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 53rd House District is relatively compact, encompassing Pimmit Hills, Idylwood, Merrifield, the City of Falls Church, and West Falls Church down to Woodburn.
Incumbent Del. Marcus Simon had not faced a Republican challenger since he was first elected to office in 2015, though independent Mike Casey obtained just under 25% of the vote in 2017. This time, he has an opponent in restaurant manager Sarah White, who won the Republican Party’s nomination at its convention in April.
Who are you?
Simon: I believe that every person has a sacred duty to work to repair the world. That’s the way I try to live my life, and that is where my commitment to public service comes from.
Early in my public service career, I served as an officer in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps and also as a part time Special Assistant United States Attorney. In 2008, I co-founded the Law Firm of Leggett, Simon, Freemyers & Lyon and EKKO Title, a real estate settlement, title, and escrow company.
First elected to the House in 2013, I’m proud to serve as Secretary and Parliamentarian of the House Democratic Caucus as well as on four House Committees: Courts of Justice, General Laws, Rules and as chair of Privileges & Elections.
As a life-long resident of Fairfax County, my wife Rachel and I love raising our kids in such a welcoming community.
White: I manage a few restaurants here in Northern Virginia and have been in the industry for most of the last 20 years.
I love to be involved in the community and that is why I am a member of Rotary Club of Fairfax, National Association of Women Business Owners, Virginia Restaurant, Lodging, and Travel Association, several Chambers of Commerce, and a board member for Visit Fairfax to name a few.
What would you cite as your top accomplishments of the past term?
Simon: We’ve accomplished so much in the past two years with a Democratic majority. I’m most proud of our work to expand voting rights, to protect our communities with common sense gun violence prevention initiatives, to address the student loan debt crisis, and to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
As Chairman of the Privileges and Elections Committee, I oversaw moving Virginia up 37 spots in the nation for “ease of voting.” During the special session last fall, we passed a package of criminal justice reform legislation, including my bipartisan bill to hold “bad apple” police accountable by closing loopholes in officer decertification.
Why are you running?
White: I decided to run for office after seeing how divisive things have become in politics. I want to unite people. We need to get back to advocating for our community and away from party line politics where there is a winner and a loser. We need people in office who are willing to work together across party lines to do what needs done. My litmus test for policy: Is it good for District 53?
If elected, what would be your top priorities?
Simon: We need to build on our progressive agenda while continuing to address any post pandemic issues. I’ll work to restore the public’s faith in the electoral system, increase the minimum wage at a faster rate, and advocate for criminal-justice reform while avoiding unintended consequences.
White: For the upcoming session, I want to focus on solving issues that affect our everyday lives.
We have to make pre-K and childcare a priority. We have to make sure that children have access to educational opportunities through after school programs and tutoring to catch up on schooling missed. It is important for parents and teachers to work together to make sure Virginia retains its reputation for great education.
We also need to ensure that every piece of legislation coming out is understandable. We should be doing great things for our communities and they should be able to read the legislation and know what we did.
Is there anything else you would like to say to voters?
Simon: Civic engagement and voting is the best thing you can do to make your voice heard.
White: Though I wasn’t born in Virginia, my husband and I chose several years ago to make this our home. We are proud to live here. I want to represent District 53 because I see all of the possibilities. We can tackle the big issues if we work together and I will work hard to make that happen.
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