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Pool at the Long Bridge Park Aquatics & Fitness Center (staff photo)

(Updated at 8:20 p.m.) A former board president of Arlington Aquatic Club is set to go to trial next year for child pornography and sexual coercion charges, according to court documents.

Mark Black, who is about to turn 50, according to public records, was arraigned in federal court last week. A trial date was set for Feb. 27, 2024.

Earlier this month, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Black with six counts of creating, advertising, distributing and receiving child pornography between 2018 and 2023.

His alleged crimes date back to January 2018 and continued up to June of this year, when, according to court documents, he was allegedly found in possession of child pornography, including at least one depiction involving a minor not yet 12 years old.

According to these charges, in July 2019, he coerced one victim, identified as “Victim 1,” to “engage in sexually explicit conduct” to produce child pornography.

He also faces a seventh charge of coercing a minor to engage in sexual activity to create child pornography, after allegedly coercing and enticing a second child victim to engage in sexual activity for this purpose between April 2022 and April 2023.

“He faces a mandatory minimum term of 15 to 30 years for conspiracy to produce child pornography,” a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia told ARLnow this evening, after publication.

He also faces “15 to 30 years for conspiracy to advertise child pornography, 15 to 30 years for production of child pornography, 10 to life for coercion and enticement, and 5 to 20 for both receipt and distribution,” she continued.

The average sentence on federal child pornography charges in fiscal year 2022 was 110 months, or just over nine years, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Trafficking child pornography typically carries longer sentences than reception or possession.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia filed an indictment against Black on Sept. 14, 2023. He was taken into custody at the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria the next day, according to court documents.

Later that month, swimming news outlet SwimSwam reported that Black was suspended indefinitely by the U.S. Center for SafeSport and USA Swimming “for unspecified allegations of misconduct.”

The outlet had previously reported Black was entered into SafeSport’s disciplinary database, around the same time he was allegedly found in possession of child pornography.

Black was prepared to enter a plea agreement for the first count, Conspiracy to Produce Child Pornography, however “the Court indicated that the plea would not be accepted at this time,” per court documents.

Neither the Arlington Aquatic Club (AAC) — an elite swimming program notable for producing a Tokyo Olympian two summers ago — nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office could be reached before deadline.

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(Updated 10/26/23) U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken inaugurated a 200,000-square-foot building at the Arlington-based National Foreign Affairs Training Center yesterday.

The $121.2 million, federally funded facility, dubbed “Building B,” opened in 2022. It aims to expand the training center’s capacity, which has seen a surge in recruitment over the last two years, according to State Department officials.

“Building B has vastly increased the Foreign Service Institute’s workspace, creating hundreds of new areas where students and instructors can come together for classes, breakout sessions, large format meetings,” Blinken said during the dedication ceremony on Monday.

Located on S. George Mason Drive in the Alcova Heights neighborhood, the training center is the primary training ground for U.S. diplomats and foreign affairs professionals, offering courses in languages and international relations.

Since 2020, the student body has increased by nearly 30%, said Joan Polaschik, the director of the Foreign Service Institute.

“We are engaged in the largest hiring surge in more than a decade,” she told ARLnow following the ceremony.

This surge forced the training center to use State Department offices in Rosslyn to accommodate the overflow of students, according to FSI.

The State Department has seven other buildings in Arlington, home to bureaus such as Diplomatic Security and the Office of the Inspector General. More than 5,000 full-time employees and contractors work across these offices.

The new Building B, which serves a total of 3,679 in-person and online students, should alleviate this overflow issue, according to FSI. The campus has seen its daily in-person student capacity increase by 25%, going from 650 to 1,100.

Building B is home to FSI, the Consular Training Division, School of Professional and Area Studies and Leadership and Management School.

“The new Building B will eliminate the need for both of these spaces in Rosslyn and consolidate language studies in one place — our Arlington campus,” the FSI spokesman said.

Other planned expansion efforts resulted in the closure of a walking trail, despite efforts from some residents to save it, though these were unrelated to Building B, the spokesman later clarified. Plans for Building B were approved in 2020.

During his remarks, Blinken — who lives in Arlington — said the new building serves as a much-needed asset, amid growing tensions between the United States and other global superpowers, such as Russia and China, as well as conflicts in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine.

“It is essential that we empower our workforce with the skills and training that they need to operate in a crisis like this and to meet any challenge that comes our way,” he said. “So today, I’m really happy to mark the significant step forward toward that mission.”

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U.S. Capitol (photo by Hallie LeTendre)

Amid fears of a government shutdown, Rep. Don Beyer (D) is urging colleagues to remember the federal workers who would lose their paychecks if no spending plan is passed.

Yesterday, House Republicans recessed for a week after failing to pass a bill to stave off a shutdown. That could happen if lawmakers on Capitol Hill do not reach a deal before the federal government runs out of money next Saturday, Sept. 30 at midnight.

If that happens, essential workers — including military personnel, federal law enforcement and air traffic controllers — would continue working, possibly without pay.

Some 2.2 million permanent, civilian, non-postal employees could also miss their paychecks, Beyer said in a statement Wednesday. This includes more than 140,000 in Virginia, according to federal workforce data.

The last time this happened, in 2018, Beyer received letters from Virginia federal workers describing how they and their families were hurt by lost wages and benefits. He shared snippets of these letters this week.

“I am a single mother to three small children. My ability to provide for my children stops the moment the government goes into shutdown,” wrote one constituent in a 2018.

Another federal worker underscored the uncertainty a shutdown causes.

“It is the undefined length of this shutdown, the not knowing, that is the worst part,” the letter said. “Nevertheless, we continue to go to work each day without pay and without knowing what the future holds.”

Millions of government contractors also stand to lose their pay and benefits. Beyer shared a 2019 letter describing the lengths to which one owner of a small federal contracting business went to keep paying staff.

“I have expended out available cash and have taken loans against my home to keep paying our employees,” wrote the business owner and disabled veteran. “I am now at a decision point. Do I borrow more money, or do I lay off my hardworking employees?”

Unlike federal employees, contractors are not guaranteed back pay from missed wages. Around 10,000 companies with government contracts were affected by the 2018-19 shutdown, the Washington Post reported.

With the funding deadline looming, Beyer says his colleagues should remember these 2018 shutdown testimonies and consider most Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

“Many are caught up in palace intrigue and legislative drama right now, but I urge my colleagues to remember that there are a lot of real people out there who will be hurt if there is a government shutdown,” he said. “These letters and emails show how shutdowns are a disaster for my constituents, our region, and millions of Americans across the country.”

The shutdown may also affect everyday Americans who do not rely on a paycheck from the federal government, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) says.

Kaine emphasized in a press release that the 2018 shutdown led to delays in everything from flights to tax refunds and mortgage approvals due to the absence of thousands of furloughed employees, including air traffic controllers and IRS agents.

“While I will continue working with my colleagues to prevent a shutdown, we should never be in this position to begin with,” Kaine said.

Earlier this month Kaine and Beyer introduced the End Shutdowns Act, which would have initiated an automatic continuing resolution on Oct. 1 if no appropriations bill was passed by that time. Additionally, the will would have”stop[ped] the Senate from moving forward with any other legislation, outside of an emergency scenario, until Congress reached an agreement on a long-term spending deal.”

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Plans to build the long-planned 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center in Arlington National Cemetery could be gaining momentum.

There will be an in-person and virtual meeting next Wednesday, Sept. 6, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. to discuss the project.

The proposed building will have displays about the 184 individuals who lost their lives on 9/11 and the symbolism of the memorial’s design. There will also be permanent restrooms, shelter for visitors, a café, bookstore and conference space.

“While a memorial exists that honors the 184 lives that were lost as a result of the attack on the Pentagon, there is no [visitor education center] that provides an understanding of the events of that day, the lives lost, and the historic significance of the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Site,” per a report.

The education center is set to be located within the cemetery’s southern expansion, along Columbia Pike, which is being realigned to accommodate the cemetery’s expansion.

The meeting could be a sign of progress after years of stagnation, caused in part by delays to the start of realignment construction from early fall of 2021 to the spring of 2022.

Progress on the center is linked to the realignment work as the new roads will surround the site, Pentagon Memorial Fund executive director Jim Laychak previously told ARLnow. He did not respond before deadline to a request for an updated construction timeline.

Plans to build this facility have been in the works for years. The idea was first announced in September 2015 with a goal of opening in 2019 or 2020. Those years came and went, and then, the facility eyed a 2025 debut. At last check, the project is set to open in 2026 — the 25th anniversary of the attacks.

The center, estimated to cost roughly $100 million, will be financed with private donations — including a $2.5 million contribution from Amazon — as well as federal funding.

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Twenty-eight Arlington-based companies made the 2023 Inc. 5000 (via Inc. 5000)

A total of 28 Arlington-based companies are featured in this year’s Inc. 5000 list, which ranks the nation’s fastest-growing privately owned companies.

Several Arlington-based firms that made the list specialize in technology such as AI, machine learning, cybersecurity and cloud computing. Others perform various professional services for the federal government, including information technology, financial consulting and engineering.

For the second year running, Piedmont Global Language Solutions took the top Arlington spot at No. 424 — 37 places up from last year. The firm specializes in translation and language training and is located in Ballston on N. Glebe Road.

Although the numbers have fluctuated in recent years, Arlington added five more companies to the list compared to last year. Thirty Arlington companies made the list in 2021 and 2020, and 34 in 2019. Notably, only 10 of the companies on this year’s list were also featured in 2022.

Below is the list of all Arlington-based companies included on this year’s Inc. 5000 list.

  • 424. Piedmont Global Language Solutions (PGLS), 1,363% — A Ballston-based company founded by a first-generation Somali-American that provides language services and training.
  • 691. Echo Five Group, 853% — A government services company located at 4717 Old Dominion Road.
  • 938. Black Cape, 628% — A veteran-owned software company that offers machine learning and artificial intelligence solutions to help government and commercial clients. The company is based in Ballston.
  • 1,205. C3 Integrated Solutions, 489% — An IT firm that offers cyber-security to government contractors. The company announced in November 2022 it would merge with Massachusetts-based Steel Root. C3 is based in Clarendon.
  • 1,233. MarginEdge, 478% — A restaurant management software company located along Fairfax Drive in Ballston.
  • 1,391. Green Powered Technology, 420% — A veteran-owned green energy technology firm that provides policy analysis and support services in sustainable energy for businesses and government agencies. The company is based in Courthouse.
  • 1,549. PhoenixTeam, 370% — A technology company that “specializes exclusively in the design, delivery, and care of mortgage technology solution in the federal and commercial spaces.” The company is based in Ballston.
  • 1,807. Simatree, 309% — A human resources business consulting firm located in Ballston.
  • 1,827. HUNGRY, 307% — A corporate catering company located along Fairfax Drive in Ballston.
  • 1,867. Competitive Innovations, 301% — A technology services and consulting firm serving federal government agencies. The company is based in in Buckingham.
  • 1,874. Elite Strategy Global, 300% — A security consulting and risk management firm located in Ballston.
  • 1,952. Interos, 287% — A financial technology firm based in Ballston involved in supply chain risk management. The company is the first private Arlington startup to reach a billion dollar valuation in 2020.
  • 2,098. Lovelytics, 267% — A data visualization company located in Courthouse that helps clients gather, organize and visualize their data. The company was featured last year by ARLnow for doubling its staff.
  • 2,242. Allied Title & Escrow, 247% — A real estate company headquartered in Clarendon.
  • 2,343. Blake Willson Group, 236% — A veteran-owned business located in Courthouse that provides technology services, such as accounting, IT and cybersecurity , t0 the federal government.
  • 2,647. Nuvitek, 203% — A digital platform company in Rosslyn that provides cloud computing services to the federal government.
  • 2,721. Spartan Shield Solutions, 197% — A veteran-owned accounting and finance outsourcing firm
    Financial Services located in Clarendon.
  • 2,899. Fors Marsh Group, 182% — A research and communications firm based in Ballston.
  • 2,967. Level Access, 176% — A business management consulting company located in Courthouse.
  • 2,989. Organizational Development Resource Group, 174% — A woman-owned company based in Rosslyn that provides “professional services to the federal government.”
  • 3,117. Clarendon Partners, 166% — A woman-owned financial consultancy firm located in Clarendon.
  • 3,177. Matlock, 162% — A woman-owned software company headquartered in Clarendon that provides information technology services for the federal government.
  • 3,614. Aminad Consulting, 135% — A management consulting firm that provides “dedicated to generating realistic and implementable change” for federal agencies, specifically the Department of Defense. The company is based in Ballston.
  • 3,772. Bullpen Strategy Group, 126% —  A public affairs advocacy and strategic advisory firm that has offices in Rosslyn.
  • 3,901. 540.co, 120% — A company that describes itself on its website “we are a forward-thinking company that the Federal Government turns to in order to…#GetS***Done.” It’s based in Crystal City.
  • 4,205. STEMBoard, 106% — A woman-owned engineering firm that provides “professional services and technologies” to the federal government and businesses. The company is headquartered in Clarendon.
  • 4,712. Royce Geo, 85% — A tech company that provides geospatial intelligence, training and data modeling for the defense and intelligence community. The company is located in Ballston.
  • 4,852. Erickson Immigration Group, 79% — A law firm that “focuses exclusively on providing legal guidance on strategic corporate immigration.” The company is located in Courthouse.
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An Army helicopter flies over Boundary Channel near the Pentagon (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County and neighboring jurisdictions are taking over ownership of a complaint system for reporting noisy choppers.

That means residents can continue to report loud aircraft noise to the U.S. government as it works to lessen noise by raising helicopter altitudes and altering flight paths.

These changes, announced in April, respond to years of resident complaints to Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) Two years ago, he called on the federal government to study noise levels in the D.C. area and come up with recommendations.

One of these was the PlaneNoise, Inc. platform — consisting of an automated phone line, website and smartphone application — that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) set up last year to track issues.

The system collected data that informed plans from the FAA and the Helicopter Association International to fly helicopters on new, higher paths. When this plan was announced, local officials announced the pilot complaint system would become a permanent feature and municipal coffers would pay for it.

This weekend, the Arlington County Board is slated to approve a Memorandum of Understanding among Fairfax County and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church about sharing the costs of the platform.

Through the agreement, Arlington would pay $15,052 to Fairfax County, matching what Fairfax and Alexandria are paying. Falls Church is contributing $1,500. This will maintain the system through April 30, 2024.

During an April press conference, Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Libby Garvey said the county is “very pleased” the helicopter noise complaint platform would become a permanent feature.

“We are especially pleased that our residents could participate meaningfully in this process, and now will continue to,” she said. “In a democracy, it is crucial that people have a voice in how their government affects them.”

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The federal government says it will direct helicopters to fly higher and on new paths to spare residents of Arlington and neighboring locales from excessive noise.

These changes respond to years of noise complaints about helicopters buzzing overhead, many of which are going to and from the Pentagon.

The new measures were announced yesterday (Tuesday) morning at a press conference at the Fairlington Community Center. The event featured remarks from elected officials, federal agency representatives and the helicopter industry, which were later included in a press release from U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).

“Since I took office over eight years ago, helicopter noise has been a constant source of complaints from constituents across Northern Virginia,” Beyer said in a statement. “Here in the nation’s capital with military, medical, commercial and other aviation, aircraft noise will always be with us — but there are things we can do to help reduce the impact on residents.”

He said the actions taken yesterday directly respond to community input.

“I thank the many people whose efforts helped inform the actions we are announcing today, as well as our partners across levels of government who are acting to reduce helicopter noise in Northern Virginia,” he said.

Meanwhile, a system for logging complaints — developed last year from recommendations in a 2021 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report — will be sticking around so residents can continue filing complaints.

Arlington County and neighboring jurisdictions will jointly pay to keep the complaint system operating.

Local elected officials in attendance included Arlington County Board members Katie Cristol, Matt de Ferranti and Takis Karantonis and Vice-Chair Libby Garvey, who gave a speech.

“We are especially pleased that our residents could participate meaningfully in this process, and now will continue to,” she said. “In a democracy it is crucial that people have a voice in how their government affects them.”

Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Libby Garvey speaks at a press conference announcing new flight patterns to mitigate noise on Tuesday, April 25, 2023 (courtesy photo)

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said the system is “far more than a nicety to assuage frustrated residents.”

“This tool gathered data that was used by the [Federal Aviation Association] to make important changes that will mitigate helicopter noise across our region,” he said. “Our residents weren’t just listened to — they were heard.”

The FAA reviewed data the system collected last year as well as studied by the GAO, Arlington and Montgomery counties, and the Dept. of Defense, which suggested helicopters could fly higher.

After studying this body of work, the FAA and the Helicopter Association International decided to draft new, higher flight patterns.

“It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we’re all in the same room with the same access to information and working toward the same goal,” Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Policy, International Affairs and Environment Peter Hearding said in a statement.

Jeff Smith, Chair of the Helicopter Association International Board of Directors, agreed.

“Best practices from this program, along with the data collected from this new initiative, can and will make a noticeable difference in this community,” he said. “This pilot program is a perfect case study for how government and industry can work together to address issues and deliver tangible results.”

In his remarks, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Real Property, Ronald Tickle, said the Pentagon is committed to being a good neighbor.

“The Department looks forward to further collaboration to mitigate helicopter noise in the National Capital Region, while continuing to meet mission requirements,” Tickle said.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Two Arlington-based companies that consult for federal agencies are joining forces.

Crystal City-based cBEYONData (251 18th Street S.), which provides an array of technical and financial services to the military and the Justice Department, among other federal clients, has acquired Summit2Sea, the company recently announced.

The acquisition brings cBEYONData’s workforce to more than 350 people, as Summit2Sea has about 100 employees, a company spokeswoman told ARLnow. These employees will all be staying on after the companies merge, she said.

“The addition of Summit2Sea expands the capabilities and expertise of cBEYONData so that we are able to support the needs of customers across the federal government,” said cBEYONData CEO Dyson Richards in a statement.

In a statement on Facebook, the company added that Summit2Sea’s “services, partnerships, and culture make them the perfect fit to benefit our current clients and allow us to innovate moving forward.”

Summit2Sea CEO and cofounder Laurian Eckle praised said cBEYONData will extend her company’s reach while allowing it to continue focusing on employees and customers.

“We’re excited to combine the two companies’ product portfolios to offer a more robust solution to federal financial leaders, particularly in the area of business process automation,” Summit2Sea Chief Technology Officer and cofounder Bryan Eckle said in a statement.

The senior leadership team from Summit2Sea, the CEO, CTO and co-founder Chris Florman, will remain as senior leaders, the release says.

The new logo for Summit2Sea Consulting after it was acquired by cBEYONData (via vBEYONData/Facebook)

Summit2Sea was founded in 2003. Today it provides data analytics, automates robotic processes and updates enterprise applications across “marquee DoD programs,” per the press release. The company, which identifies as a woman-owned small business, has been recognized as a Washington Post Top Workplace for three years in a row, from 2020 to 2022.

Incorporated in 2017, cBEYONData says it has helped multiple government agencies adopt modern technology, work more efficiently, understand their finances better and comply with regulations.

“We leverage these capabilities to improve our customer’s return on investment, enabling higher success with achieving our customer’s mission,” per its website.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

A relatively new app that helps startups navigate the labyrinthine government contracting process, collaborate with each other and land contracts has recently nabbed its third state funding round.

The goal of the app, called FedScout, is to improve the outcomes for companies that set out to work for the government. Of the 120,000 companies that register to sell to the government each year, about 60% drop out after the first year because of how difficult the process is, according to the app’s founder, Geoff Orazem.

Orazem founded the Eastern Foundry — a coworking incubator for government contractors that has since gone out of business.

“Ever since I left the Marine Corps and McKinsey & Company, this is what I’ve been trying to do: Make the federal government work with startups more effectively,” he tells ARLnow. “This is just the new chapter toward that goal.”

Orazem founded Eastern Foundry in Crystal City in 2014, later expanding to Rosslyn, adding space to its Crystal City location in 2017 and expanding to North Carolina in 2019. While these coworking spaces fostered collaboration between tenants of each space, he said Eastern Foundry just couldn’t encourage “cross-pollination” from Crystal City to Rosslyn for which he had hoped.

Eastern Foundry in Rosslyn in November 2019 (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

“It turns out, even though [Rosslyn and Crystal City] are only 15 minutes apart, people are busy and it’s hard to convince people to drive, find parking and then pick up kids from soccer,” he said, adding that fostering collaboration between Virginia and North Carolina was an even taller task.

Then came the one-two punch of the rise and fall of WeWork — which, supported by large foreign investors, was able to pump out offices while hemorrhaging money — and the remote work shift caused by Covid. But by 2021, Eastern Foundry closed a checking account that contained $0 and court records indicated the coworking company had no cash and neither owned or leased any commercial property, according to the Washington Business Journal, which reported the company’s bankruptcy filings in 2022.

“WeWork distorted a market. The wake off their bow put a hole in us and then we went straight into Covid. I don’t think there’s a world where we could stay open. We were one of many operators that went under,” he said. “[That] was eight years of my pride, love and personal money. Eastern Foundry’s demise was a huge loss.”

His saving grace was a separate company he founded in 2016, called Federal Foundry.

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The US Capitol Building on Inauguration Eve (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

A full slate of candidates is vying to unseat Rep. Don Beyer as Arlington’s representative in Congress.

Beyer has held onto his 8th District seat — which includes all of Arlington County, the cities Alexandria and Falls Church, and portions of Fairfax County — since he replaced the retiring Rep. Jim Moran in 2014.

The incumbent, who declared his re-election bid in January, will face off local progressive Democrat challenger Victoria Virasingh in a Democratic primary scheduled for June 21.

Virasingh, a daughter of immigrants, was born and raised in Arlington and is active with the Arlington County Democratic Committee. She previously worked for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the IRS Criminal Investigations Unit and headline-making tech firm Palantir.

Local Republicans, meanwhile, will be able to select their preferred candidate from five hopefuls. The field is full of candidates looking to catch the wave that elected Gov. Glenn Youngkin last November, though Virginia’s 8th District remains heavily Democratic.

The 2020 Republican nominee, Arlington resident and retired U.S. Army Major and counterintelligence officer Jeff Jordan, is running again. He is going up against Arlington resident and former engineer Karina Lipsman, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine when it was still under the control of the Soviet Union.

Other candidates include Alexandria resident and small business owner Kezia Tunnell, McLean resident and Open Fairfax County Public Schools Coalition activist Monica Carpio, and Heerak Christian Kim, a registered nurse and former public school teacher who ran in 2020.

A convention to decide the nominee — open to all Republicans in the 8th District — is set to be held on May 21.

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