As 2019 has arrived, more and more attention is being devoted to the state and local races we have this year in Virginia. In Fairfax, Sharon Bulova recently announced she won’t be seeking another term as Chair of the Board of Supervisors and candidates have been stepping forward to replace her. Supervisor Jeff McKay announced his candidacy almost immediately after Bulova’s announcement and quickly became the front runner after securing a lot of support from the political establishment in Fairfax. He won’t necessarily have a carefree path to the nomination, however, as Ryan McElveen officially announced his campaign in an online video released earlier today.
McElveen has served as an at-large member of the Fairfax County School Board for the last seven years and often speaks about the importance of education and making sure we support both teachers and students. As the son and husband of teachers, McElveen appears to be committed to promoting good education policy even if he moves over to the Board of Supervisors. In the video he released announcing his campaign, he promised to advocate for universal pre-kindergarten “so that every child in Fairfax County can be prepared to enter the global workforce.”
Of course, his campaign will focus on more than just education. He’s also calling for more “innovative and sustainable infrastructure” that would address transportation issues and help ensure the entire community can take advantage of modern technology and public buildings and parks. Furthermore, he’ll be working to promote an economy that works for everyone — something that’s crucial in a place like Fairfax where more and more people are being priced out of the community.
While McElveen’s announcement has intrigued a lot of people and he definitely cannot be ignored during the Democratic primary, he’s facing a challenge if he wants to win. Jeff McKay has more name recognition (though, sadly, not many people can name their County Supervisor or School Board member) and has received some big endorsements. Sharon Bulova endorsed McKay almost immediately after announcing she wouldn’t seek reelection, for example, and Rep. Gerry Connolly (who served in the role before heading to Congress) has also backed him. These endorsements can help with the initial fundraising efforts while McElveen is simpy trying to get things going.
Looking at the latest campaign finance reports, which were filed at the end of last June, McKay had just under $90,000 cash on hand. While that’s not a staggering amount of money, it’s noticeable that to the fact that Ryan McElveen hasn’t raised any money the last two years and only raised about $15,000 for his last election in 2015. Granted school board races aren’t very expensive and the candidates therefore don’t need to devote as much time and energy to fundraising, but it’s still a hurdle that McElveen will have to overcome.
With all that being said, McElveen has already been on the ballot county-wide while McKay has just been representing the Lee District. This could give him a slight benefit as he’ll be more familiar with parts of the County outside of Lee. His association with the Brookings Institution might also bring him some connections that could prove worthwhile during the campaign, though McElveen’s work there has been primarily foreign policy realm — specifically relating to China.
In the end, having two experienced candidates in the race who both have a history of standing up for progressive causes can only help make the eventual Democratic nominee stronger in the general election. But considering how some folks thought McKay would have an extremely easy path to the nomination, McElveen’s campaign certainly is an interesting development.