The race for the 45th District House of Delegates seat is a weird one.
Delegate Mark Levine announced in December that he would be running for Lieutenant Governor. A month later, Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker announced that she would be running for Levine’s delegate seat. The wrinkle in all of this, however, is that Levine is also running for reelection in the 45th district as a precaution in case he doesn’t win the fairly crowded Lieutenant Governor primary.
He’s not alone in this — running for two seats is legal in Virginia — but it leaves the 45th district in an awkward Schrödinger’s cat-type race where Bennett-Parker is simultaneously running and not running against Levine.
“It’s a weird situation,” Levine admitted. “I never expected this to happen. [But] it’s legal under Virginia law. I think I’ve been a good delegate and the people should re-elect me. If I win both, I’ll resign from the 45th district and there will be a special election.”
(The 45th District itself is a bit odd, encompassing some of the residential neighborhoods around Pentagon City to the north; Shirlington and Fairlington to the west; Del Ray, Potomac Yard and Old Town Alexandria in the center; and a narrow corner of Fairfax County to the south.)
Levine, a former radio talk show host, was elected in 2015 and campaigned for stricter gun control regulations and expanding healthcare access, among other progressive goals. Levine, like many Democrats in the state legislature, has found it easier to make good on those campaign promises after Democrats took the majority in 2019.
“This year, the predominant gun regulations have been my bills and in all state-owned buildings and offices and polling places,” Levine said. “Introduced 47 bills and passed half of them… and it wasn’t my bill on marijuana legalization that passed, but I led the way.”
Bennett-Parker, co-director of the nonprofit Together We Bake, was elected to the Alexandria City Council in 2019 and said her experience working in local government would bring a unique perspective to the state legislature.
“First, having served as Vice Mayor, I understand the nuance of the role that local government plays in people’s lives and how the state is often an impediment to localities in serving their residents,” Bennett-Parker said. “Currently there are only 18 Delegates out of 100 who have served in city or county government and none of them are from Northern Virginia. Obviously, we face different issues than other parts of the Commonwealth. I hear from constituents all the time who want the City Council to do things that we can’t do because we don’t have the authority.”
Bennett-Parker also noted that she would be the minority in a government body that is still 70% male.
“Women have for too long been held back by governmental policies and programs designed by men,” Bennett-Parker said.
Bennett-Parker’s nonprofit, Together We Bake, is an Alexandria-based workforce training program that helps women exiting the criminal justice system, experiencing homelessness, recovering from abuse or addiction, or facing unemployment.
Bennett-Parker has been reluctant to criticize Levine openly, saying instead that she aims to focus on campaign goals.
“When I decided to run, this race looked like it would be an open seat, as Delegate Levine had announced he was running for Lieutenant Governor,” Bennett-Parker said. “I am focused solely on this district and serving its residents. I have delivered results for the 45th district as Vice Mayor and on regional bodies, and I will keep doing so in Richmond.”
(Levine’s campaign says he announced he was running for re-election at the same time as his lieutenant governor announcement.)
Levine, in contrast, has no qualms about saying that he doesn’t think Bennett-Parker is the right candidate to replace him as the 45th District delegate.
“No, I don’t think so,” Levine said when asked if he thought Bennett-Parker would make a good replacement.
Levine said that part of his role as delegate has been taking an active role in community meetings and discussions, something he says he hasn’t seen from Bennett-Parker.
“I absolutely have not neglected my community,” Levine said. “We had a shooting in Old Town on Monday night. I was at a community meeting with Police Chief Michael Brown. [Bennett-Parker] wasn’t there. It was a room full of concerned constituents and she wasn’t there… I was out at a COVID memorial. I was there. [Mayor Justin] Wilson was there. [City Council member Mo] Seifeldein and [City Council member Canek] Aguirre were there. You know who wasn’t there? Elizabeth Bennet-Parker. I’m more active in the community every day and I don’t see her.”
Some of Levine’s peers have disagreed with his assessment, however, with Bennett-Parker winning endorsements from state Senator Adam Ebbin and former delegates Marian Van Landingham and Rob Krupicka, among others. She was most recently endorsed by Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti, according to an announcement this morning.
While much of Levine’s campaign finance has been focused on the statewide race, in the 45th District Bennett-Parker has raised twice as much as Levine’s campaign for delegate.
According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Bennett-Parker has raised $106,434 to Levine’s $45,573 — though Levine has raised $705,284 in the lieutenant governor race. Bennett-Parker’s top donors include attorney and Democratic financier Sonjia Smith, Levine’s 2015 opponent Julie Jakopic, and Alexandria School Board member Veronica Nolan.
For both Levine and Bennett-Parker, expanding healthcare and combatting the effects of climate change are two of the major priorities ahead for the state legislature.
“In terms of fights ahead: healthcare is the big one,” Levine said. “We need affordable healthcare. I think healthcare needs to be more transparent and we need to make sure people aren’t being bankrupted by healthcare costs.”
Bennett-Parker said the state should take the momentum from expanding Medicaid and keep moving forward.
“Expanding access to affordable health care,” Bennett-Parker said, when asked about her top priorities. “Expanding Medicaid was an important step in the right direction, but we need to do more to make healthcare, including mental healthcare, more accessible and affordable for all Virginians. We also need to find a way to lower prescription drug prices, especially for seniors.”
Vote By Mail in June Primary — From Arlington’s elections office: “More than 3,900 mail ballots for the June 8 Democratic Primary are on their way.. Deadline to request a mail ballot: May 28 @ 5 p.m.” [Twitter]
Restaurants Cited For Covid Violations — “Twenty-nine Arlington restaurants were cited for violating Gov. Ralph Northam’s COVID-19 restrictions between Jan. 1 and April 4 of this year, according to data obtained exclusively by Patch from Arlington County Public Health.” [Patch]
Auction of Art Institute’s Equipment in Rosslyn — “Former Art Institute of Washington… has closed and will make a complete liquidation of super high end kitchen, catering and food service equipment including 1,000s of small wares, appliances, and high-end kitchen equipment… [plus] all technology, educational equipment, furnishings, A/V, business equipment and supply.” [Rasmus Auctions, Rasmus Auctions]
Local GOP Holding Online Meeting This Month — “The chairman of the Arlington County Republican Committee is anticipating face-to-face gatherings in coming months, but for now is sticking with an online format. ‘I am looking forward to holding in-person meetings again in the very near future,’ GOP chair Andrew Loposser said in an April 21 e-mail to the party rank-and-file. The e-mail noted that the monthly meeting set for April 28 would be held online via Zoom.” [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Native Named Head Basketball Coach — “Loyola women’s basketball has named Danielle O’Banion the program’s 12th head coach. The Arlington, Virginia native who played at Boston College, most recently was an assistant at Minnesota. She takes over for Joe Logan, the program’s all-time winningest coach who was relieved of his duties after the 2020-21 season. The Greyhounds finished 0-13.” [Fox 45]
Fundraiser for Murder Victim’s Family — “The family of Hernan Leiva, who was killed in a parking lot in the Skyline area of Bailey’s Crossroads April 17, launched a GoFundMe site to raise funds to help with funeral costs. Leiva, age 58, worked at the Target in Skyline. He was attacked by a coworker when he arrived at work early Saturday morning.” [Annandale Blog]
Residents Want Better HQ2 View — “The tallest and most distinctive tower planned for Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters, the conch-shaped ‘Helix,’ will be like no other building in Greater Washington. And Arlington residents would like to see it from their neighborhoods… [as planned] the positioning would obstruct the surrounding community’s views of the signature structure, said Leonardo Sarli, an Arlington planning commissioner.” [Washington Business Journal]
Ebbin Endorses Colleague’s Challenger — “State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria-Arlington-Fairfax) has endorsed challenger Elizabeth Bennett-Parker in the competitive Democratic primary in the 45th House District. ‘I feel a responsibility to weigh in,’ Ebbin said in an April 22 statement… Bennett-Parker, who currently serves as vice chair of the Alexandria City Council, will face off against [Del. Mark] Levine in the June 8 Democratic primary.” [Sun Gazette]
County Launches Hunger Task Force — “Arlington County has launched a Food Security Task Force to develop strategies and recommendations to achieve a more food secure Arlington. ‘Our fellow Arlingtonians in need are our families and neighbors, and while the County and community came together to address hunger needs throughout the pandemic, much more remains to be done,’ said Matt de Ferranti, Chair of the Arlington County Board.” [Arlington County]
Bar Seating Now Allowed Again — “Remember sitting at a bar and ordering a drink from a bartender? It’s been a while since that simple activity has been allowed in much of the greater Washington area due to pandemic regulations. But in an executive order quietly updated on Wednesday, Governor Ralph Northam is allowing Virginia bar patrons to be seated at a bar for service as long as there is a minimum of six feet between parties.” [Washingtonian]
Other Covid Restrictions Eased — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced that sports and entertainment venues in Virginia may begin to operate with expanded capacity, and social gathering limits will increase beginning Saturday, May 15th. The announcement comes as vaccinations continue to rise in the Commonwealth, and more than half of all adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]
Nearby: D.C. Statehood Advances — “For the second time in history, the House passed legislation Thursday to make the District of Columbia the nation’s 51st state, bolstering momentum for a once-illusory goal that has become a pivotal tenet of the Democratic Party’s voting rights platform. Democrats unanimously approved Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Washington, D.C. Admission Act, describing it as a bid to restore equal citizenship to the residents of the nation’s capital and rectify a historic injustice.” [Washington Post]
Since announcing her candidacy in October, Mehta has received several notable progressive endorsements including from Democratic Socialists of America, Sunrise Virginia, and Our Revolution Arlington. She’s also raised a considerable amount of money, with her campaign saying they’ve so far raised five times more than previous 49th District challengers.
In the first quarter of 2021 the campaign raised about $51,000, for a total haul of $78,000.
Mehta has been running an active campaign, sending her supporters more than a dozen emails since mid-March. The emails have asked for donations, announced endorsements, and demanded that corporations like Dominion Energy and Amazon — which is building its HQ2 within the 49th District — “are immediately reigned in.”
Lopez, meanwhile, has racked up endorsements from a proverbial who’s who list of Arlington and Virginia lawmakers, officials, and organizations. That includes U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia Secretary of Education Arif Qarni, the Arlington firefighters union, and even his primary challenger in 2019, JD Spain, president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP.
The campaign says it has raised more than $80,000 in the first quarter of 2021 and $160,000 overall.
The 49th District runs from Seven Corners to Pentagon City, including much of Arlington’s diverse Columbia Pike corridor.
The primary is set for June 8, with early voting starting tomorrow (April 23). The race pits an established Arlington lawmaker against a first-time candidate .
Mehta is a 29-year-old preschool teacher, the daughter of Indian-American parents who immigrated to the U.S. seeking a better life. But they struggled, she tells ARLnow, to pay rent, get affordable health care, and pay down debt. While she originally hails from Tennessee and Pennsylvania, she moved to Arlington about a decade ago to teach.
Mehta says she is “proud to help represent the wave of progressive insurgents across the country working to put people first, not corporations.”
“I’ve seen a cyclical pattern and the lack of accountability not just in our elected officials, but in the way we’ve created society,” she says. “My goal is to help be part of a new generation of legislators that help break that cycle of inequity, to help build new systems that uplift all of our people.”
“We represent the future of the Democratic Party, whereas the moderates like Delegate Lopez represent the past,” she adds.
Lopez was first elected as a Delegate in 2011. Since then, he’s become the Majority Whip in the Virginia House of Delegates and has sponsored a slew of notable bills, including one earlier this year that gave localities greater say over which businesses get liquor licenses.
This past General Assembly session his entire legislative agenda was signed into law, including bills related to gun control, providing more access to financial aid to students no matter immigration status, and funding to improve water treatment plants and prevent Chesapeake Bay pollution.
Lopez tells ARLnow that he believes his experience getting legislation passed is why he continues to be the best candidate for the job.
“What I do is bring Arlington progressive values to Richmond and work to get as much I can done, to move the policy needle as far as I can while also being successful and effective in getting legislation passed,” he says.
A paperwork snafu may prevent a local House of Delegates candidate, Matt Rogers, from going up against fellow Democrat Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington).
Rogers, who recently wrapped up 3.5 years serving as Chief of Staff for Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37) and is running to unseat Hope, reportedly failed to meet a filing deadline for two documents, according to the State Board of Elections.
As a result, he may not be on the June 8 Democratic primary ballot.
The challenger tells ARLnow that he mailed these documents to the state last June, but did not use certified mail, “which was a huge mistake.” Now, he is calling on the SBE to grant a deadline extension so these filings can be fixed.
“Having worked in these circles for a number of years, I was well-aware of the elements of filing and the responses from the State Board of Elections and their habits of communication with candidates — especially incumbents — having been on the receiving end of their entreaties,” he writes in a blog post.
The SBE met on March 31 to discuss candidates who requested an extension, including pastor and Richmond City Councilmember Mike Jones. According to Virginia law, such an extension would be applied to all candidates, not just those making the request, said David Nichols, the Elections Services Manager for the Department of Elections, during the meeting.
Ultimately, that board did not grant one, breaking with past decisions.
“I’ve made my position pretty clear on this matter: The failure of candidates to comply with statutory filing requirements places this board in a very unfair position,” SBE Chair Bob Brink, a former state legislator from Arlington, said during the meeting.
Brink said he has urged both the chairs of the state Democratic and Republican parties to ensure candidates comply with filing deadlines.
“I stressed that while the board had granted an extension of the filing deadline in the past, there was no assurance it would do so in the future,” Brink said.
🚨: I am officially requesting that @VAElect exercise its authority under VA § 24.2-503.
It's 2021. We should be making it easier for people to vote and run for office, not harder. pic.twitter.com/MOQd4VL3Ym
— Matt Rogers 🏛️ (@MattForDelegate) April 1, 2021
In Virginia, partisan candidates for elected office are required to file paperwork declaring their candidacy with their local political parties, Arlington Democrats Chair Jill Caiazzo said. Those parties must confirm with the Virginia Department of Elections which candidates have filed this paperwork.
“Arlington Democrats did that for all candidates who filed paperwork with the local Democratic party in connection with the upcoming election to represent the 47th District in the House of Delegates,” Caiazzo said.
As a courtesy, when Arlington Dems sent that notification to the department, the organization copied all candidates who filed paperwork with the local party, she said. But Rogers’ alleged misfiling is separate from the local process she described.
“Separately, candidates are required to file a different set of paperwork with the Department of Elections,” she said. “Local political parties play no role with respect to that separate filing requirement.”
Rogers is one of eight candidates who could be barred from being on the ballot due to paperwork problems.
During a Virginia Board of Elections meeting this week, the head of the Virginia Department of Elections told the three-person panel these candidates “just didn’t get it in on time.”
“At the end of the day, people didn’t get them in, I don’t think it was a lack of information sharing or knowledge sharing on our part,” Christopher Piper, the commissioner of the department, said.
Real Estate Expected to Get Pricier — “Home prices and, for the most part, sales, have continued to rise in the Northern Virginia market in the last year, even despite the pandemic, but the unanswered question is: what will happen in the future? A consensus forecast report from the Center for Regional Analysis and George Mason University and the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors aims to answer that question and, in short, the upward trends will continue.” [WTOP]
Clement Focuses on Taxes — “Frequent Arlington political contender Audrey Clement’s hat is in the ring for 2021, and she’s focusing, at least initially, on ever-spiraling higher tax burdens on county homeowners. ‘I’m running again because Arlington taxes are slated to go up again even as other Northern Virginia jurisdictions’ tax rates are going down,’ Clement said in an e-mail to supporters, formalizing her bid for Arlington County Board.” [Sun Gazette]
Candidate Misses Filing Deadline — Updated at 5:15 p.m. — Local House of Delegates candidate Matt Rogers, who was set to challenge fellow Democrat Del. Patrick Hope, reportedly failed to meet a filing deadline and may not be on the primary ballot as a result. [Blue Virginia]
Teens Encouraged to Join ‘Park Corps’ — “Work alongside Arlington’s natural resource professionals in forestry, wildlife management, education, habitat restoration and more. We’ll get real work done, all while having fun outside, building job skills and making connections with other like-minded students… Applications are due April 30. Applicants must be 16-18 years of age.” [Arlington County]
Credit Union Makes New Hires — “Arlington Community Federal Credit Union announced multiple new hires of key members of the leadership team. Each of these leaders will be responsible for significant priority strategies for the organization.” [ACFCU]
Foreclosed Rosslyn Office Building Sold — “An affiliate of The Meridian Group cast the winning bid of $58.3 million for a Rosslyn office building during Wednesday morning’s foreclosure auction just steps from the Arlington County courthouse… 1500 Wilson checks off many of the same boxes the development firm seeks with its value-add buys. There is about 121,250 square feet of vacant space in the building, and a repositioning to boost occupancy, aided by one of its real estate funds, could be in the cards.” [Washington Business Journal]
Man Arrested for Alleged Carjacking — “Upon exiting the store, the suspect approached the vehicle associated with the female witness and attempted to hand the male occupant a drink. When the male declined, the suspect allegedly punched him on the side of the head and proceeded to open the vehicle’s door, pull him out and began assaulting him. The occupants from the suspect’s vehicle attempted to intervene and when the suspect refused to comply, they left the scene. Upon seeing that the suspect vehicle had left the parking lot, the suspect entered the victim’s vehicle and fled the scene.” [Arlington County]
Amazon Workers to Volunteer at Vaccination Site — “The company sent out an opportunity for employees to volunteer at the clinic on one of its listservs, and pulled in workers from all around the region, including those at Amazon Web Services, which has a hefty Herndon presence. Roughly 50 Amazon employees will help run the clinic each day… While Arlington health workers will deliver the vaccines themselves, Amazon volunteers will perform other important tasks, like monitoring people for symptoms after they’ve received a shot.” [Washington Business Journal]
Capitol Rioter Photographed in Arlington — “[Michigan] resident Anthony Williams used Facebook to show off photos and videos of himself inside the U.S. Capitol, which gave law enforcement officials enough evidence to arrest him last week… Williams posted updates to Facebook as he traveled to Washington, D.C. He posted his location in Bedford County, Pennsylvania with the caption “Operation Storm the Swamp” and posed for a photo with five other men at a sports pub in Arlington, Virginia.” [MLive]
Rosslyn Building Set for Foreclosure Sale — “A Rosslyn office building that hosts one of President Joe Biden’s favorite sandwich shops is slated to be sold at a foreclosure auction, the latest sign of distress in Greater Washington’s commercial real estate industry… a public auction is scheduled to be held 11 a.m. Wednesday outside the Arlington County courthouse for 1500 Wilson Blvd., a 17-story, 261,360-square-foot office building that stands at the intersection of North Oak Street and Clarendon and Wilson boulevards in Arlington County.” [Washington Business Journal]
Lopez’s Challenger Picks Up Endorsement — “The activist group Our Revolution Arlington has endorsed Karishma Mehta’s bid to unseat Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington-Fairfax) in the June 8 Democratic primary… The organization pointed to the challenger’s support for the Green New Deal for Virginia, single-payer healthcare, ‘slashing police budgets and re-investing those resources into securing people’s basic needs,’ repealing right-to-work laws and other ‘transformative policy proposals.'” [Sun Gazette]
Kiwanis Help Kids During the Pandemic — “Arlington’s pandemic-stressed safety net organizations received an infusion of funds from the Kiwanis Foundation of Arlington this month. The Foundation, the charitable arm of the Kiwanis Club of Arlington, distributed more than $50,000 to the Arlington Food Assistance Center, Arlington THRIVE, The Salvation Army, ASPIRE, Bridges to Independence, PRS Crisis Link, Doorways, Capital Caring, YMCA, Arlington 4-H, National Capital Treatment & Recovery, VHC Pediatrics and other non-profits serving children in the community.” [Press Release]
The upcoming Arlington County Board primary will see a rematch between two former Democratic rivals.
County Board member Takis Karantonis, who is serving a partial term after being elected in a special election, is facing Chanda Choun, who is hoping the third time is the charm as he again seeks a seat on the Board.
Karantonis and Choun previously ran against each other in the Democratic primary for the special election last year to fill the late Erik Gutshall’s seat. Karantonis won while Choun finished third in the ranked-choice voting. Then, Karantonis went on to win the general election.
The winner of this year’s June primary will move on to November’s general election, where there’s already an opponent waiting for one of them.
The Arlington elections office confirmed to ARLnow that Audrey Clement has filed her paperwork and will once again be on the ballot in November.
Clement, who has run unsuccessfully for office in Arlington nearly a dozen times over the past decade — most recently in November — is again running as an independent.
Karantonis, the former executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO), was an ardent supporter of the planned Columbia Pike streetcar project, which was scuttled in 2014. His current term in office expires on December 31.
“I am running for re-election to the Arlington County Board because I believe that Arlington is resilient, and it has the capacity to adapt to challenges in ways that will provide a great quality of life for all of its residents,” Karantonis wrote in an email to supporters. “My experiences as an immigrant, planner, economist, environmentalist and affordable housing activist have proved critical in my work to build an Arlington that works for all Arlingtonians.”
Additionally, he noted that his top priorities would include safely reopening schools, supporting small businesses, making Arlington a leader in environmental resilience and sustainability, tackling “our housing affordability crisis,” and advancing equity and racial justice.
Chanda Choun is a military veteran and a technology professional who has also run several times for the County Board. In 2018 he lost to Matt de Ferranti and last year he initially was going to oppose Libby Garvey’s re-election but dropped out to run in the special election.
In a campaign email, Choun wrote that he has a “Freedom and Justice Plan” for the county. This includes, according to the note, “securing the local economy amidst the remote work revolution,” reducing residential taxes, closing the digital divide, and making Arlington’s government more representative and responsive.
“Arlington’s current path is not sustainable: financially, environmentally, and socially,” he said. “Arlington needs an elected representative with managerial experience, technical skills, a thoughtful heart, and unique tenacious leadership to make sure we have a fair and livable community 20 years from now.”
Choun notes that, if elected, he would be the first Asian American to serve on the Arlington County Board.
The Democratic primary is June 8 with early voting beginning 45 days before the election, on April 23.
Arlington Startup Founder Going to Prison — “An Arlington start-up that promised to help people root out schemes and scams in their own lives was, nearly from the start, a cash cow for the founder’s extravagant lifestyle, start-up CEO Daniel Boice acknowledged in Alexandria federal court Friday… ‘It would be difficult to describe the havoc you created by your fraudulent actions,’ Judge T.S. Ellis III said before sentencing Boice to eight years in prison. ‘It’s an egregious fraud.'” [Washington Post, Dept. of Justice]
Bad Crash on GW Parkway — “A car split in half after crashing into a tree near the First Overlook [of the] George Washington Memorial Parkway Sunday morning, U.S. Park Police confirms. The driver of the car was the only one in the vehicle and was immediately taken to a nearby hospital. U.S. Park Police say their injuries are non-life-threatening.” [WUSA 9, Twitter, Twitter]
Pro-Reopening Parents Blast APS Superintendent — “During the Monitoring Report from Dr. Durán to the School Board, we heard that due to “monumental logistical challenges,” APS will remain hybrid for the remainder of this academic year… Arlington Parents for Education urges the School Board to vote on an urgent and rapid return to school plan when they meet again next — or, if not, propose a vote of no confidence in Dr. Durán for failing to deliver such a plan.” [Press Release]
Group Wants to Save Whitlow’s Building — “As you have seen in the news, Whitlow’s is planning to relocate due to being unable to renegotiate their lease at 2854 Wilson Blvd. However, the building is for sale and presents an investment opportunity and chance to keep Whitlows at its historic location. This form is simply to gauge interest in being part of a group to purchase the building, and is not a commitment to forming any business arrangement, putting up capital, or the like.” [Google Forms, Twitter]
Early Voting Locations for Primary Set — “Members of the Arlington Electoral Board on March 25 approved plans for two satellite-early-voting centers to be used in the runup to the June 8 Democratic primary. Walter Reed and Madison community centers previously had been designated as the locations for early voting by the County Board. The March 25 action set days and hours they will be in operation, although refinements could still be made.” [Sun Gazette]
Local Gov. Candidate Wants to Nix Income Tax — “Could Virginia’s next governor be from Arlington? It’s a longshot, perhaps, but there’s at least one candidate in the running. Arlingtonian Peter Doran on March 24 made his pitch to the Arlington County Republican Committee, saying new thinking is needed if the GOP is to end its drought in statewide elections… Doran pitched the idea of eliminating Virginia’s state income tax.” [Sun Gazette]
Arlington businessman Xavier Warren is basing his campaign for lieutenant governor of Virginia on a pledge to lead a statewide economic recovery while focusing on the job market.
Warren is a partner with Congressional Partners, a bipartisan organization that helps nonprofits and corporations secure federal grants. He also works as a sports agent and serves as a NFL Players Association contract advisor.
Warren announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor in September.
He is among a sizable group of candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for lieutenant governor that includes Del. Elizabeth R. Guzmán (Prince William), Del. Hala Ayala (Prince William), former Democratic Party chairman Paul Goldman, and Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman.
Additionally, Del. Sam Rasoul (Roanoke) filed paperwork Tuesday to allow him to start raising money for a potential lieutenant governor campaign, according to the Washington Post.
Republican candidates include former Del. Timothy D. Hugo (Fairfax), Del. Glenn R. Davis Jr. (Virginia Beach), Fairfax County business consultant Puneet Ahluwalia and Lance Allen, a national security company executive from Fauquier County.
Each candidate is vying for the role that will be vacated by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who is running for governor.
Warren points to the state’s current economic condition as his primary reason for running. He specifically seeks to address the unemployment rate that has risen as a result of COVID-19.
“The reason why I am running is to focus on jobs, support small businesses and workers, and helping every Virginian have a job with a livable wage,” Warren said.
“COVID is literally hurting, and has killed, small businesses,” he told ARLnow. “Small businesses are closing on a weekly basis. And hundreds of thousands of people are out of work. Even truthfully speaking, people were hurting pre-COVID, living paycheck-to-paycheck, and now those people are extremely hurt.”
His understanding of the lieutenant governor job is as a “business position” that sets the basis for a platform focused on reviving the job market. If elected, Warren looks to advocate for job growth while working with boards such as the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Virginia Tourism and Virginia Resiliency.
“What I plan to do is to be our spokesperson and really market Virginia for jobs to come in, to bring in high-wage jobs, new jobs, and that will also support small businesses,” Warren said. “When you put money into workers’ pockets, they then go spend it in retail, go spend it in restaurants, spend it at shopping centers.”
Warren lives in Arlington, but he grew up in Danville and attended Hampton University before earning a master’s degree from Georgetown University. With his experience living and working across the state, he acknowledges that each region of Virginia comes with its own unique challenges.
His plans for the position include tailoring the economic efforts for each region based on its specific needs, whether that’s improved health care, education, supporting public schools, or whatever each community may face.
“Obviously, at the state level, economic development is different across the board,” Warren said. “Every person in every region is unique. So it’s not a one-size-fits-all for everyone. You take in a personalized approach to helping get each region together to really uplift all Virginians.”
A new candidate is poised to provide a primary challenge to Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) from his left.
Karishma Mehta, a “preschool teacher, community organizer and daughter of immigrants,” said earlier this week that she will be running as a Democrat in Virginia’s 49th House of Delegates district.
The social media announcement was accompanied by a campaign video in which Mehta decries Amazon, whose new HQ2 in Pentagon City is located within the district.
“As luxury developers displace the working class, and corporations like Amazon steal hundreds of millions of dollars away from the community during a global pandemic, we have risen up to demand better,” Mehta says. “We are on the streets demanding justice, while powerful Virginia Democrats continue to choose incrementalism and put profits over people.”
“Virginia is not for sale,” Mehta says as the video concludes.
This campaign is not about one election, but a long-term commitment to the working-class. It is our chance to elect a people's movement rooted in mutual aid + direct action. We represent the PEOPLE (not corporations or billionaires).
Join our coalition: https://t.co/t6ciziQwzi
— Karishma Mehta for Virginia House of Delegates (@karishma4va) October 12, 2020
(Mehta’s Twitter account lists its location as “occupied Nacotchtank land,” a reference to a Native American tribe that once called the area home, but which has had no known living members for centuries.)
The announcement was accompanied by messages of encouragement from supporters.
“Can’t think of anyone I’d rather see representing the neighborhood than someone I knocked on doors for Bernie with!” said one reply. “You’ve got my full support.”
“A democratic socialist winning in the backyard of Amazon HQ2 in Arlington would be nothing short of a game changer,” said another. “Every progressive in the country needs to being paying attention to this campaign.”
Mehta’s website says her campaign is “rooted in mutual aid and direct action.”
“Karishma is an active organizing member with numerous progressive groups and is committed to building solidarity and community power in Virginia,” the site says. “She currently rents an apartment in South Arlington with her mom and sister, while working as a full-time early childhood teacher and community organizer.”
The site provides additional biographic information:
Karishma is a preschool teacher whose childhood was split between Chattanooga, TN and Pittsburgh, PA with her parents and two siblings. Both of Karishma’s parents worked full-time, sometimes working multiple jobs to provide for the family.
She grew up being a caretaker for her younger siblings, and watched her parents struggle with rent, school expenses, lunch debt, lack of healthcare, and job opportunities. Economic hardship alongside racism and xenophobia forced her family to move frequently until she was in high school.
After completing her undergraduate studies in Psychology at George Washington University, Karishma dedicated her life to her students and became an active community organizer and mental health advocate in Virginia.
Through her years in education, Karishma has connected the dots between the daily economic, social, environmental, and racial struggles that her students’ families face. Both in and out of the classroom, she commits to building a compassionate, just, and antiracist education system.
Lopez has represented the district since 2012, and founded the General Assembly’s Latino Caucus. He became the Democratic Whip in 2016 and has continued to rise in seniority as Democrats won control of the state House in 2019. He is up for reelection in 2021.
Lopez has faced criticism, however, particularly from the more progressive wing of the party. His Obama-era work for a company that contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and his request for a police presence at a public forum in 2018, helped to make him a target for a potential primary challenger.
There is at least one other local primary contest expected next year: political operative Matt Rogers announced this summer that he will be challenging Del. Patrick Hope (D-Va.) in the June Democratic race.
Photo via Karishma Mehta for Virginia/Facebook