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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Turnout will be critical in Aug. 29 special election for at-large school board member

School board candidate Karen Keys-Gamarra (second from right) at Vietfest in Tysons Corner Aug. 12.
There’s an important election coming up – and many people don’t know about it: On Aug. 29, when many voters will be on vacation, the polls will be open for a special election to fill an open at-large seat on the Fairfax County School Board.

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.


  1. How is it Chris Grisafe's problem that he and, for that matter, Ed Gillespie have been endorsed by a bunch of white supremacists? Grisafe clearly didn't solicit this endorsement. The endorsement is clearly rubbish and Grisafe is wise to ignore both the white supremacists and those desperate mud slinging Democrats who are trying to mislead voters.

    1. Agree, well said.

  2. The thoroughly evil and corrupt Teapublican party is infiltrating school boards. What's next, going after elections for prom kings and queens?? Triggering a pricey special election with little reason to was simply unconscionable, and I will not support any party or successor that committed such a despicable act, even though I'm not crazy about the Fairfax County liberal brigade and all they stand for.

    1. Politics is about seizing every possible opportunity. The Democrats on the BOS didn't time their ill fated meals tax referendum for a presidential election year by accident. They knew better than to present a controversial proposal during an off-year. So, consider this tit-for-tat.

    2. The meals tax failed, dummy. The Fairfax BOS did the right thing by opening that vote up to the largest slice of the electorate possible - during a presidential election, and I readily voted against it. This special election for a board member is an unconscionable fiscal waste, but I will show up, and vote for the liberal or the independent.

    3. You mean the BOS open up the meals tax referendum to the "largest slice of the DEMOCRATIC electorate possible." The referendum may have failed, but the pro-tax vote was 4% higher than for the previous meals tax referendum held during a special election in April 1992. Only 25% of the electorate voted in 1992 which demonstrates the Dems are rightly concerned that Mr. Grisafe may gain an advantage by running in the upcoming special election. I hope their concern is justified.

  3. This article is so biased it is beneath the dignity of this blog.
    What happened to even-handed reporting at the Annandale Blog?

    1. Please explain to me why it beneath someone's dignity to blog about whatever the hell they want. She has an opinion. She's not the AP here. Is what she stated factually incorrect?

  4. Karen Keys Gamarra states she is in support of "decreasing class sizes" but when Chris Grisafe is in support of "reducing the disparity in class size" it's followed by an interesting caveat…suggesting he's hurting the schools.

    What good are extra funds for more teachers if we can't take care of the ones we have? When campaigning for the meals tax the mantra was "The School Board has committed that its share, estimated to be almost $70 million in new funding, would be used primarily to address teachers’ salaries, which have lagged behind those in neighboring communities."

    Seems you forgot to mention that Karen Keys Gamarra is also for the school board having "taxing authority." The same board that put their auditor on paid administrative leave, probably still is, and refuses to discuss the "whys" with the public.

    "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." Where is that crystal ball? I don't remember any comments or objections when Dr. Garza quit weeks after signing a new four year contract. Things happen in life.

    You couldn't resist knocking Jeanette Hough, a mom with 3 school aged children whose husband was transferred to overseas. Did it occur to you she put supporting her family first? Jeanette Hough served us well.

    I think Chris is smart to ignore this issue of endorsements, who cares, he didn't solicit their support.

  5. "Karen Keys Gamarra states she is in support of "decreasing class sizes" but when Chris Grisafe is in support of "reducing the disparity in class size" it's followed by an interesting caveat…suggesting he's hurting the schools."

    Reducing class size and reducing disparity in class size are not necessarily the same thing.

    Research has proven over and over again that smaller class size, especially with what are often called at-risk students, makes a big, positive difference.

  6. Annandale blog is liberal. So who's the republican up for election? I'll vote for them any day.