Opinion: Independent Progressive: Fairfax Board of Supervisors — Steady as She Goes or Time for Change?

Opinion: Independent Progressive: Fairfax Board of Supervisors — Steady as She Goes or Time for Change?

The 2019 election cycle will bring major change to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors … at least half of the 10 seats will change hands, including the Chairmanship. There is potential for a real shift in direction after a long time with the current incumbents. Many argue the time for change is overdue.

Our own Hunter Mill District Supervisor, Catherine Hudgins, is retiring after 20 years of service. The Party establishment favorite, among four candidates to replace her, himself has served 16 years as an appointed Planning Commissioner. Another aspirant to replace Hudgins is a newcomer attorney and progressive woman leading the charge for genuine change.

However, turnover at the Chairman slot is key. Sharon Bulova, the master of consensus with the steady hand on the tiller, is retiring after 10 years as Chair and another 20 as a supervisor. She and the Democratic Party establishment have tapped 12-year incumbent, Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay as the heir to the Chair over a promising field of three progressive challengers: affordable housing developer Tim Chapman, School Board member Ryan McElveen, and Georgetown University law professor and small business adviser Alicia Plerhoples. So far, no Republicans have filed for Chairman. Unless that changes, the Democratic June 11 Primary could lead directly to the Chairmanship.

Jeff McKay is a second-generation Democratic Party stalwart. His grandmother was a Party activist and district treasurer for nearly 50 years. McKay worked as Chief of Staff for 10 years to his predecessor as Lee District Supervisor before being elected in his own right and re-elected twice. McKay has been reluctant to curtail the FCPD and the Sheriff’s voluntary cooperation with ICE in tracking down undocumented immigrants among Fairfax’s large immigrant population (16 percent of total). In fact, I understand that McKay has been one of those behind an initiative targeting, among others, immigrants who are effectively forced to title vehicles in Maryland in order to work because Virginia blocks driving privileges without proof of legal status. This is a matter of great concern in our large immigrant community. The issue of treatment of undocumented immigrant residents indeed may be pivotal in the race for Chairman. Tim Chapman and Alicia Plerhoples both have signed (on Reston Impact!) the Pledge to support implementation of the “Ordinance to Protect Equal Justice for All” which would end Fairfax County voluntary cooperation with ICE. Candidate Ryan McElveen also signed the Pledge, back in February. As this goes to press, I do not know if Jeff McKay has signed or will sign the Pledge.

Tim Chapman, an advocate for schools and greater funding for affordable housing, has injected over $700,000 of his own money into the campaign to give himself an edge over McKay and other challengers. He is a developer of affordable housing in Washington, DC, and is well regarded among affordable housing activists. I interviewed him on Reston Impact (see YouTube) and was impressed with this successful, progressive businessman.

Alicia Plerhoples also impressed as a source of progressive energy among the challengers. A Georgetown law professor with strong academic credentials, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, she is also an articulate advocate for affordable housing, who, inter alia, provides support and legal advice to small businesses and social networking organizations. Ryan McElveen is an up and comer, whom I’ve not yet interviewed. But, as a two-term, progressive At-Large School Board member, McElveen enters this race with favorable name recognition in the education community. It remains to be seen how he and Ms. Plerhoples will compete in fundraising. However, a shortened campaign, possibly effectively ending with the June 11 Primary, could diminish--can you believe it?—the significance of cold cash in the race!