Peter’s Take: Nicole Merlene for Virginia State Senate

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

In these increasingly fast-paced times, Virginia’s 31st Senate District (where I live) needs a state senator who can quickly grasp our rapidly changing economic and technological challenges and champion innovative, new regional and state solutions.

We need a senator free from multiple conflicts of interest to advance solutions that are in our best interests, not some special interest. To develop sound energy and environmental policy that is best for us and fit for the 21st century, we need a senator who is free from entanglements with Dominion Energy. Nicole Merlene will be that senator.

Why Nicole Merlene should be nominated

Arlington is Merlene’s hometown. She’s running for Virginia’s State Senate after several years as a Virginia renter’s rights and transportation advocate. She is an economic development professional who has served as a leader in our community, including as an economic development commissioner, and on the boards of the Arlington County Civic Federation, Rosslyn Business Improvement District, North Rosslyn Civic Association, and a local transportation advisory committee.

Merlene has a detailed policy platform outlining her positions on major issues, including: workforce livability, transportation, protecting our environment, education, healthcare, equality for all, and family.

The issues that Merlene has highlighted during her campaign are the top priorities of the district as evidenced by questions raised in recent debates. We need Merlene’s fresh perspectives and know-how in Richmond.

During the 2019 first quarter, Merlene raised $20,936 from 293 donors, all of whom were individual contributors. Not a single dollar she raised in this reporting period came from a corporation, corporate entity, or corporate PAC. Adding to the grassroots nature of her campaign, Merlene’s average contribution was $71.45, and 92% of her contributions were $100 or less.

Why Barbara Favola should not be nominated

Barbara Favola has a continuing practice of representing clients or donors whose interests can conflict with the public’s interests, most significantly when those clients or donors require action by governmental bodies. For example, Favola has represented the following with major business interests in Arlington, the 31st District, and the Commonwealth of Virginia:

  • Donor, Advanced Towing, seeking to weaken towing regulations while Arlington County was trying to strengthen them.
  • Employer, Marymount University, seeking to aid Marymount in obtaining state grants and local permits.
  • Employer, Virginia Hospital Center, in negotiations about eminent domain and the hospital’s land-use plans, and introducing bills relating to health insurance that Virginia House Democrats opposed.

Even when these and similar entities are not doing business in the 31st District, there is too great a risk that Favola will end up representing those entities’ interests rather than the public interest.

The Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) has posted a cumulative list of Favola’s top campaign donors since she was first elected to the Virginia State Senate in 2011. A few top donors on that list are:

Favola only announced this year that she wouldn’t accept any more Dominion Energy cash after learning that Merlene wasn’t accepting any.


Merlene has served our community in leadership roles by mobilizing support for local small business permit approvals, organizing community engagement processes, and planning neighborhood transportation patterns. She will be a strong, fair and impartial representative of all 31st District residents.

Favola says she deserves the Democratic nomination because, in over 20 years in elective office, she has compiled a record as a “pragmatic progressive.” But her representation of private clients and her acceptance of large sums of money from top donors with agendas are not the kind of pragmatism voters should continue to reward.

I enthusiastically endorse Merlene as the next Senator for the 31st District of Virginia. You can learn more about Merlene’s candidacy here.

Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC-a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.