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With special election coming, Mark Keam reflects on representing 35th District

Mark Keam served as delegate for Virginia’s 35th House District for 13 years (courtesy Mark Keam)
Mark Keam’s 13-year tenure in the Virginia General Assembly has come to a close.

After accepting a position in the Office of National Travel and Tourism in the Biden administration, Keam announced on Tuesday (Sept. 6) that he has submitted his resignation as delegate for the 35th House District, which includes Tysons, Vienna, Dunn Loring, Oakton and Fair Oaks.

Vying to succeed him in a special election set for Jan. 10 — one day before the legislature convenes for its 2023 session — will be Providence District School Board Representative Karl Frisch and BRAWS Executive Director Holly Seibold. Candidates can file to run until 5 p.m. on Nov. 14.

In a brief interview with FFXnow, Keam reflected on legislative highlights from his six-and-a-half terms in office, the increased diversity of the General Assembly, and his advice for the district’s next delegate.

(Editor’s note: The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)

What are the accomplishments you’re most proud of?

I’ve been very, very honored and fortunate to work on many, many issues…I’ve been able to pass, last time I counted, it was about 120 bills that I drafted myself, either under my name or something I drafted was incorporated into somebody else’s bill.

Among them, I think the one that stands out the most to me in terms of significance and [that] I feel very proud of is the Virginia Environmental Justice Act. It requires Virginia state government agencies, as they’re issuing permits and authorizations, to look at the environmental justice impact, not just in terms of how much it’s going to cost and the economics, but also who’s going to be harmed and who’s going to be benefitted from something where we’re allowing — let’s say, for example, a pipeline to go through a neighborhood or we’re building something that’s going to create smog and pollution. Because unfortunately, a lot of environmental impact, the worst part falls on people of color and minorities, poor people, uneducated people who don’t have a voice in our government.

…Another one I’m very proud of supporting and pushing through after years and years of trying is the Solar Freedom Act, which means that we allow now solar energy to be provided a lot more accessibly for families and homes and businesses and local governments, so that was something that I was very proud to do.

I think the other thing I was really, really proud to accomplish is I worked for years to get rid of the taxes on tampons and personal hygiene products, because I think that’s so discriminatory for women to have to pay taxes on tampons and menstrual pads. Guys never have to do that, so I always thought that was an unfair thing, and after working for years and years, I put the first bill in in 2016, and after working for five years, Governor Youngkin’s budget actually gets rid of that now. We were able to accomplish that, so I feel good about that.

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