Few Sparks in Primary Race for Fairfax County Supervisors Chair


Though not on a par with the Democratic Presidential race, the competition for the Democratic nomination to head the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is thickly populated, with no fewer than four candidates in the running to replace retiring longtime chair Sharon Bulova.

Like the Presidential contenders, the Fairfax candidates show a remarkable unanimity — with the candidates all pledging to work for improved education, affordable housing, less traffic congestion and more infrastructure improvements.

On the primary ballot June 11 will be Tim Chapman, Ryan McElveen, Jeff McKay and Alicia Plerhoples. The winner will face Republican Joseph Galdo, a former Defense Department intelligence analyst who has pledged to “make Fairfax great again.”

Tim Chapman

chapman photoChapman is focusing on education, affordable housing, and traffic congestion. Appointed in 2010 to the board of the Virginia Housing and Development Authority (VHDA), he was named to chair the authority in 2017 under Governor Terry McAuliffe and says that during his tenure the VHDA made it possible for thousands of moderate income Virginians to buy a home.

“[O]ne of the wealthiest counties in America has settled for effectively ignoring a crisis in affordable housing, sending its children to school in trailers, not paying our teachers, firefighters and police officers what they deserve, and for the horrific traffic that imprisons us in our cars and steals away precious moments with our children,” Chapman says on his campaign website.

The county school system lacks Universal Pre-K, teachers make less than the national average and more than 22,000 students are going to school in trailers instead of classrooms, Chapman says.  “Creating a better future for our children is my top priority. If elected to serve as County Board Chair, I would ensure all of Fairfax County’s students have access to a quality education, starting with Universal Pre-K.”

Ryan McElveen

mcelveen photoAn at-large member of the Fairfax County School Board since 2012, McElveen is associate director of The Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center. He was 25 when first elected to the board, making him the youngest successful candidate.

On his campaign website, McElveen says he has worked to “improve student life by reforming student mental health programs; creating fresher, healthier school food; expanding LGBTQ protections; improving student discipline; implementing later high school start times and full-day Mondays; championing gun violence prevention and human trafficking prevention; and improving school safety and security.”

If elected, McElveen says he will work to eliminate growing inequality. “While Fairfax County is a wonderful place to live for many, its rapid growth hasn’t worked in the best interests of all of us. Decisions made by our Board of Supervisors have increased the stark divide between the haves and have-nots, effectively creating two Fairfaxes,” McElveen says.

He pledges to work for Universal Pre-K, infrastructure improvements, equal opportunity and fiscal discipline.

Jeff McKay

mckay photoMcKay has been promoting a policy he calls One Fairfax that he says will:

  • Foster inclusion through social and racial equity across the county
  • Support fairness of all people, including standing up for our residents against the unfair policies of the current presidential administration
  • Ensure that our diversity, our welcoming environment, and a seat at the table for all remain the hallmark of Fairfax County’s success.

On his campaign website, McKay also says he will work to encourage small business growth, improve transportation, expand preschool programs and work to create affordable housing.

After serving as Supervisor Dana Kauffman’s chief of staff for more than a decade, McKay was elected Lee District Supervisor in November 2007. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Legislative Committees and has twice served as Chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC).

Alicia Plerhoples

plerhoples photoPlerhoples, an attorney and Georgetown University law professor, emphasizes the “Two Fairfaxes” theme, drawing on her childhood, which was marked by poverty and food insecurity.

“When my father, a GED teacher, spoke up about the way his private employer extorted its students, he was fired and we were then evicted from our house,” Plerhoples says on her campaign website. “I would spend much of my fourth grade living in a single motel room with my parents and siblings. My mother was a special education teacher and I didn’t know that we were the working poor.”

“Under my leadership, Fairfax County can become the leader in the region for stemming the effects of income inequality — by investing in affordable and workforce housing, universal preschool, and economic growth that addresses the existential threat of climate change,” she says.

“As a law professor at Georgetown Law, my head has not been in the clouds but in the streets,” Plerhoples said. “I run what is essentially a small public interest law firm within the law school, advising tech start-ups, social enterprises, small businesses, and nonprofits. I teach my students how to help these organizations launch and scale.”

Open primary

While only Democratic candidates will be the ballot, any registered voter can vote on June 11. Virginia holds open primaries, and voters don’t register by party.

Information on absentee voting and polling places is available here.


About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.