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Q&A: Meet the House of Delegates District 35 candidates

35th House District Republican nominee Kevin McGrath and incumbent Del. Mark Keam (courtesy McGrath 4 VA, Mark Keam)

Editor’s Note — With all 100 seats in Virginia’s House of Delegates on the ballot, Tysons Reporter is running Q&A-style profiles of the races in the Tysons area this week ahead of the general election next Tuesday (Nov. 2). The candidates’ responses have been edited for length and clarity.

The 35th House District covers Tysons south of the Dulles Toll Road and extends to Fair Lakes, including the Town of Vienna and Oakton.

The district has voted Democratic since 2003, with incumbent Del. Mark Keam as its delegate since 2010. He has a challenger for the seat for the first time since 2013 in Republican nominee Kevin McGrath, a former CIA employee.

Who are you?

Keam:

I was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2009, and my interest in seeking reelection today is the same as when I first sought this position: I believe in our democracy and the civic process, and I want to help solve some of the problems facing our state, rather than simply sit on the sidelines and complain about them.

I have devoted my professional career to public service and worked in federal, state, and local governments as well as with dozens of nonprofit organizations. I also believe in the power of the private sector to improve our quality of life and their socially responsible roles in making our society better.  That is why I have worked with both start-ups and large companies to do good while doing well.

McGrath:

I am a native Northern Virginian. Born in Columbia Hospital for Women in Washington, DC, I grew up in Mosby Woods in Fairfax and attended school there for most of 1st through 12th grades. I graduated from Oakton High School, and then from Virginia Tech with a BA in Political Science. After graduating from Tech, I worked for the CIA for 30 years and retired 6 years ago.

I have served my community in many ways. My passion is coaching youth sports and I have enjoyed coaching Vienna youth baseball, soccer, and basketball for 20 years. I have also been involved with my parish church, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Vienna, volunteering and raising funds over the years. And yes,  I am still a Washington Redskins fan.

What would you cite as your top accomplishments of the past term?

Keam: As a state legislator, one of my priorities is addressing climate change by helping Virginia transition from finite and polluting sources of energy to cleaner and renewable sources. I’ve drafted several bills that became law to reach these goals, including expanding rooftop solar for consumers, banning offshore drilling, promoting electric vehicles, and requiring environmental justice analysis. During the most recent legislative session, I passed a bill to create a new state fund that will help schools convert their diesel school buses to electric models.

Why are you running for office?

McGrath: I follow politics and I know how important the results of elections can be. After the November 2020 election chaos, I decided to throw my hat in the ring and run for office. Regardless of how this election works out, I feel it is my duty as an American to try and stop the madness that our current politicians have recently shown.

If elected, what would be your top priorities?

Keam: As we emerge slowly from the emergencies related to COVID, we need to address the many gaps in our society that were exposed by the pandemic.

In the public health system, we found out the hard way that our state and local governments can do a better job of more quickly and efficiently coordinating with the national standards that come from Washington. In the unemployment system, we realized how outdated and under resourced our infrastructure is for handling massive number of claims.

In the public education system, we always knew that some schools had better classrooms, broadband, technologies, and HVAC systems than others, but these inequities led to devastating outcomes for students who have little options outside of those schools. In the criminal justice system, we understand that there are better ways to use our law enforcement personnel and resources to diffuse potential conflicts instead of escalating confrontations.

These and many others are the urgent needs facing our state, and I want to help address them with reasonable solutions developed by a broad range of stakeholders.

McGrath: Repeal the laws the Democrats have passed over the last four years. There was no opposition to their lawmaking because they had the majority in both houses as well as the governor’s mansion. They could do whatever they wanted, passing hundreds of ridiculous and wasteful laws.

My first repeal would be erasing all the Democrats’ new election laws. They gave the vote to 48,000 felons with no attention to the crimes they committed. The Democrats are making it easy to cheat with absentee balloting and mail in ballots. Hundreds of bills must be repealed before any new legislation is considered.

Is there anything else you would like to say to voters?

Keam: I want to thank the voters in the 35th House District for trusting me as their Delegate to the state government and for supporting me as I proposed various legislative and other policy solutions to problems they may be facing. If they believe I have represented their interests well, then I humbly ask that you return me to Richmond for another term. Thank you.

McGrath: If the American voters do not institute term limits for all our politicians from the president down to the local prosecuting attorneys, then our country will suffer what could be a disaster. The current two-party system is not what our founders imagined. They warned us about the two-party system, and we are now in the middle of a standoff.

With our current two-party system and the bipolarization that prevails today, many Americans do not have faith in our leaders and our election process. I am concerned that we may not be able to solve the many issues that divide us. If we change the Virginia Constitution and the U.S. Constitution to include term limits for the senate and the house, most of our problems will be solved.

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