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.
Represented by incumbent Del. Kathleen Murphy since 2015, the 34th House District encompasses most of McLean and the Wolf Trap area of Vienna, stretching west into Potomac Falls in Loudoun County.
Currently vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Murphy won her party’s June 8 primary and is now vying for reelection against Republican nominee Gary Pan, president and CEO of the information technology firm Panacea Consulting.
Who are you?
- Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus
- Member of the House Finance Committee, General Laws Committees, and vice chair of the Transportation Committee.
- Founder of the Gun Violence Prevention Caucus and former co-chair of the Safe Virginia Initiative
- A member of the Military and Veterans Caucus and the Virginia Environment and Renewable Energy Caucus
- Created the Rare Disease Caucus
- 34th District resident for over 20 years with wife and three sons
- Started multiple successful businesses in IT consulting
- Serves on boards for the Northern Virginia Technology Council, Great Falls Citizen Association, and Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts
- Received bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Lehigh University and MBA from Virginia Tech
- Named a Lord Fairfax honoree in 2017
- Currently serves as a Scoutmaster and president of the Rotary Club of Great Falls
What would you cite as your top accomplishments of the past term?
Murphy: This past session in Richmond, the Democratic majority delivered on the issues and values that matter most to our constituents. We passed legislation to support Virginia’s families and businesses through the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, we expanded access to affordable healthcare, and we raised teacher pay.
I have strong support from our community for my efforts to make gun violence prevention a priority. Having lost my brother to gun violence, this issue is personal to me. In the last two sessions, we have delivered stronger background checks, a bill to allow school boards to ban guns on school property, a ban on plastic or 3D-printed “ghost guns,” and a ban on guns in the Capitol and other state buildings. Most notably, we passed my bill, H.B. 1995, a landmark bill to keep guns out of the hands of violent domestic abusers.
Additionally, I passed a bill to create the Rare Disease Council. Having recently lost a child to a rare disease, I am acutely aware of the challenges these families face.
Why are you running for office?
Pan: I love this community and I don’t think it’s getting the representation it deserves. Even with the vast array of issues facing the constituents of the 34th, our current delegate repeatedly chooses her party over the best interest of the district. I couldn’t stand by and watch. The pendulum has swung way too far to the left thanks to one party rule in Richmond. Read More
The Virginia General Assembly has wrapped up its first fully in-person session since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Convened on Aug. 2, the special session concluded on Tuesday (Aug. 10) after the House of Delegates and state Senate appointed eight new judges to the Virginia Court of Appeals and passed a plan to spend $3.5 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds.
The eight-day session marked the first time in 17 months that the State Capitol in Richmond hosted the entire legislature. While the Senate continued meeting in person throughout the pandemic, the House conducted most of its business remotely, with the exception of a one-day veto session in April 2020 and the initial days of a special session in August 2020.
“It was just really nice to see people again getting together,” Del. Mark Keam (D-35th) said by phone while driving back from Richmond on Tuesday.
The special session still required some adjustments in response to the continued threat of the coronavirus.
Plexiglas shields were erected around each legislator’s desk in both chambers, and Keam says all of the Democrats at least were fully vaccinated with masks donned throughout the session, though there was less consensus about the etiquette for greeting people.
“Some people shook hands. Some people just bumped their elbows,” Keam said. “…I can’t speak to what the Republicans are doing, but for the Democrats, we went out of our way to not only practice safe protocols, but also to show to the public that, you know, you’ve got to take this seriously still.”
For Keam, whose district includes Vienna and part of Tysons, highlights of the adopted American Rescue Plan Act budget bill include the $700 million to expand broadband with the goal of achieving universal access by 2024.
That kind of major investment would’ve taken much longer to put together without the federal funds, which were approved by Congress in March, Keam says, noting that while the need for broadband is most acute in Virginia’s rural areas, Fairfax County also has gaps in coverage.
“As a one-time expense, we’re finally able to catch up on the broadband infrastructure that we need,” he said.
As chair of House’s higher education subcommittee, Keam cited subsidizing financial aid for college students as another top priority. The General Assembly allocated $111 million to that, along with $250 million to upgrade ventilation systems in K-12 public schools.
Other ARPA funds were allocated to small business recovery, unemployment benefits, water and sewer infrastructure, and bonuses for some law enforcement officers. The bill also requires that the Department of Motor Vehicles resume walk-in services.
Keam and the rest of the recently formed Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus had hoped to see more money devoted to making government services — particularly the Virginia Employment Commission, which will receive more than $800 million — more accessible for people who are not fluent in English.
The budget includes $500,000 to help state agencies expand language access, according to a news release from the AAPI Caucus.
“Things like language [assistance] and other things that take more time to develop and hire more people, they didn’t think that we could use the money right away for that,” Keam said. “But that’s something that they want to work with us into the next year.” Read More
Tysons Could Get a Rock Climbing Center — An affiliate of the Manassas-based Vertical Rock Climbing & Fitness Center plans to convert the former Hamilton’s Sofa & Leather Gallery at 8461 Leesburg Pike into a rock climbing facility. The 9,220 square-foot space has been leased and is slated to open later this year, but Fairfax County is still processing permit applications to allow the use at that location. [Washington Business Journal]
Tysons Education Nonprofit Honored by General Assembly — Del. Mark Keam (D-35th) presented a signed commendation to the Center for Excellence in Education (7918 Jones Branch Dr.) during the 38-year-old nonprofit’s annual Congressional luncheon on July 15. The State Senate and House of Delegates both approved a proclamation recognizing CEE for promoting science, technology, engineering, and math education with free programs for students and teacher training. [CEE]
Visit Fairfax Joins Regional Sports Tourism Partnership — “The tourism-marketing organizations of Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Stafford counties on Aug. 10 announced the launch of SportsNOVA, a new regional sports-tourism partnership designed to market Northern Virginia as a premier destination for travel-sports events.” [Sun Gazette]
Maryland Beltway Project Contract Approved — The Maryland Board of Public Works voted 2-1 to approve a “predevelopment agreement” with toll lanes operator Transurban and financial firm Macquarie to design express lanes on I-270 and part of the Capital Beltway. The much-debated project is seen as critical to the success of Virginia’s 495 NEXT project in McLean, which got key federal approvals last month. [The Washington Post]
Fairfax County took a first step yesterday toward potentially taxing plastic bags used by grocery stores and other retailers.
The Board of Supervisors voted 9-1 yesterday (Tuesday) to direct county staff to draft an plastic bag tax ordinance, but even supporters of the measure allowed that there remains some uncertainty around how exactly the tax would be implemented if approved.
“Let’s definitely try this, but we may end up back in the General Assembly in the foreseeable future to try to get clarification,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said, noting that the county is subject to the Dillon rule. “…This is probably a prime example of when we probably need a little more flexibility, but I’m all for it.”
The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation during its 2020 session giving localities the authority to impose a five-cent tax on disposable plastic bags, starting on Jan. 1, 2021.
Roanoke became the first jurisdiction to take advantage of the new law when it adopted an ordinance in May that’s set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.
Under House Bill 534, which was identical to Senate Bill 11, cities and counties can tax each disposable plastic bag provided to customers by grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores. The tax would not apply to plastic bags designed to be reused, garbage bags, bags used to hold or package food to avoid damage or contamination, and ones used to carry prescription drugs or dry cleaning.
The legislation allows retailers to retain two cents from the imposed tax on each bag until Jan. 1, 2023, when the amount that goes to retailers drops to one cent.
That “dealer discount” provision is intended to help offset additional expenses retailers might incur from adjusting their operations, but it also puts added pressure on localities to adopt an ordinance as soon as possible, according to Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay.
“We want to start the process of the ordinance review, looking at the language, the public input, because the clock literally is ticking,” McKay said.
Complicating matters is the fact that the Virginia Department of Taxation has not yet released guidelines clarifying what a plastic bag tax ordinance should look like, leaving questions around the definition of a grocery or convenience store, how the tax will be enforced, and other issues, County Executive Bryan Hill told the board in a Nov. 30 memorandum.
Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw, who introduced the board matter on Tuesday, said the draft guidance that county staff has seen and provided input on through the Northern Virginia Regional Commission will clear up many of those questions.
He hopes the guidelines will be finalized soon so county staff can incorporate them into the ordinance that they have now been directed to draft and present to the board in September.
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, the lone Republican on the board, opposed the board matter, taking issue with the timing of the proposal. Read More
General Assembly to Hold Special Session in August — “Governor Ralph Northam today [Wednesday] issued a proclamation calling the members of the General Assembly into special session on Monday, August 2. A special session is necessary to fill judicial vacancies and allocate more than $4.3 billion in federal relief funding.” [Office of the Governor]
British Pub Opens Doors in Vienna — Hawk & Griffin had a long-awaited soft opening this week for its 435 Maple Avenue West venue, which is now open for reservations and will start allowing walk-ins on Friday (June 25). The British pub has been in the works since February 2020 but delayed opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [Patch]
Tysons Boulevard Lane to Close Again — One northbound lane of Tysons Boulevard will be temporarily closed for a second year to give pedestrians and bicyclists access to a half-mile stretch of road in the Tysons Galleria area. The closure will begin on July 6 with no set end date, though it could be reassessed depending on traffic conditions. [Fairfax County Department of Transportation]
Scott’s Run Trail Project Awarded — A new asphalt pedestrian trail and two bridges over Scott’s Run were named Project of the Year for Transportation in the under-$5 million category by the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA). The project started construction in July 2019, and Fairfax County held a ribbon-cutting on Feb. 4. [Fairfax County Park Authority]
Vienna Hosts George Mason University President — GMU President Dr. Gregory Washington will discuss the paradox of Mason’s role as a key figure in American history and as a slaveholder at the Vienna Community Center at 5 p.m. today. The event will also feature a panel discussion as part of the Town of Vienna’s Liberty Amendments Month celebration. [Volunteer Fairfax/Twitter]
As Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” blasted through the ballroom, Terry McAuliffe, former and potentially future governor of Virginia, took the stage at the Hilton hotel in Tysons shortly before 9 p.m. on Tuesday (June 8) to celebrate his victory in the 2021 Democratic gubernatorial primary.
McAuliffe easily surged past four other candidates to clinch his party’s nomination, winning 62% of the vote in a race that the Associated Press called just 44 minutes after polls closed across the state.
Unofficial returns show that Fairfax County joined the rest of the Commonwealth in backing McAuliffe’s bid for a third term as governor. 64.4% of primary voters cast a ballot for him, followed by 19.3% supporting former delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, who also came in second statewide.
“We launched this campaign about six months ago on a simple idea: that Virginia has some very big challenges ahead,” McAuliffe said in his victory speech. “And I’ve said we’ve got to go big, we gotta be bold, and we need seasoned leadership to move us forward and lift up all Virginians.”
Pledging to “build back a better, stronger Virginia,” McAuliffe quickly pivoted to the general election looming on Nov. 2, when he will compete with Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin, who he aligned with former President Donald Trump.
He will be joined on the Democratic ticket by Prince William Del. Hala Ayala, who will face Republican Winsome Sears in a lieutenant governor race that will put a woman of color in a statewide office for the first time in Virginia history.
The Virginia Department of Elections’ unofficial results show Ayala winning by more than 13 percentage points statewide in a race that featured six candidates, but her margin of victory was closer in Fairfax County. She only won by about 5% over runner-up Del. Sam Rasoul, who became the legislature’s first Muslim member in 2014.
Mark Herring won the Democratic nomination for attorney general in his attempt for a third term. He won by about 13% state-wide over Del. Jay Jones, but was overwhelmingly favored by Fairfax County voters. Herring won by more than 40 percentage points in the county.
In the General Assembly races, incumbent Del. Kathleen Murphy prevailed over challenger Jennifer Adeli in the contest for the 34th House District seat, which represents northern McLean and the Great Falls area.
“It was a great win and I am delighted to have received such strong support across the district,” Murphy said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “I look forward to continuing to work on behalf of my constituents and represent the issues that are important to them. I am especially focused on getting our kids safely back in school, increasing teacher pay, re-opening our businesses and continuing to support our veterans and stand up for gun safety measures.”
Republican Gary Pan is seeking to unseat Murphy in November, when Tysons area voters will also get contests between incumbent Del. Mark Keam and Republican challenger Kevin McGrath for the 35th District (Vienna), Del. Rip Sullivan (D) and Edward Monroe for the 48th District (McLean), and Del. Marcus Simon (D) and Sarah White for the 53rd District (Falls Church). Read More
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s campaign to return to the governor’s mansion will continue after he handily won today’s statewide Democratic primary.
Long viewed as the frontrunner for his party’s nomination based on polls and fundraising, McAuliffe validated that label by earning more than 60% of the votes cast — roughly three times as many votes as his nearest competitor, former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, who was seeking to become Virginia’s first Black, female governor.
According to unofficial returns from the Virginia Department of Elections, Carroll Foy received about 20% of the vote, followed in descending order by state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and Del. Lee Carter, who also lost his seat representing the 50th House District.
McAuliffe will compete in November’s general election against businessman Glenn Youngkin, who won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in an “unassembled” convention in May.
The Democratic ticket will be completed by Del. Hala Ayala (D-51st District), who beat six other candidates to snag the lieutenant governor nomination, and Attorney General Mark Herring, who bested challenger Jay Jones as he seeks a third consecutive term in the position.
The Republican Party nominated former Del. Winsome Sears for lieutenant governor and Virginia Beach Del. Jason Miyares for attorney general.
In the General Assembly races, the 34th House District was the only one in the Tysons area with a primary. Incumbent Del. Kathleen Murphy defeated challenger Jennifer Adeli with 73% of the vote and will need to beat Republican Gary Pan to earn another term.
In its unofficial returns, the Fairfax County Office of Elections reported a voter turnout of 11.1%, a relatively low rate that’s not especially unusual for an off-year primary. The 2017 Democratic primary, the last year with a gubernatorial race on the ballot, saw a 13.4% turnout.
According to the county, 21,493 voters — 2.9% of the electorate — cast absentee ballots either by mail or in-person, while 60,999 people went to the polls on the day of the primary. In comparison, the 2017 Democratic primary saw just 7,105 absentee voters compared to 86,931 primary day voters.
Fairfax County Updates COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard — The Fairfax County Health Department launched an updated version of its vaccine dashboard yesterday (Tuesday) with data on administered doses, how many people have gotten vaccinated, demographic breakdowns, and other information. [FCHD]
Fairfax County Indoor Ski Facility Could Be First of Many — Alpine-X, developers of the planned Fairfax Peak indoor ski and snowboarding facility in Lorton, hopes to expand the concept to more than 20 other locations around the U.S. and Canada. The Fairfax County facility will be the flagship with a luxury hotel, a gravity-powered mountain coaster, zip lines, and food and beverage outlets planned for the area. [Patch]
Bike Lanes Proposed on Chain Bridge Road — The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will hold a virtual meeting at 6:30 p.m. on June 8 to discuss striping changes that would create bicycle lanes on several roads. Among the proposals is the addition of bicycle lanes “where space allows” on Chain Bridge Road from Colonial Lane to Great Falls Street in McLean. [FCDOT]
Falls Church Councilmember Won’t Seek Reelection — Ross Litkenhous, who is serving his first term on the Falls Church City Council, announced on Monday (May 24) that he will not run for a second term when four seats are on the ballot in November. He cited a need to focus on a new company that he recently launched, but he plans to stay involved by applying for the city’s economic development authority or planning commission after his term ends. [Falls Church News-Press]
Del. Simon Addresses Greater Merrifield Business Association — Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) highlighted the Virginia General Assembly’s work to address the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated $500 million budget surplus, and bills that dealt with eviction prevention, stormwater management funding, and electric vehicle rebates in a recent presentation to the GMBA. [Sun Gazette]
Falls Church Hires New Public Works Superintendent — “The City of Falls Church welcomes Herb Holmes as the new Superintendent of Public Works. Throughout April, Holmes shadowed the incumbent, Robert Goff, who will retire on July 1 after 40 years of service…Holmes most recently served as the Superintendent of Streets for the City of Alexandria, Virginia.” [City of Falls Church]
Starting July 1, adults 21 and older in Virginia can legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana.
Ahead of that date, local police departments say they are preparing their officers, while advocates say the bill needs serious retooling to keep kids out of the juvenile justice system and help reverse the harm done to Black and brown communities after decades of unequal enforcement.
“We still have time to fix many of these things,” Chelsea Higgs Wise, executive director of the racial justice and cannabis advocacy group Marijuana Justice, said. “Between now and then, we have elections. We have to talk to people about how they’re going to take this legalization forward while centering equity. This is not over.”
The Virginia General Assembly passed a law earlier this month accelerating the legalization of weed from July 2024 to this coming summer. The law will be reenacted in 2024, when recreational, commercial sales are legalized.
Through June 30, the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis will remain “decriminalized” — that is, it is penalized with a fine, but the incident does not show up on a person’s criminal record.
The new law legalizing cannibis essentially permits those 21 and older to use marijuana inside their homes, and possibly in their backyards; grow up to four plants; and possess up to one ounce of cannabis. The plant must be in a manufacturer’s container for someone to drive with it in the car legally.
Giving cannabis to someone underage is considered a felony, while students younger than 21 who are found in possession of the plant on school grounds would be charged with a misdemeanor. A clause requires court-ordered drug treatment services for individuals 20 and under found with the plant.
People in jail for marijuana-related crimes will remain there, Virginia Mercury reports.
Here are the top areas of interest and concern for police officers, people in the criminal justice system and advocates.
Although marijuana-related arrests have been trending down recently, Falls Church City Police Chief Mary Gavin says that one potential consequence of marijuana legalization is more people driving while stoned.
“There are going to be obviously growing pains,” Gavin said. “My biggest concern, in terms of public safety, is the possible increase of driving under the influence.”
According to data provided to Tysons Reporter by the police departments, cannabis arrests appear to be trending down slightly in both Fairfax County and Falls Church City. A chart supplied by Fairfax County Police Department shows arrest rates peaking in 2018 before dropping off dramatically in 2020.
The Falls Church City Police Department reported a similar pattern. It made 61 and 63 arrests in 2018 and 2019, respectively, followed by 17 arrests in 2020 and none so far this year.
Herndon Police Department spokesperson Lisa Herndon said the town had about 125 marijuana-related arrests from Jan. 1, 2018 to Dec. 13, 2020.
Gavin attributed the recent drop-off in arrests to a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and a policy change introduced by Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, who ceased prosecuting simple marijuana possession cases against adults when he took office on Jan. 2, 2020.
Descano told Tysons Reporter that he stopped prosecuting marijuana cases because it would be the right approach for community safety and racial equity. His office estimates that more than 1,000 cases have since been dismissed.
“While the opposition to this decision was intense at the time — so much so that we planned to create a bail fund in case our attorneys were held in contempt of court and jailed — I am pleased that other jurisdictions followed suit and marijuana has now been legalized across the Commonwealth,” Descano said. Read More
J.R. Stockyards Inn for Sale — The 1.18-acre property that currently houses one of the oldest restaurants in Tysons hit the market in early March, with a new owner expected to be chosen by the end of April. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a redevelopment of the site in October that would replace the Stockyards with a 26-story mixed-use building. [Washington Business Journal]
Connolly Urges Congress to Follow Virginia’s Lead in Legalizing Weed — “Another big progressive win here in Virginia,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) said after the Virginia General Assembly voted yesterday to legalize marijuana starting July 1. “I hope my colleagues in the House and Senate will join me in supporting the MORE Act to legalize marijuana nationwide.”[Gerry Connolly/Twitter]
Falls Church Schedules Town Hall on Gateway Development — Falls Church City staff and the developer of the West Falls Church project will present updates and answer questions on April 14 at noon. The city will also hold a town hall meeting on April 15 to discuss its proposed FY 2022 budget and new capital improvements program. [City of Falls Church]
Clemyjontri Carousel and Train Among Facilities Reopening This Spring — Fairfax County Park Authority facilities have started to reopen for the spring, with hours expected to expand further into the summer. Visitors are encouraged to buy tickets in advance, because amusements will operate at reduced capacity, though drop-in tickets will be available on-site if they do not sell out online. [FCPA]
Proof of Job Searches Will Soon Be Required for Unemployment Benefits Again — “The Virginia Employment Commission says it will start notifying unemployment benefit recipients of the return of job-search requirements starting in May. To qualify, or continue to qualify, for unemployment benefits in Virginia, those filing claims must provide evidence…of at least two job applications each week for VEC review.” [WTOP]
Photo by Joanne Liebig