For the first time in eight years, voters will have a choice of candidates in the 35th District House of Delegates election.
Democrat Mark Keam on Nov. 2 will go up against Republican Kevin McGrath in an attempt to secure a seventh two-year term.
Keam has represented the district since defeating Republican candidate James Hyland in the 2009 election. The only time since that Keam faced an opponent was in 2013, when he fended off a challenge from Republican Leiann Luse.
The incumbent touted the General Assembly’s passage of more than 100 of his bills concerning job creation, education, public health, transportation, environment, clean energy, governmental transparency and support for military veterans.
“I am most proud of my efforts to transition Virginia from dependence on pollution-emitting coal and fossil fuels to cleaner renewable sources, such as solar and wind,” Keam said.
McGrath, who describes himself as a “Libertarian at heart,” said he is aghast at the slew of tax hikes Democrats have passed in the two most recent General Assembly sessions, during which the party held majorities in both houses.
Incumbent Keam “votes like the Democrats tell him to,” McGrath said. “We Republicans don’t like to tax people to death. Taxes are high as hell.”
The Republican said he would work to repeal those measures and use persuasion to bring about desired changes, rather than coercing and punishing them via laws.
McGrath opposes the teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools. “I believe that America has made tremendous progress with race divisions in our county,” he states on his campaign’s Website. “After so much progress, we now have radical Democrats advocating violence and creating hatred towards white people. By teaching CRT in our public schools, the Democrats are using our hard-earned tax money to push this [hateful] narrative.”
McGrath vows to leave politics out of schools and have children taught basics such as reading, writing and arithmetic, with parents supplying information on other topics.
Keam said two of his daughters had graduated from Fairfax County Public Schools and that he did not think they had been taught Critical Race Theory.
“I believe schools as well as parents should teach our children how to read and think critically so that they can become intelligent, productive and contributing members of our complex and diverse society,” he said.
McGrath favors bipartisan legislative efforts, in-person schooling, smaller government, spending reductions, lower taxes and supporting law-enforcement agencies.
“I am ready to fight the Democrats and their mission of one-party rule,” McGrath’s Website states. “This last national election confirmed that the Democrats will not stop until they ruin the personal lives of their opposition and create a socialist regime that will rule with an iron fist.”
McGrath opposes further pandemic-related shutdowns, school closings and government mandates. Keam said because COVID vaccines are free, accessible and efficacious, it is “very reasonable for government agencies, schools, and private sector employers to require them for their employees and students.”
The 35th District – at least until redistricting is completed – covers Vienna and parts of Oakton, Fair Oaks, Tysons, McLean and Dunn Loring.
Born in South Korea, Keam came to the United States as a teenager after living in Vietnam and Australia. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science degree from the University of California at Irvine and a law degree from U.C. Hastings College of the Law.
A former chief counsel to U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Keam has been an entrepreneur, in-house counsel for a Fortune 15 technology company, head of a national Asian-American chamber of commerce, and an independent business consultant.
McGrath was born and raised in Fairfax, attended Oakton High School and graduated from Virginia Tech in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He joined the CIA in July 1978 and retired in 2015. Since then, McGrath has built homes in Bethany Beach, Del., Rye, N.H., and Wilmington, N.C.
McGrath is an active parishioner and fund-raiser at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Vienna. He also long was a part of Vienna’s youth-sports scene, coaching youth soccer, basketball and baseball from 1995 to 2015 and serving as a Vienna Little League board member and coach from 2002 to 2008.
The candidates were supposed to square off at a “virtual” League of Women Voters debate on Oct. 12, but McGrath declined to participate if he could not do so in person. He also did not view the hosting organization as politically neutral.
Forum organizers allowed Keam to give a brief statement before proceeding to a debate between 39th District candidates. Keam said it had been the honor of his life to serve as a state delegate and added that the election was about maintaining quality of life.