In case you haven't heard, there are some important elections coming up in Fairfax County. The county's Board of Supervisors will have a lot of open seats up for grabs, and candidates are already lining up. In the Braddock District, that includes a race between two Democrats looking to flip one of the Board's two seats held by Republicans.
Fairfax's Braddock District is smack-dab in the middle of the county roughly. It's bisected by Braddock Road and covers most of the Burke area including parts of Annandale, Springfield, and Fairfax Station. The district is probably whatever pops in your head when you think “the suburbs.” Most of the area is low density, cul-de-sac style neighborhoods, though it's also home to George Mason University (where I went to school, Go Patriots!).
The current supervisor is Republican John Cook, who is not running for reelection over his concern about where the Republican Party is going nationally.
So far, no Republicans have declared for the race, so Democrats sense an opportunity here to consolidate their hold over the Board of Supervisors where Cook was one of only two Republicans on the board. So far there are two candidates running, both on a wide range of issues.
First up is James Walkinshaw. He's very familiar with Northern Virgina politics, having served as the Chief of Staff to Congressman Gerry Connolly (himself a former Fairfax County Supervisor).
Walkinshaw is running on a broad range of progressive issues. Of particular interest to urbanists is his pro-transit platform aimed at improving bus and train systems in Fairfax, particularly the VRE. The system's Manassas Line runs through the Braddock District with stops in Burke and Rolling Road.
Overall, transit in the district is overwhelmingly focused on 9-5 commuters. The area is not really set up to be a place where you could expect dense, transit-oriented development, but there is a lot of room for improvement to help the area's commuters, no matter what their schedule is.
VRE could use a strong advocate. The system has big ambitions, but its capacity is hampered by a number of issues limiting its effectiveness. More service is going to be crucial to meet VRE's ridership goals and Walkinshaw's ambitions to combat climate change, including making sure that all county operations are emission-free.
At first it looked like Walkinshaw wouldn't have much competition, but now there's a race on with the entry of Irma Corado.
While Walkinshaw is certainly running as a progressive, Corado is taking an even further left approach and is focused on helping the district's minority and immigrant populations. She's a data analyst at Indivisible Project, a progressive nonprofit that works local activist groups to get their voices heard in congress, and is also a community activist.
Corado was born in Guatemala but moved to Fairfax as a child. Her campaign is fairly new, so there hasn't been much press about her race. On her website she says shes's running to improve county services to help the county's large minority and foreign-born population.
While her website doesn't mention transportation at all, she does talk about housing. Corado is focused on the county's most vulnerable, especially with the impending arrival of Amazon on top of the area's already-hot job and real estate market.
District shows that issues are about suburban vs. urban
A lot of the big debates in Fairfax revolve around its transition from a commuter town for Washington to an economic powerhouse in its own right, complete with new metro lines and transit-oriented development. Still, most areas of Fairfax will remain typically suburban for a long time, and Braddock District is a perfect example.
However, the district also shows how just because an area is suburban doesn't mean that issues around transit, the environment, and smart growth affect suburban areas as well. Transit is important to many, even if it's primarily commuter rail and buses rather than all-day metro service. Affordable housing is on the minds of people throughout the county, not just in those living in apartment complexes here and there.
There also ought to be many more opportunities to improve walking and cycling all across Fairfax. Parts of the Braddock District are now home to some of the county's most extensive bike lane networks. These things aren't just for “urban” neighborhoods, but rather are something that can work well county-wide.
Even though this very suburban district is currently represented by a Republican, the primary is between two Democrats who are both running on their progressive bona fides. While Walkinshaw has the advantage of long time work within the party and politics, Corado is banking that her organizing skills will help her prevail come June.
Correction: This article previously misspelled Corado's last name as Coronado. It also mistakenly stated that she was Walkinshaw's former boss.