Virginia Democratic Primary 2019 (Herndon, VA): Who I am voting for, and why

Hello friends:

The Democratic primary for Virginia’s 2019 election is just around the corner: Tuesday, June 11. In blue-leaning Northern Virginia, where Democrats will be almost universally favored in November, the primary is an extremely consequential election.

I have looked at my ballot, researched candidates, and would like to share who I am voting for, and why.

Today, I am commenting on all of the ballots in my district: the Town of Herndon. (It is Ballot Style #9 according to FairfaxCounty.gov’s election site.) The contests on my ballot are: Senate 33rd District, Commonwealth’s Attorney, and Board of Supervisors Chairman. I also have a few remarks on the Hunter Mill District Board of Supervisors, as that district’s border is not far from my house.

Virginia Senate, 33rd District

Candidates:

To be honest, I was surprised to see this on my ballot; I did not realize that Boysko had a challenger until just this week.

Boysko won the 33rd District spot in a special election after its previous holder, Jennifer Wexton, was elected to the US House of Representatives in 2018. Before that she was a member of the House of Delegates.  Boysko is a strong progressive voice for our district, and by all accounts a great collaborator and legislator. Her campaign has emphasized her voting record, and she is right to be proud of it.

Her challenger, Hussain, comes across on his web site and interviews as a nice guy, but not a candidate with differentiated or clear policy ideas. I would not have minded a challenger with bold proposals and fresh ideas on the direction of the state, but Hussain does not fit that bill.

I will be voting for Jennifer Boysko.

Commonwealth Attorney

Candidates:

I’m not sure if my name and address got on a certain list, or if the marketing budget is just really intense, but I’ve received more ads about this contest than any other on my ballot.

Incumbent Ray Morrogh is being challenged by progressive Steve Descano, who has carried himself in ads and media like a pit bull fighting to protect the disenfranchised. In my opinion, Descano has been very effective at both highlighting the issues he cares about and differentiating himself from Morrogh.

Descano has also racked up some impressive endorsements, including former Governor Terry McAuliffe and several influential organizations. He’s done so while producing detailed and well-supported plans of positive justice reform. Even if his campaign fails, Descano has challenged Morrogh to take clear stances on issues like cash bail and pre-trial detention.

Morrogh, meanwhile, projects himself as both seasoned and forward-thinking. His record shows effective prosecution in some of Virginia’s most high-profile crimes in recent history. His “Issues” includes some progressive platforms. His endorsements page shows that he is well-liked by Democrats currently in office — including top cop Stacy Kincaid.

There has been some venom in this primary: Descano and Morrogh have attacked each other in ads: Descano accuses Morrogh of being too cozy with some bad politicians and policies; Morrogh accuses Descano of overemphasizing his credentials and connection to Northern Virginia.

My personal instinct is to trust political candidates who demonstrate collaboration ahead of candidates who bill themselves as disruptors. I also value experience and candidates with strong connections to the area. These values point me towards Morrogh.

That said, lead prosecutor is a position where I actually believe in voting for someone with a combative, uncompromising personality, assuming their policies are good. It’s also a position that can have tremendous influence on the lives of those who really need it, and Descano has done a great job articulating how he’d protect those people.

I will be voting for Steve Descano.

Board of Supervisors Chairman

Candidates:

For the first time in decades, the Board of Supervisors Chairman position has a primary. It has been a confusing election to follow, as many of the issues have been in the weeds of development and fiscal policy, and many of the candidates have similar platforms.

Incumbent Sharon Bulova is retiring, and she has endorsed McKay, the current Supervisor of the Lee District. McKay has swept the endorsements in the race, thanks in large part to his extensive experience and large network of relationships with elected officials. He boasts an impressive platform and record of inclusive, forward-thinking policies.

There is a wrinkle, though. Chapman, an affordable housing advocate and chairman of the Virginia Housing and Development Authority, has accused McKay of impropriety. Chapman alleges that McKay got a bargain on a house through a sweetheart, back-scratch deal from a developer who does business with the county.

It’s tough to know what to make of this headline. I am skeptical of local scandals, like last year’s Herndon Council lawsuit nightmare. It does raise eyebrows, though, considering how central development is to the Board of Supervisors’ responsibilities. I don’t have all the details or context, so I’m not going to consider it disqualifying.

The other side, of course, is Chapman circulating the story. It reflects somewhat poorly on Chapman, who otherwise has a great platform. Though I’m skeptical that a wealthy developer is the right person for the job, I am  excited by his Issues page, especially his central focus of green policy.

McElveen, meanwhile, has served on the School Board for the past eight years. He is a well-known advocate for students and the Fairfax County school system, and he lists education as a focus point. I’ve always admired that McElveen champions equity, such as leading a rewrite of the FCPS Dress Code after concerns it was old-fashioned and sexist.

Also inspiring is that McElveen, while in third place in fundraising behind Chapman and McKay, has dominated small donations, suggesting his record and message have resonated with the working class and FCPS alumni.

Plerhoples is the wildcard in the race. She comes in as a true outsider, but an extremely impressive and well-spoken one. Her policy is well-defined and innovative, and she’s drawn the acclaim of many left-wing groups and observers. Her dedication to important movements, like universal Pre-K, is exciting.

This contest is a scenario where I can see a compelling case for any of the candidates. Without extensive knowledge of the nuances or the current issues/environment, or personal experience with any candidates, I’m not comfortable endorsing anyone.

So what I ask is that you carefully consider each candidate’s strengths, and decide what you value: McKay’s experience, reputation, and institutional knowledge; Chapman’s knowledge and platform; McElveen’s strong record of progressivism in a different setting; Plerhoples’ fresh, inclusive perspective.

I personally plan to vote for Ryan McElveen.

Board of Supervisors, Hunter Mill District

Candidates:

Confession: I thought I lived in this district until earlier this week when I was looking up my ballot on the Fairfax County web site. I’d already done some research into the candidates.

Because I can’t vote for it, I don’t want to focus on this contest or endorse a candidate. But here are my quick impressions of this crowded field:

  • If you are voting, I highly recommend you read this candidate survey from Coalition for a Planned Reston.
  • A veteran of the Fairfax County Planning Commission and endorsed by many elected officials, Alcorn seems the mainstream pick. I haven’t come across any major red flags, though challengers’ platforms imply his is too pro-developer.
  • Dodd, a public advocate and involved Democrat, has a very impressive campaign and lots of experience in public service. She seems like a very good candidate. Her platform emphasizes environmentalism, low density, and inclusion.
  • Messick, a young challenger, seems dedicated and well-versed in the issues. He’s the only candidate to single out Reston Town Center’s parking fiasco as a major issue.
  • Hauth identifies from the front of her page as an advocate for immigrants, and her top priority on her issues page is protecting the environment.
  • Please do not vote for Maggie Parker. She’s an executive at Comstock (troubling, as they are a huge developer in NoVA), takes very pro-corporation stances on her site, and has already been embroiled in controversies. Her interviews are have also been an inconsistent mess.

If I could vote, I’d start with Alcorn, then look very closely at Dodd, Messick, and Hauth as possible alternatives, but I am undecided whom I would cast my vote for.

Questions or feedback? Send me an email at dan.stalcup@gmail.com!