A decade ago this past fall, Barbara Favola and Caren Merrick were battling it out for the open 31st state Senate seat, which snakes from Arlington into McLean and Great Falls and even incorporates a few precincts in northeastern Loudoun County.
The race to succeed retiring incumbent Mary Margaret Whipple was expected to be a nail-biter, but proved a little less than advertised.
Rolling up a big majority in her home turf of Arlington – whose precincts account for just under half of the vote in the district – Democrat Favola was able to parry Republican Merrick’s advantages in the Fairfax and Loudoun portions of the district. Favola won the race and has remained in office since.
But Merrick, a tech entrepreneur, is back in the news, having been selected by Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin as Virginia’s next Secretary of Commerce and Trade.
“Virginia’s jobs machine has stalled out, and Caren is going to play a pivotal role on the team that will jumpstart our economy and reinvigorate job growth here in the commonwealth,” Youngkin said in a Dec. 21 statement making the announcement.
“Caren is an innovator, a business builder and a true leader in workforce development – the kind of experience needed to develop talent, train workers, attract investment and make Virginia the best state to start a business as we set out to add 400,000 jobs and launch 10,000 startups,” the incoming governor said.
Merrick co-founded enterprise software company webMethods, growing it to $200 million and the most successful software initial public offering in history at offering, and has served in leadership roles on a number of businesses and organizations, including a stint on the board of directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
Queried about the appointment by the Sun Gazette, Favola was diplomatically upbeat.
“I congratulate Caren Merrick on her appointment, and look forward to working with her on issues that will grow Virginia’s economy and improve our workforce-readiness,” said Favola, whose party holds a slim (21-to-19) majority in the state Senate but is short two seats of a majority in the House of Delegates.
As the CEO of the Virginia Ready Initiative, Merrick oversaw $10 million in funding through public-private partnerships to help mitigate the economic hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting labor shortages by retraining Virginians for in-demand careers, the Youngkin transition team said.
The effort has worked with the likes of EY, Bank of America, SAIC, Genworth Financial, PwC, Northrop Grumman, BAE, Sentara Health, Huntington Ingalls, Carillion Clinic and the Virginia Community College System. More than- 3,500 Virginians are completing accelerated credential courses for in-demand skills in technology, health-care, manufacturing and skilled trades, the Youngkin team said.
A Virginia resident since 1988, and her husband of 28 years live in the local area and have two sons.