Delegate Keam Resigns to Join Biden Administration

Delegate Mark Keam (D-Fairfax) resigned to take an unspecified role in the Biden administration, and two Democrats have already announced their candidacies for an expected special election to complete his term in the Democrat-favoring district.

“Today, Delegate Mark Keam announced that he has resigned from the General Assembly. We thank Mark for more than a decade of public service in the House of Delegates and honor the history he made as the first Asian-born immigrant and the first Korean American elected to any state-level office in Virginia,” Fairfax County Democratic Committee Chair Bryan Graham said in a Tuesday press release.

“While we wait to hear when the special election to replace Del. Keam will happen, FCDC is formalizing its plans to operate an open and fair process to choose our nominee. We will ensure that a Democrat remains representing the people of Dunn Loring, Tysons, Vienna, and Oakton in the current 35th House District,” Graham said.

Keam has served since 2010. During his years as a delegate, he sponsored several significant pieces of legislation that became law, including a 2018 bill removing a requirement that absentee ballots include the last four digits of a voter’s social security number, and a 2020 bill requiring school boards to provide free tampons and pads in schools.

In 2020, four of his bills focused on environmental issues also passed into law, including a bill prohibiting granting leases for offshore oil and gas drilling in Virginia’s coastal waters, and a bill adding a declaration on environmental policy into Virginia code.

It is the policy of the Commonwealth to promote environmental justice and ensure that it is carried out throughout the Commonwealth, with a focus on environmental justice communities and fenceline communities,” HB 704 stated.

A Special Election

Keam’s term ends January 2024, and either Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) or Governor Glenn Youngkin will call a special election to fill the seat for the remainder of his term. In 2023, an election under new lines for the term starting in 2024 will be held. Current House District 35 voted 67.30 percent for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe in 2021; the region in the new House District 12 is even more Democratic, and went 68.40 percent towards McAuliffe, according to analysis from The Virginia Public Access Project.

Virginia law allows the speaker of the House to call special elections if the general assembly is in session, and the governor to call special elections when out of session. Currently, the general assembly is in session, and will reconvene on Wednesday. Gilbert’s spokesperson Garren Shipley said Gilbert will call the election if the general assembly remains in session after Wednesday; otherwise, Youngkin will do it. Although there can be a political advantage to avoid calling special elections in districts that favor the opposing party, with Republicans already controlling a safe majority in the House of Delegates, there’s little apparent motive to delay the election.

Fairfax County School Board Member Karl Frisch announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the seat. His website touts endorsements from Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA-08), former Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), and Fairfax County Chairman Jeffrey McKay. Frisch’s release touts his history as the first openly LGBTQ+ person elected to local office in Fairfax, and his role as executive director at Allied Progress where “he drove to Washington every morning to fight the Trump administration’s betrayal of struggling Americans targeted by predatory lenders, shady student loan processors, and financial scammers.”

“To create a future where no Virginian is left behind, we need a progressive fighter in Richmond with a record of results we can count on. We need someone who will stand up to Governor Youngkin and the far-right – someone who will work every day to protect our world-class public schools, defend reproductive freedom, build an economy that works for everyone, prevent gun violence, heal our planet, and preserve our democracy,” Frisch said in the announcement.

Holly Seibold is the other Democratic candidate. She is founder and executive director at BRAWS: Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters, a nonprofit that distributes period products and undergarments to women in need. She’s also engaged in legislative advocacy for bills including Keam’s bill requiring free menstrual products in schools. According to her LinkedIn, she worked as an educator at Fairfax Public Schools from 2003-2009, and from 2014-2018 was the director at M2 Academy focused on helping teachers and schools use modern technology to engage students.

According to her website, Seibold also represents the 11th Congressional District in the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia. She cites her experience launching BRAWS and M2 alongside her appointment by former Governor Ralph Northam to the Virginia Council on Women.

“When I see change is needed in our community, I don’t sit on the sidelines. I roll up my sleeves and get to work,” she states on her site. “That’s what Democrats do. I’ll do it every day as our Delegate in Richmond.”

When asked if Republicans have any candidates lined up for the district, Fairfax GOP Chairman Steve Knotts said in a statement, “At present, we don’t know if or when a special election will be held. It is our intention, however, to contest every race in every Fairfax County district, just as we did last year. Although progress has been made, there remains a lot of work to do in Richmond. We need to elect more legislators who back Governor Youngkin’s commonsense agenda to make Virginia the best state in the nation to live, work, and raise a family.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network.  Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mark Keam” by Mark Keam. Background Photo “White House” by Ken Lund. CC BY-SA 2.0.

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