Democratic Primary June 20; Early Voting Starts May 5

Democratic Primary June 20; Early Voting Starts May 5

Could new faces, new districts alter the political landscape?

In-person early voting for the June 20,  2023, Democratic Primary Election in Fairfax County is sooner than you think. It begins on Friday, May 5, and runs through June 17 under a political landscape that has shifted.

Retirements by some of the county’s heavy-hitting Democratic legislators in the General Assembly, such as Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, who served 48 years, and Del. Ken Plum, who served 44 years, opened the ballot box to challengers who otherwise might not have filed as candidates.

New districts for Virginia’s House and Senate drawn by court-appointed special masters moved some incumbents into other districts. Del. Eileen Filler-Corn is the first woman ever elected speaker of the House, but redistricted into the same district as Del. Kathy Tran. Del. Kathleen Murphy was drawn into a district with Del. Rip Sullivan. Filler-Corn and Murphy are retiring. 

Another potential shakeup scenario looms in the June 20 primary, depending on whether generational change or financial advantages sway voters. Sen. George L. Baker (D-36), age 71, who won his first State Senate District regular primary in 2007, is facing primary challenger Democrat Stella Pekarsky, age 42, who began her first term as the Sully District representative on the Fairfax County School Board in 2020. As of March 31, Barker raised $490,493 and Pejarsky $219,468, according to VPAP. Losing Barker’s seniority would diminish Northern Virginia’s clout in the Senate.

Democrats will nominate their candidates for Senate Districts 33, 35, 36, and 37 and House Districts 7, 15, and 19 (see lists). No primary is held for an office if only one candidate qualifies in that district, such as District 34, where  Democratic incumbent Scott Surovell (D) runs unopposed. 

There are 19 primary candidates, including the incumbents running for the nomination of seven offices at the June 20 Democratic primary in Fairfax County.  No new candidates can file for the June 20  Democratic primary as the filing deadline was April 6, 2023,mThe filing deadline for parties was April 11, per section 24.2-527 of the Virginia Code.

District numbers from previous elections across the Commonwealth do not correlate with the current district numbers. Each precinct is now, as required, entirely contained within a single congressional, state senate, delegate, and magisterial district.

VA  State Senate races in Fairfax County on the Democratic Primary Ballot, Tues. June 20, 2023,

SD33 is an open seat, partially in Fairfax County (31.17 percent) and Prince William County (60.83 percent). Hala Ayala and Jennifer Carroll Foy compete for the nomination. From 2018 to 2021, Ayala served in the House of Delegates (HD-51). She advocates for a transportation system that works for each community, a strong education system, and affordable quality healthcare. 

Foy was a House of Delegates (HD2) member from 2018 to 2022, where she supported immigrant communities and veterans and fought for criminal justice reform. See map.

SD35 is 100 percent in Fairfax County. Incumbent Dave Marsden and challenger Heidi Drauschak compete for the nomination at the primary. Marsden has served in the State Senate since 2010 and the House of Delegates from 2006- 2010. He says he will to continue to hold regular town halls and is pro-choice, pro-gun safety, pro-union, pro-voting rights and pro-environment. Drauschak is a  small business owner and non-profit leader. She will work to ensure every child has access to world-class education, champion workers' rights, and says that mental health professionals must be part of the criminal justice solution.

In SD36, current Fairfax County School Board member Stella Pekarsky is challenging incumbent George Barker, who has served in the State Senate since 2008 (SD39). She is a first-generation American running to invest in teachers and schools, fight Youngkin’s attacks on schools, prevent gun violence, and protect abortion rights and reproductive health. Over the last several years, Barker's legislation included a bill that set minimum staffing standards for certified nursing facilities and administrative sanctions and required Virginia colleges to notify parents and proactively handle suicide risks on campus. 

SD37 is in Fairfax County with a share of  80.07 percent, Fairfax City 12.23 percent, and Falls Church City 7.7 percent.  Incumbent Chap Petersen faces opposition from Saddam Salim and Erika Milena Yalowitz. Petersen goes door-to-door to meet his constituents. He led the fight in 2021 to reopen K-12 public schools for in-person instruction during the pandemic, and protected small businesses by sponsoring bills to target tax relief during the pandemic. Salim focuses on a clean energy economy, respect for diverse communities, LGBTQ+ rights, strong schools, and forward-thinking leadership.  Yalowitz is committed to defending women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, improving healthcare, housing affordability, and protecting children from firearms and drugs.

VA House of Delegate races in Fairfax County on the Democratic Primary Ballot, Tuesday,  June 20, 2023

HD7 is in Fairfax County. As a result of Del. Ken Plum's retirement, the seat for House District 7 is vacant in the new district. Paul Berry is a teacher and former policy advisor to Gov. Northam. Shyamali Hauth is a ten-year Air Force veteran and community organizer. Mary Barthelson is committed to community service and human rights.  Karen Keys-Gamarra is an attorney who has served as an At-large Member of the Fairfax County School Board. Keys-Gamarra plans to codify women’s reproductive rights, ban assault weapons, fund affordable housing and community care programs, and create clean energy jobs.

HD15 is in Fairfax County.  There is an open seat with three candidates running. Candidate Laura Jane Cohen intends to combat Youngkin's “extremism.” She has been a Moms Demand volunteer for many years, working to prevent gun violence.  Henri’ Thompson’s concerns are climate, criminal justice reform, education, and health care. Eric Schmidt, a product of FCPS, stated that he would prioritize funding for public schools. He supports reproductive freedom and believes that gun safety begins with keeping guns out of schools.

HD19 is a new House District with three candidates running in the primary.  Makya Little is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School. She is a creative professional, says she is a practitioner of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and advocate for Education Equity. Rozia Henson is a community organizer, vice president of the Prince William Young Democrats, and vice chair of the Democratic Committee of Prince William County. His platform consists of housing affordability, environmental reform, and transportation. Natalie Shorter wants to work for safer communities and a stronger infrastructure to create a Virginia where families thrive rather than merely "get by”.

Early Voting for June 20, 2023, 

Democratic Party Primary Election-What You Need to Know 

(Source: Fairfax

  • If you received a ballot in the mail, you must bring it with you and surrender it to vote in person

  • Curbside voting is available for eligible voters

  • Dropboxes are available during satellite operating hours

  • Email with questions about early voting.