|School board candidate Karen Keys-Gamarra (second from right) at Vietfest in Tysons Corner Aug. 12.|
Four candidates are on the ballot, Karen Keys-Gamarra, Chris Grisafe, Sandra Allen, and Michael Owens.
Keys-Gamarra is an attorney who serves as a court-appointed advocate representing children in abuse, neglect, and related cases. She is also a member of the Fairfax County Planning Commission.
Her main issues include fully funding the schools, decreasing class sizes, enacting anti-bullying policies, and fighting efforts by President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to eliminate federal funding for after-school programs. She ran for the Sully seat on the school board in 2015 and lost by only about 150 votes.
Keys-Gamarra has been endorsed by the Fairfax County Democratic Party, the Fairfax County Education Association, the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam who is running for governor, Virginia Attorney Mark Herring, and Justin Fairfax, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.
Chris Grisafe, the candidate endorsed by the Fairfax County Republican Committee, is a U.S. Coast Guard veteran and a national security policy analyst at SAIC. His website identifies his key issues as budget transparency and reducing the disparity in class size (which would hurt schools in Mason District that get extra funds for more teachers if they serve a greater proportion of lower-income students).
Grisafe has been endorsed by Resistance Media, an alt.right white supremacist group, and has so far failed to heed requests to denounce the endorsement.
Sandra Allen, a native of Bolivia, worked in budgeting and finance for the Department of Defense. She vows to be an advocate for minority students and improve communication with parents.
Rounding out the ballot is Michael Owens, a technology professional, former English teacher, and current president of the Belvedere Elementary School PTA. She supports smaller class sizes and more efficient use of school funds.
The special election is being held to replace at-large school board member Jeanette Hough, who resigned because her husband accepted a job overseas.
This election is costing Fairfax County taxpayers $300,000, a cost that could have been avoided if the voting was put off until the regular election on Nov. 7.
Local elections – with no nationwide or even statewide candidates on the ballot – tend to draw a low turnout, especially in late August.
Low-turnout elections favor Republicans. That is why the local GOP committee convinced Hough, who had been endorsed by the Fairfax County Republican Committee, to resign a few days earlier than she had planned. As a result, the election for her replacement has to happen in a special election rather than in November.
On Aug. 29, voting will take place at regular polling places. The polls will be open 6 a.m.-7 p.m. You’ll need to bring a valid photo ID. If you don’t know where to vote, look up your polling place here.
Absentee-in person voting is going on now through Aug. 26 at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 323, Fairfax. Click here for more information.