control of the House, meaning they’ll no long chair various agenda-setting committees, which for Plum was the Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee.
In 2020, Plum advocated a proposal to create an urban agricultural advisory council to help support local sustainable food programs, but the bill lost steam in the Senate toward the end of the year. The proposed legislation is slated to expire in July 2023, and Plum says it’s something that he would like to revive.
With the upcoming session, which is slated to start Jan. 12, Plum says legislators hope to address issues with the state’s mental health system with a major study of the state’s Community Services Boards, which help people with mental illness, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities.
He said he would like to see more funding for the state’s CSBs, saying the state doesn’t need big mental health hospitals but needs growth with crisis intervention centers.
“That’s not a partisan issue. It’s a human rights issue. And we need to respond to it,” he said.
The 80-year-old legislator, who has represented the 36th District of half of his life, says he doesn’t want reforms to be rolled back, such as the end of the state’s use of the death penalty, a change he thinks will remain. He also highlighted other recent laws, such as the passing of legislation to help prevent racial and ethnic discrimination as well as discrimination of LGBTQ+ individuals.
In 2019, he sponsored a bill that became law regarding universal background checks for people buying guns, strengthening a Virginia law that was in place since 1989. Plum said he’s seen no evidence that it infringes on people’s civil rights, and he said he expects it to remain.
Meanwhile, the Virginia Supreme Court is working to redraw state and federal districting maps after a bipartisan redistricting commission failed to reach a plan by deadline, drawing criticism for partisanship by onlookers including Fairfax County Chairman Supervisors Jeff McKay.
New School Vaccine Clinics in Reston — The county and the school system have added new school-based clinics for COVID-19 vaccines in the area. A school-based vaccine clinic is scheduled for Dec. 11 and Jan. 6 at Hunters Woods Elementary School. [Fairfax County Government]
County Adopts New Redistricting Plan — The county has adopted a new redistricting plan. Seven precincts were shifted to new districts. The Virginia Attorney General will certify the new map. [Fairfax County Government]
A Reminder to Decorate Safely — With the holiday season quickly approaching, local fire and rescue personnel are reminding risks to decorate with safety in mind. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]
Photo by Marjorie Copson
Democrats continued to hold onto their trifecta of power in local races for the Virginia House of Delegates.
With 12 of 17 reporting, Democrat Ken Plum retained a stronghold over challenger Matt Lang, a Republican veteran, retaining nearly 72 percent of the vote for the 36th District. Lang secured a little over a quarter of the total vote.
Plum has served as House Delegate for the 36th District since 1982. He turns 80 the day after the election.
Democratic candidate Irene Shin — who knocked off incumbent Ibraheem Samirah in the June Democratic primary — also had a dominant lead over her Republican opponent, Julie Perry for the 86th district seat.
Shin clenched 66 percent of the vote while Perry had just 33 percent of the vote as of around 9 p.m. today. Just two of the county’s 13 precincts remain open.
Perry is a public school history teacher while Shin is the executive director of a nonprofit organization on civic engagement. The seat covers Herndon, Oak Hill, and Chantilly and some parts of Loudoun County.
Plum handily defeated a primary challenge with more than 77 percent of the vote in June.
After an otherwise uneventful day, the county’s Office of Elections had to rescan 20,000 in-person early voting ballots. Spokesperson Brian Worthy said there was “corrupted electric media” where votes were recorded in the machine used at early voting sites. The issue affected four of 38 machines.
Roughly 66 percent of Fairfax County voters voted for Democrat Terry McAuliffe — cementing its historically blue history. But Republican Glenn Youngkin appears to be inching ahead, with around 55 percent of the vote across the state.
The county’s elections office reported a turnout of 49 percent overall. But that number is expected to rise, as it did not account for three hours of voting.
All 100 House of Delegates seats were on today’s ballots. Currently, Democrats have a majority with 55 members to 45 Republicans.
This story was updated at 10 p.m. Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.
Consulting Company to Expand in Reston — IT consulting firm Intact Technology will expand its headquarters in Reston by adding 40 new jobs and investing at least $700,000. The state competed with Maryland — the previous HQ — for the project. [Gov. Ralph Northam]
Shake It Up for International ShakeOut Day — Today at exactly 10:21 a.m., the largest earthquake drill ever is expected to take place. Registered participants will receive information on how to prepare for earthquakes and what steps to take during and after shaking. [Fairfax County Government]
Lake Anne Condo Board Election Need Intervention — That’s what a group of Lake Anne residents is telling Fairfax County officials. The property owners are asking the county to claim its proxy from Cheryl Terio-Simon, the landlord of property occupied by Reston Community Center. Elections are happening at the end of the month. [Reston Patch]
Photo by Jay Westcott
Some residents at Lake Anne are turning to the county for help sort out its homeowner association’s contentious and divisive elections.
In a Sept. 23 letter to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, more than 40 residents urged the county to not allow the property’s landlord to vote in condominium elections. Roughly seven percent of votes in the board election is assigned to the unit occupied by Reston Community Center Lake Anne.
The letter contends that removing the landlord from the process — who holds about seven percent of the entire property — would allow the owners a chance for a “free” election.
“The county allowing the vote to be used in a condo election creates an unequal balance of power and potential conflict of interest,” the letter states. “Using taxpayer money to do so is not in the best interest of our community and especially unfair to our minority commercial owners, burdened with significant assessments; and who will be disproportionately affected by further special assessments to address our infrastructure issues.”
Board politics and infighting — including deep disagreement over the outcome of elections for board president — have mired the board for more than a year. Alcorn has met several times with concerned property owners and the Lake Anne of Reston Condominium Association to allay concerns about property management, lack of hot water, and other issues.
Alcorn told Reston Now that he deferred the proxy matter to RCC’s board for consideration.
“I have full confidence in that board — including the three members that were just re-elected by the community last month — to do the right thing,” he said.
RCC has no immediate plans to change participation in board elections. The center’s executive director Leila Gordon told Reston Now that RCC has had an excellent relationship with its landlord since 1999 when RCC Lake Anne first opened in the historic area.
Here’s more from Gordon on the issue:
The lease stipulates the proxy provision in the context of Section 7, “Leasehold Improvements,” and specifically notes that the Landlord’s proxy isn’t available when the matter is related to “voting on LARCA fees and assessments payable by Landlord.” RCC views the election of LARCA Board officers to be wholly unrelated to any issue of Tenant Improvements and entirely germane to issues of fees and assessments, and would therefore be the sole concern of the Landlord. We remain satisfied with the present arrangement.
Maintenance and infrastructure issues caught statewide attention when residents of the Quayside condominiums went without hot water for several months last winter.
An assessment by architecture firm Samaha Associates found that the property needs more than $37 million in repairs. At a mid-September meeting, Alcorn said the county may explore options to help revitalize the property. No formal plans have been proposed and discussions are ongoing.
Board President Jason Romano did not immediately return a request for comment from Reston Now.
LARCA’s board election for this year takes place on Oct. 27.
House of Delegates candidates answered questions on a range of issues that they could face in Richmond, giving voters a firsthand look at their viewpoints.
The nonprofit Cornerstones hosted the forum online with 36th District candidates Matt Lang, a Republican security consultant and veteran, and incumbent Ken Plum, a Democrat who has held the office since 1982.
For the 86th District race, the forum also featured candidates Julie Perry, a Republican high school history teacher, and Irene Shin, who won the Democratic Primary in June to take the nomination away from incumbent Ibraheem Samirah.
Candidates fielded questions from panelists and the audience in the hourlong event. A recording of the forum was slated to be posted on Cornerstones’ website.
Extending child care subsidy
Panelist Nasia Ashkir noted a federal subsidy for child care will end in December, and she asked if candidates would support extending it with leftover American Relief Act Money.
Plum shared his support for doing so and noted that he wrote about the issue for a column this month. He cited research showing how kids who received pre-school education have been linked to less societal costs, mainly in the area of crime.
Lang also said he’s support such an extension and would want to look for how to fund it once the federal aid runs out in ways that don’t raise taxes.
“Like Del. Plum just said, children are the future,” the Reston resident said. “Their education and their foundation is going to be our success down the road.”
Addressing affordable housing
Pastor Stephen Smith-Cobbs, who served as the forum’s second panelist, noted how $4.3 billion in flexible funding is available through ARPA but hasn’t been spent so far in affordable housing.
“Many people who work in Fairfax County simply can’t afford to live here,” Smith-Cobbs said, asking what candidates’ plans were for increasing the stock in affordable housing.
Both Republican candidates noted concerns with long-term assistance.
“If we help them forever, they’re never going to have the incentive to want to try their best and shine in society,” Perry said, adding that everybody can live the American dream.
Shin, the executive director of the nonprofit Virginia Civic Engagement Table, which looks to support progressive organizations, said she would support fully funding the Virginia Housing Trust, saying it incentivizes developers to make affordable housing.
Lang also said that increasing the supply of rental units or homes could help reduce the sales of existing homes, and lowering prices of other things, such as fuel taxes, would help put more money in people’s pockets.
His opponent said Cornerstones serves as a model for how to go forward by providing comprehensive services, such as child care and job training. Plum also said he expects the governor’s upcoming budget proposal to increase affordable housing investments, such as by working with organizations, setting up land conservation trusts and pursuing other efforts to leverage public money.
Virginia General Assembly Convenes for Special Session — “The General Assembly returns on Monday to the Capitol it left 17 months ago as the coronavirus first gripped Virginia…Legislators meeting in a scheduled two-week special session have just two tasks on their to-do list, both highly consequential: allocating $4.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds and appointing a slew of judges to the state’s second-highest court.” [The Washington Post]
Fairfax County Man Arrested for Participating in Capitol Breach — “A Fairfax County, Virginia, man was arrested on six charges Thursday after a high school acquaintance tipped off the FBI about his alleged participation in the Capitol riot on January 6…[Luke Wessley] Bender faces six counts, including a felony count of obstruction of Congress that carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.” [WUSA9]
Reston Community Center Candidate Filing Now Open — “Help your community by becoming a candidate for RCC’s Board of Governors. Candidate filing for the 2021 RCC Preference Poll is now open. Please download the candidate handbook and candidacy statement from our website and return by August 15.” [RCC/Facebook]
Reston Community Remembers Local Humanitarian — Described as a “pioneer, humanitarian, and entrepreneur,” longtime Reston resident Burton “Burt” Emmanuel Lamkin died on June 24 at the age of 86. Though he went to California a few years ago to be closer to family, he and his wife Kathryne were among the first African Americans to live in Reston when they moved there in 1966, and he was heavily involved in the Rotary Club of Herndon. [Connection Newspapers]
Photos: Reston Association Hosts Annual Tennis Tournament — “The 2021 Reston Simon Cup tennis tournament was held from mid through late July. Men’s and women’s singles and doubles matches were played at the Lake Newport tennis courts.” [RA/Facebook]
Fairfax County Gave Republican Governor Nominee Tax Break — “GOP gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin and his wife last year successfully petitioned Fairfax County to designate their horse farm as an agricultural district, which led to a 95% reduction in the taxes they pay on the 31.5-acre property in Great Falls that surrounds their home.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Material Costs Drive Up Silver Line Phase 2 Costs — “The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority is having to pay an extra $20 million to cover the higher cost of materials needed to build the extension of Metro’s Silver Line…So far, the construction’s progress has eaten up $2.464 billion, but the airports authority maintains the [$2.778 billion] budget won’t change, thanks to contingency funds.” [Washington Business Journal]
County Redistricting Committee to Meet Next Week — Fairfax County’s 20-person Redistricting Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting on Tuesday (July 27) at 6 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center. Open to the public, the meeting will focus on legal requirements, equity, and bylaws as the group prepares to recommend new electoral boundaries for the county’s supervisor and school board districts. [Fairfax County Government]
Reston Hospital Hires New Executive — Allyssa Tobitt will serve as Reston Hospital Center’s new chief operating officer starting Aug. 2. Replacing Ben Brown, who moved to Dominion Hospital in West Falls Church, she worked at the corporate office of Reston Hospital’s parent company HCA Healthcare in Nashville, Tennessee as well as at hospitals in its for-profit health system near Miami and Tampa, Florida. [HCA]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
New Laws Take Effect in Virginia — A host of new laws passed by the General Assembly take effect today (Thursday), including the legalization of simple marijuana possession, the abolition of the death penalty, and a requirement that drivers change lanes when passing bicyclists. The fine for littering is now $500, up from $250, and it is now illegal to intentionally release a balloon outside. [Patch]
Police Community Forum Tonight — The Fairfax County Police Department’s Reston District Station will hold a virtual community information forum at 7 p.m. today that will include discussion of trends, upcoming events, and officer and case highlights from the past month. Send questions to [email protected]. [RA/Twitter]
Republican Challenger to Ken Plum Will Be on Ballot — Veteran Matt Lang will officially appear on the Nov. 2 general election ballot as the Republican candidate for the 36th House District, which includes Reston and is currently represented by Del. Ken Plum. The State Board of Elections approved his candidacy upon appeal yesterday (Wednesday) after his application was initially blocked by a late filing certification. [Virginia Public Access Project]
Changes to Permitted Agritourism Activities Approved — “Fairfax County supervisors, despite objections from some local residents and environmental groups, on June 22 approved new ‘agritourism’ rules that will allow certain by-right commercial operations in agricultural settings…Allowable activities include farm tours, harvest-your-own activities, seasonal festivals and attractions, events, hiking, horseback riding and other activities, historical and cultural endeavors.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
Fairfax County’s once-a-decade redistricting process took a significant step forward this morning (Tuesday), as the Board of Supervisors approved appointees to a committee that will be responsible for recommending new district boundaries.
The 20-person Redistricting Advisory Committee consists of one resident representative from each of the county’s nine magisterial districts as well as three at-large members.
The county board made a conscious effort to appoint individuals from a variety of backgrounds, including people from the local African American, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Arab-American communities, according to the news release.
“Redistricting must be done fairly and in a way that ensures transparency and fair representation of the diversity of Fairfax County,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “This is a community-led process, and I am confident the committee will develop fair and equal districts and everyone will have the same access to representation.”
Like other localities, Fairfax County is required by Virginia law to reexamine its electoral district boundaries every 10 years to ensure that each district has roughly the same number of people, with adjustments based on how the population has changed.
Because redistricting is tied to U.S. Census data, whose delivery has been delayed this year, the RAC won’t be able to start its work until Aug. 30. The committee is scheduled to deliver a report with its proposed district boundaries on Oct. 19, though it will ultimately be up to the Board of Supervisors to adopt a new plan on Dec. 7.
The county says members of the general public will be encouraged to provide input on the new district maps, including through an online portal that will allow residents to draw their own maps.
“Public input will be key to the committee’s efforts,” the county said. “Residents are encouraged to submit their own plans and provide feedback, revisions and comments on the committee’s or other’s proposed plans.”
The Hunter Mill District, which includes Reston, will be represented on the committee by Richard Chew, the Hunter Mill District chair for the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. He is one of seven FCDC members appointed to the RAC.
(Updated at 9:05 a.m. on 6/11/21) Yesterday’s Democratic primary for the 86th House District proved to be, by percentage points, one of the closest races in the entire Commonwealth.
When all the votes were tallied, including absentee ballots, challenger Irene Shin had beaten the incumbent Ibraheem Samirah by only 230 votes, or 3.48 percentage points. Shin is now set to face Republican and high school history teacher Julie Perry in November’s general election.
In Fairfax County, which shares the district with a small portion of Loudoun County, the result was even tighter with Shin winning by fewer than 200 votes and 3.22 percentage points, according to the county office of elections’ unofficial returns.
Samirah’s ascension to the General Assembly in 2019 was part of a blue wave that solidified Virginia’s political transformation from reliably conservative to left-leaning. He conceded the primary via social media at 11:15 p.m. yesterday, saying that it was an honor to represent the 86th District and how proud he was of his campaign.
To the voters: We didn’t get the election result we wanted. I am still immensely proud of the campaign we ran. We stayed positive, highlighted our accomplishments and pushed healthcare as a human right, housing for all, and the need for a healthy democracy.
— Del. Ibraheem Samirah (@IbraheemSamirah) June 9, 2021
Shin declared victory via social media shortly thereafter, stating that “we made history tonight,” while thanking supporters and everyone who had endorsed her campaign.
We made history tonight! I am so grateful to be the Democratic nominee for Virginia’s 86th District. Thank you for everyone who had faith in me and supported me in this campaign.
— irene shin (@ireneshintweets) June 9, 2021
In a letter that also went out to supporters last night, Shin wrote that the victory left her “completely overwhelmed.”
“Entering this race was not an easy decision. I knew that challenging an incumbent in a Delegate race would be difficult,” she wrote. “Together, we knocked over 12,000 doors and made tens of thousands of phone calls. We built a grassroots movement with support from across the district. From Reston to Herndon to Chantilly, we ran the whole district.”
Neither Samirah nor Shin thanked the other candidate.
Samirah was one of five incumbent candidates to lose last night, a record dating back to 2001.
First elected in February 2019, Samirah gained some level of fame later that year for disrupting a Trump speech in Jamestown by yelling, “Mr. President, you can’t send us back, Virginia is our home!”
While he found some support for touting progressive policies, his occasionally confrontational approach ruffled some feathers, and a number of prominent Virginia Democrats supported Shin in this election, including state Sens. Jennifer Boysko and Janet Howell as well as Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem.
“I look forward to working at my dental practice in Reston, spending time with family, and finding ways to unify the progressive movement in Northern Virginia,” Samirah told Reston Now by email.
Next door, in the 36th House District that encompasses Reston, Del. Ken Plum — the incumbent and the longest-serving member of the Virginia House of Delegates — won a decisive victory in the primary over challenger Mary Barthelson with more than 77% of the vote. Read More
(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.
When early voting began at the North County Government Center in Reston on Saturday (April 24), the crowd of electioneers assembled outside the building dwarfed the number of people casting their ballots inside the building.
The absence of lines contrasted sharply with the 2020 general election, when Fairfax County sometimes saw hour-long waits at early voting sites. This time, the biggest hold-up was the few extra seconds election volunteers needed to sort through 16 different ballots and match them with the right voters.
While not surprised by the relatively muted turnout for the first days of early voting for the June 8 Democratic primary, which started on April 23 at the Fairfax County Government Center before expanding to two satellite locations a day later, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn says it’s too soon to make any confident projections about what early voting will look like in the future.
“Going through a couple of election cycles, I think we need to do that before we can come to any long-term conclusions about how early voting is best done, how to staff it, what resources are necessary,” he said.
Even with a crowded gubernatorial contest on the ballot, the 2021 election cycle likely won’t match the high turnout for last year’s general election, which was buoyed by an especially heated presidential race, but there is already evidence that the Virginia’s new laws permanently expanding the accessibility of absentee voting are paying off.
According to the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project, 63,508 voters have requested mail ballots, and 709 people have voted in person, as of April 24. In comparison, there were just 35,390 early voters in the 2017 primaries, the last time that Virginia had a governor’s race, and that includes 8,815 people who requested mail ballots but never returned them.
Fairfax County has gotten 11,222 mail ballot requests and 68 in-person voters. In 2017, 3,109 people voted early in person, and 1,919 people voted by mail.
Fairfax County Office of Elections spokesperson Brian Worthy attributes this uptick to recent legislative changes made by the Virginia General Assembly, particularly the introduction of no-excuse absentee voting that took effect last year.
“Since the last gubernatorial election, voting by mail has become easier in Virginia,” Worthy said. “Not only can any registered voter do so without needing a reason as was required in the past, but also the law now makes it easy to vote by mail permanently. As a result, the Office of Elections expects to see an increase in voting by mail over time as has happened in other states that have implemented similar laws.”
Legislators took further action to make early voting more accessible during a special session in March, including requiring localities to offer ballot drop-off boxes, permitting absentee voting on Sundays, and suspending witness signature requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, though those laws don’t take effect until July 1.
Early voting is also “way up” in Falls Church City compared to the last gubernatorial primary, according to Director of Elections and General Registrar David Bjerke.
Bjerke told Reston Now on Friday (April 23) that the city had sent out 315 ballots so far, including 176 mail ballots and 139 email ballots to overseas voters, and three people showed up to vote in person that day. The 2017 primary saw just 240 early voters total, even though the Democratic and Republican parties both held elections that summer.
“It’s a huge increase,” Bjerke said. Read More