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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Parties endorse candidates for special election to fill school board vacancy

The scene outside the Fairfax County Government Center before the Democratic Committee's endorsement meeting. 
A special election to fill an at-large vacancy on the Fairfax County School Board is expected to pit Karen Keys-Gamarra, an attorney specializing in children’s issues, against Chris Grisafe, a national security professional.

Grisafe was endorsed by the Fairfax County Republican Committee on June 21, and Keyes-Gamarra beat seven other potential candidates in a June 23 election by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.

It’s still possible for other candidates to jump in, as the filing deadline is June 30.

The Fairfax County Circuit Court has ordered a special election for Tuesday, Aug. 29, to fill the school board seat left vacant by the resignation of at-large member Jeanette Hough. The winner of the election will serve the remainder of that term, which ends Jan. 1, 2020.

Keys-Gamarra is an attorney/guardian ad litem, serving as a court-appointed advocate representing children in abuse, neglect, custody, detention, adoption, and related matters. She also represents the Sully District on the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

At the Democratic endorsement meeting, Keys-Gamarra said one of the school board’s main challenges is to provide an “inclusive system that embraces all children and provides safe learning spaces.” She vowed to be the “voice for every child,” stating, “whether you live in McLean or Mount Vernon, you should have access to the same services.”

Among other issues in her written statement, she vowed to vigorously defend policies to protect the rights of transgender students, reduce the emphasis on standardized testing, address the achievement gap by implementing high-quality early childhood education for all students, embrace diversity and treat it as an asset to the learning experience, and support the state legislative position adopted by the school board to grant taxing authority to elected school boards.

Grisafe served in the U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska, California, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and currently works in project management and policy analysis for the government consulting company SAIC.
Grisafe [Bull Elephant]

Among the issues Grisafe emphasizes on his website: the importance of committed teachers and mentors, competitive teacher compensation, a rigorous curriculum, and reasonable class sizes for all students.

Hough, a member of the school board since 2016, had been endorsed by the Republican Committee. She resigned on May 31 because her husband accepted a job overseas.

Fairfax County Democratic Committee Chair Sue Langley issued a statement earlier this month charging the Republican Committee pressured Hough to resign early, which meant the county has to hold a special election to fill her seat in August when many voters are on vacation. Had the resignation occurred after June 10, the school board opening could have been included on the general election ballot on Nov. 7.

Virginia law requires school boards to petition the court within 15 days to issue a writ of election to fill the vacancy. Virginia law also requires that the special election must be held “not fewer than 45 days nor more than 90 days after the occurrence of the vacancy.”

By forcing the county to hold a special election during the summer break, “Republicans not only short-circuited the democratic process,” Langley said, they are causing the county to waste approximately $250,000 on an unnecessary special election.


  1. It's hardly a surprise that the Democratic candidate would open her campaign by resurrecting that worn out demand for granting taxing authority to school boards. Apparently, she learned nothing from the recent meals tax referendum. The rest of her statement reads like it was drafted for someone running for Congress. Fairfax needs someone who is realistic and able to work within the current budget. That definitely appears to be Mr. Grisafe.

  2. Taxing authority? The same school board who put their highly paid auditor on paid leave for months (could still be the case) and refused to discuss the matter with the public. The auditor whose job it is to look into how school system receives and spends its money?

    Yeah…I trust that.

    Vote Grisafe.

  3. The Democrats couldn't get the meals tax through so now they want the school board to be a taxing authority. Always moving the goal post.

    I agree, Grisafe looks like the better choice.

  4. Vote Grisafe!!!!

  5. Wow. These posts endorsing Grisafe are shocking. Democrat or Republican, everyone should be horrified to know that Grisafe is endorsed by local white supremacist “Resistance Media” who celebrated the actions of the torch carrying terrorists in Charlottesville.

    Karen Keys-Gamarra is endorsed by the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers! She is an advocate for students and for our county, for all children!!

    Vote for Karen Keys-Gamarra!!!

  6. Republican brownshirts are trying to stack the FC school board with Repubs , push charter school and short change public education.

    The ballot does not include party affiliation. The KEY is to vote for Democrat Karen Keys-Gamarra for at-large school board member. If you value public education in Fairfax county for your children, is you want to keep FX county number one in edication vote today and vote Democrat.

    Democrat non-voting is how we ended up with Trump!