Democrat Favored in First Virginia Election Since Scandals Broke

Political observers and activists will be closely watching a Northern Virginia special election Tuesday to see If Democrats will be hurt by the scandal impacting the party’s top three leaders in the commonwealth.

Three candidates are vying for the 86th District of the House of Delegates, which runs from Herndon to Chantilly and has become a heavily Democratic area.

At age 27, Dr. Ibraheem Samirah, a dentist, would become one of the youngest lawmakers if elected. The Democratic nominee is a Muslim, a Palestinian American whose family faced enormous struggle when his father was barred from returning to this country for years after Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“I see myself as a voice for everybody,” he said. “It doesn’t just stop at immigrants or marginalized groups.”

Republican nominee Gregg Nelson also is making a first run at office. An Air Force veteran and businessman, he sees himself as a voice for working people.

“These folks up here work so hard and they send their money down to Richmond, and I don’t feel like it comes back to them,” he said.

Former Herndon Town Council member Connie Hutchinson is running as an independent. She and Nelson believe voter anger over the scandals facing Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring could turn voters away from Democrats, including Samirah.

“People are really upset,” Nelson said. “They feel like things have gone amok down there.”

Samirah argues he gives Democratic voters a chance to press the restart button.

“Putting in place new leadership, bright leadership, colorful leadership that has a lot of new ideas on how to move forward,” he said.

But Samirah has battled controversy of his own in this race. The same right wing website that exposed the racist photo on Northam’s medical school yearbook page spotlighted anti-Israel statements Samirah posted on Facebook as a college student. He apologized in a statement and points to his Jewish supporters.

“I stand fully against anti-Semitism and I encourage everybody to look at the statement online,” he said.

But Nelson and the GOP say Samirah would just add to the trouble in Richmond.

Ibraheem Samirah already won the campaign fundraising contest. That, along with the fact that the 86th District is solidly blue, makes him the favorite.

The special election is being held to replace Jennifer Boysko, who was elected to the state Senate to fill Jennifer Wexton’s seat after she won election to Congress.

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