School board race comes into focus as Dems, GOP make endorsements

The electoral field for the 2019 Fairfax County School Board race looks to be set after the Fairfax County Democratic Committee made its candidate endorsements last week.

The Dems’ 12 picks came after the Fairfax County Republican Committee made its nine endorsements (the GOP did not endorse a candidates in three of the races) last month. While candidates can still file to run in any of the races, it appears the stage is now set for a fall election that will see many new faces on the 12-member board.

In school board elections voters select a representative from their magisterial district plus three at-large members. The Richmond Highway area’s two current representatives on the board — Mount Vernon District’s Karen Corbett Sanders and Lee District’s Tamara Derenak Kaufax— were each again endorsed by the FCDC.

Corbett Sanders, the current board chair, will be running for her second term. She will face first-time candidate Steven Mosley, who is likely to be a heavy underdog. A Democrat-endorsed candidate has won in Mount Vernon since school board elections began in 1995, and Corbett Sanders secured 62 percent of the vote in 2015. No website or social media pages appear to be setup for Mosley’s campaign yet.

Derenak Kaufax is unopposed so far. If that continues, it will be Derenak Kaufax’s third straight election without an opponent.

While both Corbett Sanders and Derenak Kaufax appear well-positioned to be re-elected, many current board members will not be returning in 2019. Of the board’s 12 members, six are not running for re-election for various reasons:

  • Mason District representative Sandy Evans is not seeking re-election
  • Dranesville District representative Jane Strauss is not seeking re-election
  • Hunter Mill District Representative Pat Hynes is not seeking re-election
  • Providence District representative Dalia Palchik is running in the Democratic primary to be that district’s Board of Supervisors Representative
  • At-large member Ryan McAlveen is running in the Democratic primary to be Board of Supervisors Chairman
  • At-large member Ilryong Moon did not get endorsed by Democrats this cycle.

Moon’s loss means the board will not have one of its most experienced voices. Moon has been a member of the board since 2004, and served for four years in the 1990s as well. Three times during his tenure Moon served as board chair, and he was also vice chair twice.

With Moon and McAlveen gone, at least two of the three at-large positions will have new occupants. Incumbent Karen Keys-Gamarra, along with newcomers Abrar Omeish and Rachna Sizemore Heizer, secured the three Democratic at-large endorsements.

Heizer had already been endorsed by Del. Paul Krizek and former Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland, among others. Omeish, who if elected would be the youngest member of the board, had been endorsed by Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova and former Congressman Jim Moran.

The three Democrats will be competing with three Republican-endorsed challengers: Priscilla DeStefanoCheryl Buford and Vinson Palathingal. In 2017 Buford ran unsuccessfully for the 34th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, while the two others are first-time candidates for public office. Palathingal was endorsed by former U.S. Sen. George Allen.

The full list of Democratic candidates for school board:

At-Large: Abrar Omeish
At-Large: Karen Keys-Gamarra
At-Large: Rachna Sizemore Heizer
Braddock District: Megan McLaughlin
Hunter Mill District: Melanie Meren
Dranesville District: Elaine Tholen
Lee District: TamaraDerenak Kaufax
Mason District: Ricardy Anderson
Mount Vernon District: Karen Corbett Sanders 
Providence District: Karl Frisch
Springfield District: Laura Jane Cohen
Sully District: Stella Pekarsky

The full list of Republican candidates for school board:

At-Large: Vinson Palathingal
At-Large: Priscilla DeStefano
At-Large: Cheryl Buford
Braddock District: Zia Tompkins
Hunter Mill District: Laura Ramirez Drain
Mount Vernon District: Steven Mosley
Providence District: Andi Bayer
Springfield District: Elizabeth Schultz (Incumbent)
Sully District: Tom Wilson (Incumbent)