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Alexandria mayoral candidate Alyia Gaskins won the Alexandria Democratic Committee’s Straw Poll on Sunday night.

Gasksins defeated Vice Mayor Amy Jackson 117 votes to 23 votes, or 81% to Jackson’s 16%. A third mayoral candidate, Steven Peterson, did not show up for the event, and received 4 votes (3%).

City Council’s four incumbent members running for reelection also won, and so did two newcomers. The unofficial and unscientific contest is held before every Council primary at the Port City Brewing Company (3950 Wheeler Avenue).

“The results from the ADC straw poll show that a range of Democrats — some of who have been engaged in local politics for decades and others who are brand new — overwhelmingly agree that I’m the best candidate for mayor,” Gaskins said. “I’m excited to build on this momentum as I continue to spread my vision for a safer, more affordable, more accessible Alexandria.”

There are 11 Council candidates in the running in the June 18 primary for the six-seat Council, as well as three mayoral candidates.

Council Members John Taylor Chapman and Kirk McPike tied for the top spot among the City Council candidates. In the general election in November, the top vote-getter becomes the city’s vice mayor.

The Democrat and Republican primary is on June 18 and the general election is on Nov. 5.

The Results

  1. John Taylor Chapman 98 votes (68%)
  2. Kirk McPike — 98 votes (68%)
  3. Sarah Bagley — 93 votes (65%)
  4. Canek Aguirre — 81 votes (56%)
  5. James Lewis — 78 votes (54%)
  6. Jesse O’Connell — 77 votes (53%)
  7. Jacinta Greene — 75 votes (52%)
  8. Kevin Harris — 50 votes (35%)
  9. Abdel Elnoubi — 47 votes (33%)
  10. Jonathan Huskey — 18 votes (13%)
  11. Charlotte Scherer — 15 votes (10%)

The ADC Straw Poll got it right in 2021 by correctly predicting the mayoral and council members elected that November. But the poll is not always accurate. In 2018, former City Councilor Willie Bailey received the most votes but lost reelection. Former City Councilwoman Del Pepper, Jackson and former Council Member Mo Seifeldein didn’t make the unofficial cut either, still winning in the June primary and the November general election.


The political season is officially underway in Alexandria, as the three Democrat candidates for mayor will face off in their first forum on Wednesday. There are also a number of forums and meet-and-greets scheduled for the 11 Democrat City Council candidates and lone Republican candidate.

The Democratic and Republican primaries for City Council are on June 18.

The Del Ray Citizens Association will host the first event for its members via Zoom at 7 p.m. with the three mayoral candidates — Vice Mayor Amy Jackson, City Council Member Alyia Gaskins and former real estate developer Steven Peterson.

The event will run until 8:30 p.m.

The current list forums is below.

April 10 at 7 p.m. — Online Del Ray Citizens Association mayoral forum (members only)

April 15 at 6 p.m.Mayoral and Council candidate forum at Lost Dog Cafe in Old Town (808 N. Henry Street) hosted by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and the Alexandria Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee

April 17 at 7 p.m. —  Alpha Kappa Alpha and the League of Women Voters will host a mayoral forum via Zoom

April 24 at 6 p.m. — The Federation of Civic Associations will host a candidate forum at Alexandria Police Department headquarters (3600 Wheeler Avenue)

April 25 at 7 p.m. — The Alexandria NAACP mayoral debate. Location to be determined

May 2 at 6 p.m. — Tenants and Workers United and Grassroots Alexandria will host a candidate forum at 3801 Mount Vernon Avenue

May 7 at 7 p.m. — The PTA Council of Alexandria will conduct a candidate forum in the Alexandria City High School cafeteria (3330 King Street)

May 9 at 7 p.m. — Alexandria NAACP debate with council candidates. Location to be determined

May 11 at 7 p.m.VOICE candidates forum at Third Baptist Church of Alexandria (917 Prince Street)

May 13 at 6 p.m. — Del Ray Business Association candidate forum. Location to be determined

May 15 — North Ridge Citizens Association mayoral forum. Location to be determined

May 15 at 7 p.m. — The Lynhaven and Hume Springs Civic Association will conduct an in-person and Zoom mayoral forum at the Leonard “Chick“ Armstrong Recreation Center (25 W. Reed Avenue)

June 4 — The Chamber ALX mayoral debate will be held “in the evening” at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial

June 8 at 10 a.m. — The West End Business Association will hold a mayoral forum at Taqueria Picoso (1472 N. Beauregard Street)

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Alexandria mayoral candidate Steven Peterson with his wife, Martha (Courtesy photo)

Steven Peterson is like no other Democrat running for office in Alexandria, and he wants to be the mayor.

From his opinions on racial undertones killing the Potomac Yard arena deal to wanting to reverse a slew of zoning reforms approved last year by City Council, one thing is crystal clear: Peterson is unfiltered.

“My father used to tell me ‘Only the lead dog has a good view,'” Peterson said. “I have no interest in becoming a city councilperson. I don’t want to be one of six. I want to be in spheres of influence.”

A newcomer in the small world of Alexandria politics, the “semi-retired” real estate developer decided before Christmas to run against Vice Mayor Amy Jackson and City Council Member Alyia Gaskins in the June 18 Democratic Primary for mayor.

“This is not a stepping stone for me in the future like it might be for Gaskins and Jackson,” Peterson said. “If I believe in something, you might not like my opinion, but you’re gonna know why.”

As for what he wants to accomplish in office, Peterson gave a simple, Reagan-esqe answer.

“I want people to be able to say, I have a better quality of life now than I had three years ago when Peterson started,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re a janitor or a billionaire. Everyone wants a better quality of life.”

Peterson is the son of legendary real estate developer Milton Peterson, founder of Peterson Companies and longtime chair of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. The family is firmly Republican, and Peterson Companies is one of the largest private developers in the region. The company managed the development of National Harbor, and Steven Peterson, in fact, was the project manager in that particular large-scale development.

“I learned a hell of a lot from the guy,” Peterson said of his father. “He had a big following. He had a big ego, but he also knew how to get the best out of people to come to a consensus.”

He also spent $30,000 on a “polling study” to determine his chances in the election. The phone poll was conducted in March, according to multiple sources.

“After conducting a $30,000 polling study on various issues that involve the city, I was surprised that the issue of crime was not higher on people’s agenda,” Peterson said. “There was somewhat of a feeling as though, ‘Well, if my car wasn’t stolen or I wasn’t personally robbed, it’s not high on my agenda.’ Well, I can assure you that the fact overall crime was up 30% in 2023 and car thefts were up 58% will be a major mandate on my agenda.”

On April 4, the filing deadline date, Peterson submitted the necessary signatures and paperwork to officially run for mayor. Incidentally, he doesn’t want to be identified as a Democrat, or a Republican, despite running in the June 18 Democratic primary. He also says, if elected, he’ll take on the job full-time and donate his salary to the Alexandria Police Foundation.

“I don’t want to be seen as a Republican or a Democrat,” Peterson said. “I want to be seen as a guy who cares about the issues and wants to create solutions based upon the problems.”

Peterson takes pride in having declared himself as the first mayoral candidate to go against the recently failed Potomac Yard arena deal. The “about” page of his campaign website is exclusively devoted to his opposition of the plan to move the Washington Wizards and Capitals from D.C. to Alexandria. He also likes to joke that Jackson followed his lead when he openly opposed the arena.

“Amy Jackson did the Michael Jackson Moonwalk,” he said. “The reason she did the Moonwalk backwards? Maybe it was that Peterson is totally against it. I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m reading the tea leaves. I gotta go against it.'”

Peterson says that there were racial undertones at play between Senate Pro Tempore Louise Lucas (D-18), the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Republican Governor Glen Youngkin during the General Assembly’s consideration of the proposal. Lucas effectively killed the House of Delegates’ Potomac Yard arena bill in committee, denying Youngkin the chance to include it in the fiscal year 2025 budget.

According to Peterson, “The undertones of the racial issue with Lucas being the first Black (woman) with power in the State of Virginia, she’s the first one that comes out and says, ‘I’m the first one and I’m not gonna screw this up. I’m not gonna let Youngkin screw this up. I’m not going to be saying, ‘I was the first Black woman in power and I screwed it up. I’m not going to allow that.’ And I respect that decision.”

On the future of the 12-acre Potomac Yard property, Peterson echoed the latest sentiments of landowner JBG Smith CEO Matt Kelly, who recently told the Washington Business Journal that the area could turn into a tech corridor.

“Good real estate is always gonna find a good use eventually, right?” Peterson said. “It’s just not gonna be an arena. You’ve got a nice site that is located right near Metro, less than five miles from the world’s capital. You’re in a pretty good position, and you got companies like Amazon that want to move here. Why? There’s a reason why Virginia Tech put a billion dollars in, because you got good Metro, you got a good infrastructure, you got a quality citizen base for employment.”

Peterson is already anticipating attacks from his new political rivals.

“They’re gonna take their shots at me and say, ‘He’s a Republican, he’s a rich developer,'” Peterson said. “I don’t think Republican or Democrat, whether it’s crime, affordable housing and smart growth, whether it’s responsible land use. We have budgetary issues that we have to address as we move forward.”

Peterson is often accompanied on the campaign trail by his wife, Martha Shaw Peterson, and the pair have seven children. He’s lived in the city for 25 years, during which time he’s been a member of multiple boards, including the boards of St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School, the Inova Alexandria Hospital Foundation, and Middlebury College in Vermont. He also has a degree in liberal arts from Middlebury College.

Peterson wants to reverse last year’s overhaul of zoning ordinances, including Council’s citywide elimination of single family zoning. The zoning reforms were seen by Council as a way to increase affordable residential development in the city.

“They basically took up the Constitution of Virginia and said to hell with it,” Peterson said. “I would go back to the where we were (the city’s previous zoning policies prior to the Council action) and I will talk to about the citizenry about this.”

Peterson says that public distrust of Council has opened an opportunity for his leadership. While he has nothing against City Manager Jim Parajon, he says that Wilson runs the city like a dictator.

“What I’ve ever seen over the last six, eight months is not the way I would run the city,” Peterson said. “As a former developer, I don’t like the way he just comes in and mandates from the top down. There’s not my style, and that’s not what I’m going to do if I’m the mayor, and I think that’s gonna resonate with people.”

Peterson said Parajon seems to be a fiscally disciplined businessman.

“You’re dealing with an $850 million budget,” he said. “You got to spread that money around somewhere and everyone has their hand out, right? And I think that by the mere fact Wilson’s got a big ego, and he runs that city, as I’ve said, like a dictatorship, and he won’t mess around with him (Parajon) too much, which leads me to believe that he’s pretty successful at what he does.”

Still, Peterson echoes the sentiments of other candidates who criticise an imbalance in the city’s tax revenue structure.

“Twenty years ago, 50% of the residential taxes were paying for the budget,” he said. “Now it’s 82% are paying the $850 million budget. That’s not good, smart, responsible government. You just can’t put it on the citizens.”

Three days before filing his candidacy, Peterson emailed ALXnow a statement on his various political positions. That full statement is below the jump. Read More


Alexandria City Council candidate Abdel Elnoubi has been making legislative waves recently as a member of the School Board, and says residents should expect the same kind of results if he gets elected.

Elnoubi is one of 11 Democrats running to fill six seats on City Council, including four incumbent Council members running for reelection in the Democratic primary on June 18. The field also includes Jacinta Greene, a fellow School Board Member.

Elnoubi is a freshman politician sworn in virtually during the pandemic in 2021. The last several years meant contending with staffing shortages, learning loss, school safety and budgeting issues. He says that alleviating staffing woes is an important solution for the school system, and consequently added a $4.2 million bonus in the ACPS budget request to the City Council for staff who were excluded from step increases in fiscal year 2021.

That move, and other additions by the School Board, will likely result in a residential tax increase during an election year.

“It’s your decision to decide whether you want to raise taxes or not,” Elnoubi told City Council last month. “If you do that, if you decide to raise taxes, I’m 100% with you.”

Elnoubi, an engineering project manager for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, also made big changes to the ACPS collective bargaining resolution. Most notably, he gained support to eliminate a voting threshold for ACPS staff to establish unions to begin the bargaining process with the school system.

“We just can’t pay our teachers enough, so it’s personal for me,” Elnoubi said. “In my early days at Metro, I was a young engineer making $66,000. I could hardly afford to live in Alexandria. My family was growing. We (at WMATA) got a raise because the union had a new agreement… Not just that, they got us back pay, and that made a significant change in my life. It made me feel more financially secure. Now all of a sudden I have extra money for savings, I’m making a little bit more money with this newborn that I just had. So, I saw firsthand the impact of being part of a union and having a collective bargaining agreement.”

Elnoubi lives in the Landmark area with his wife and two children.

Early on in his School Board tenure, Elnoubi said he wouldn’t be a “rubber stamp” for former ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., and frequently went against established Board practices by speaking with the press.

“I believe in transparency, and I made it a point to be accessible to the press,” he said. “Because I came to this country for Democracy, for opportunity, for the things that make this country great, that we can hold government accountable.”

Born in Chicago, Elnoubi lived in Falls Church until he was eight years old, and then moved with his family to Alexandria, Egypt. He says his return to America and political aspirations in Alexandria, Virginia, makes for a literal “Tale Of Two Cities,” where quality of life issues stand in stark contrast.

“The police there (in Egypt) don’t work for the people,” Elnoubi said. “They’re an instrument of the regime to crush dissent… Education is totally underfunded, especially public schools. Teachers are paid very badly and can’t afford basic life necessities.”

At 21, Elnoubi returned to the U.S. after three years of college in Egypt and transferred to the City College of New York, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in mechanical engineering. He later earned a Master’s in engineering management from George Washington University, and moved to the city in 2012. Prior to his election in 2021, he was also the president of the PTA at Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School and was a member of the city’s Community Criminal Justice Board and the Building Code Board of Appeals.

Elnoubi is Muslim and says he was inspired to run for office after former President Donald Trump was elected and signed an executive order initiating a travel ban to seven Muslim countries.

“My kids know no other country but the U.S., and I didn’t want them growing up in their own country feeling they do not belong or were being discriminated against,” Elnoubi said. “I started talking to people, and they advised me to join the Democratic Committee, to become a grassroots activist, to get involved more than I was. I did.”

He continued, “We can’t take this Democracy for granted. I’ve seen what happens when you don’t have Democracy. Corruption, bad quality of life, you can’t hold government accountable, you’re risking your life just by speaking up. And now I’m like, oh my God, could that happen here? And guess what? We found the answer four years later. It almost happened. You almost had a coup four years later.”

Elnoubi says that he’s a goal-oriented engineer, setting achievable benchmarks and closely measuring progress with data. He said that the failed Potomac Yard arena deal lacked safeguards to shield Alexandria residents from hundreds of millions of dollars in financial liabilities “in the event of unrealized projections.”

“The deal neglected the needs of our commuters posing adverse implications through the anticipated surge in traffic, compounded by insufficient state funding allocated for essential public transportation enhancements aimed at mitigating such concerns,” Elnoubi said. “The deal’s environment details were lacking. The deal failed to prioritize the welfare of our workforce with lack of sufficient labor protections and commitments to uphold union standards.”

On affordable housing, he said that he will use “zoning and permitting regulations, tax incentives, and partnerships” to allow residents of all income levels to live in the city.

Elnoubi admits that he’s got his work cut out for him in this primary election. He also says that his experience on the Board sets him apart.

“I’ve seen how hard the work is, how much effort and dedication it takes,” he said. “I love to roll up my sleeves and get involved.”


ALXnow will be running a series of City Council candidate interviews through the local election filing deadline on April 4.

The economic potential for the $2 billion Potomac Yard arena deal is maintaining the interest of Alexandria City Council Member Alyia Gaskins.

Gaskins is running for mayor and says that a good deal for Alexandria means more city representation on the Virginia Stadium Authority board, which would own and finance the future home of the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals.

Gaskins says that she’ll carefully dissect the proposal “if and when” it comes before City Council and that her four key issues are on the city’s representation on the Virginia Stadium Authority board, as well as how the project impacts labor, housing, and transportation.

“A good deal is one that has strong labor protections, a commitment to affordable housing and new transportation investments,” Gaskins told ALXnow. “It is also one in which we have the majority of authority on the, but the majority of seats on the stadium Authority Board.”

A House version of the bill to create the board was approved earlier this month, but the Senate version of the bill is currently stalled.

“As you know, I’m the one who’s going to be in the weeds going through each and every page to really evaluate what has come to us and is it something that’s going to deliver for Alexandria,” Gaskins said. “I can’t speculate now until I see specifically where we are on each of those areas, because I don’t think it works without all of them.”

On the issues

Gaskins said she had to take a pause and that she was disappointed after seeing the Alexandria School Board’s recent budget request. The Board asked for $21 million more than what was allocated from the city in last year’s budget, prompting an outcry from Mayor Justin Wilson, and a fiscal year 2025 budget proposal from the City Manager that does not include $10 million in additions from the School Board.

Gaskins said that City Council was briefed in the fall about a potential reduction in real estate values, and that the decline would mean a substantial revenue reduction in the city, potentially resulting in cuts to city services.

“I thought seeing then a budget that calls for such an addition at a time when we are facing some tough economic situations was really a little disappointing,” she said. “At the same time, we all are fighting for the same thing. We want our teachers to be the best paid, and to be the most supported in the region. We want our kids to have the greatest academic outcomes that they can achieve. Our two bodies will have to figure this out, starting tonight at our work session.”

Gaskins also said that the city needs to pause as it evaluates the second phase of its zoning for housing initiative. Last year, City Council controversially its upended its residential zoning policies  by eliminating single family zoning. She said that the first phase focusing on housing production and that the city also needs to look at homeownership programs, tenant protections and preventing housing displacement should be refined.

“I don’t think we need to add anything else,” she said. “We need to focus on doing that and doing that well.”

On the double-digit Virginia American Water rate hikes, Gaskins said that she wants to get retroactive refunds for residents who may see their water bills significantly hiked.

“I think it’s excessive and it could be harmful to our residents,” Gaskins said of the increase. “The numbers I’ve seen show that if this rate goes through as planned, some of our residents could see upwards of a 50% increase in their bills.”

On public safety, Gaskins said that the citywide uptick in violent crime is “unacceptable,” and that the Alexandria Police Department needs to create a strategic plan that “clearly articulates” how it is being tackled. She also said that the recently released community crime map will help residents understand what’s happening.

“It’s not just uncomfortable, I think it’s unacceptable,” Gaskins said. “And I think that communication between our public safety professionals and our residents is an important piece of our crime prevention strategy that has to be strengthened.”

About Alyia Gaskins

Gaskins, who was elected to City Council in 2021, is running in the Democratic primary on June 18. She’s married with two young children and moved to the with her family from Fairfax County in 2016. She’s been a senior program officer at Melville Charitable Trust for three-and-a-half years, before which she worked as a a public health strategist with the Center for Community Investment and the National League of Cities.

She’s a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was raised by her single mother, Francine Smith, and her paternal grandmother Marilyn Parker. Gaskins said that her mom regularly worked two or three jobs at a time, mostly as a paraprofessional and librarian at Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Parker died last month, and Gaskins said that the loss has been difficult.

“It’s definitely been hard, because every big moment I can think of in my life, my grandma has been by my side,” she said. “I think the only kind of saving grace is she taught and she instilled in me a faith and a joy that surpasses understanding. And so when the days are hard, I can still smile because I know I know she’s with me.”

If elected, Gaskins will be the first Black female mayor of Alexandria.

“When I think about what it would mean to be the first Black female mayor, honestly, sometimes I can’t even put it into words, like it’s something that is overwhelming,” she said. “It’s something that is humbling, and it’s something that would fill me with tremendous joy.”

Gaskins has a bachelor’s degree in medicine, health and society from Vanderbilt University, a master’s in urban planning from Georgetown University, and a master’s of public health from the University of Pittsburgh and a certificate in municipal planning from the University of Chicago.

She was elected to City Council in 2021, and previously served on the city’s Transportation Commission, where she said that her experience with the Seminary Road bike lane controversy convinced her that the city needs to improve outreach to impacted communities.

Communication-wise, Gaskins said she had no notice from Mayor Justin Wilson when he announced he wasn’t seeking reelection on Dec. 1. She announced her intention to run on Dec. 4, as did her fellow Council Member Vice Mayor Amy Jackson.

“I had no special inside knowledge or anything like that,” Gaskins said. “What I watched over the past several months is what Justin has said, that he’s thinking about it and we’ll find out the decision. I thought to myself, I’m going to be ready no matter what that decision is. I want to be ready to run.”

Gaskins is leading in fundraising among her Council colleagues, raising $46,000 with $34,000 on-hand as of Dec. 31, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Jackson has raised $16,900, and has $15,800 on-hand. The next financial disclosure deadline for the candidates is at the end of this month.

Gaskins says that she gets four-to-five hours of sleep on a good day, and that her family is committed to seeing her conduct city business.

“What I do think I’ve been able to create in my life and will do as mayor is a harmony where I have found a way for all of the pieces to work together,” she said. “I recognize the demands that will be on my time, then it makes sense that will be on my family’s time. But this is something that we are fully committed to doing as our unit and making sure that as a unit we can serve and continue to deliver.”

The Democratic primary is June 18.


Voting in Alexandria is underway (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Alexandria voters overwhelmingly chose President Joe Biden and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley in Super Tuesday’s dual presidential primary, according to unofficial results from the Virginia State Board of Elections.

Biden won the Democratic nomination with 10,079 votes (90.5%), followed by Marianne Williamson with 676 votes (6.1%) and Dean Benson Phillips with 377 votes (3.4%).

Haley, who is expected to suspend her campaign following a string of primary losses against former Republican President Donald Trump, won in a crowded Republican contest with 6,764 votes (71.5%), followed by Trump with 2,437 votes (26%), Florida Governor Ron Desantis with 120 votes (1.3%), former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie with 105 votes (1.1%), Vivek Ramaswamy with 27 votes (0.3%) and Ryan L. Brinkley with 14 votes (0.2%).

There were 11,199 Democratic ballots cast in Alexandria, or 9.8%, out of the 113,956 registered voters in the city. There were also 9,469 Republican votes cast, or 8.3% of registered voters. In all, 20,668 voters cast ballots, or 18.1% of registered voters.

Biden and Haley also won their respective primary elections in Arlington and Fairfax Counties. In Arlington, Biden got 14,637 votes (89%) and Haley got 10,957 votes (73%). In Fairfax County, Biden won with Democrats with 51,612 votes (85%) and Haley won with 48,007 votes (53%).

Statewide, Biden overwhelmingly won over Virginia Democrats with 306,478 votes cast (about 89%), followed by Williamson with 27,075 votes (8%) and Phillips with 12,009 votes (3.5%).

Trump won the Republican nomination in Virginia with 435,061 votes (63.3%), followed by Haley with 238,055 votes (35%), Desantis with 7,391 votes (1.1%), Christie with 3,314 votes (0.5%), Ramaswamy with 2,494 votes (0.4%) and Brinkley with 828 votes (0.12%).

In the last Democrat presidential primary in March 2020, Biden won with nearly 50% of ballots cast, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) with 18.33% and then Sen. Bernie Sanders with 18.23%. Republicans did not hold a primary that year, and chose Trump as their nominee in a convention.

Alexandria will next conduct its Democratic primary for City Council on June 18.

Real estate Developer Steve Peterson is running for mayor, and is pictured here with his wife, Martha (courtesy photo)

Steven Peterson, former president of the Peterson Companies real estate development firm, confirmed to ALXnow today that he is intending to run for mayor of Alexandria as a Democrat in the June 18 primary.

“It is my intention to run as a Democrat for mayor of Alexandria,” Peterson said.

Peterson’s family is known to be Republican, with his father, Milton, doubling his professional duties as the company’s founder and longtime chair of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. The Peterson Companies is regarded as one of the largest private developers in the region, and led the development of National Harbor. Steven Peterson, in fact, was the project manager behind that development.

“My father was a Republican, and as a company we were Republicans, but I have stayed out of politics,” Peterson said. “It’s not about making money anymore. It’s about making a difference.”

Peterson will join two other Democratic candidates in the race — Vice Mayor Amy Jackson and City Council Member Alyia Gaskins.

Peterson said he decided just before Christmas to run.

“I decided this three weeks ago in bed at 3 a.m.,” he said. “I whacked my wife on the head and woke her up and said, ‘I’m running for mayor,’ and then three hours later she whacked me on the head at 6:30 a.m. and said, ‘Did you just wake me up because you said that you’re running for mayor?'”

Peterson said that he is in favor of smart growth, and will unveil his platform when he launches his candidacy sometime next month. In the meantime, he has made the rounds by informing Alexandria Democratic Committee Chair Sandy Marks of his intention to run, and is putting together his campaign team.

(L-R) Alexandria Vice Mayor Amy Jackson, Council member Alyia Gaskins and acting Police Chief Don Hayes at a retirement ceremony for former Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, April 5, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

(Updated 10:50 a.m.) With Mayor Justin Wilson announcing last week that he won’t seek reelection, two members of Alexandria’s City Council have tossed their hats into the ring to replace him.

City Council member Alyia Gaskins announced this morning (Monday) that she would be running for mayor.

According to a release:

It has been the honor of my life to serve Alexandria on the City Council. Guided by your concerns, I’ve worked to address key issues like education, housing, and public safety.

I’ve decided to run for Mayor to work with you to create innovative solutions to ensure that Alexandria is a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

Gaskins was elected to the City Council in 2021.

Vice Mayor Amy Jackson also told ALXnow that she was officially in the race, though campaign details are still forthcoming.

Jackson, a former Fairfax County Public Schools educator and administrator, was elected to the City Council in 2018 and became vice mayor in 2021.

Though not to the same degree of conflict as former Mayor Allison Silberberg, Jackson has occasionally differed on issues from the rest of the Council.

While those have rarely turned into dramatic quarrels, Jackson did argue with others on the council after she called a candidate for a law enforcement partnership “anti-police.” At a City Council meeting last week, Jackson unsuccessfully attempted to have the vote on single-family-zoning separated from the rest of the Zoning for Housing/Housing for All package.

Jackson and Gaskins will square off in the Democratic primary in June and will leave two vacancies open on Alexandria’s six-person City Council.

James Cullum contributed to this report.


Alexandria Democratic members of the Virginia’s General Assembly were swept back into office on election night.

There were no surprises from the unofficial election returns Tuesday night. Facing no opposition, Democratic incumbents Del. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (5th) was reelected to a second term with 21,622 votes, and Del. Charniele Herring (4th) was reelected to her eighth two-year term with 10,368 votes. Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-3rd) was also reelected with 81% (16,837 votes) and defeated independent candidate Major Mike Webb.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-39) was reelected with 78% of votes cast (38,789 votes), soundly defeating Republican Sophia Moshasha who got 22% (10,706 votes).

Most of the Democratic candidates spoke after the unofficial results were announced at an Alexandria Democratic Committee watch party at Pork Barrel BBQ in Del Ray.

“With the legislature that we hope to return to Richmond tonight, we’re going to have tell (Republican Governor) Glenn Yongkin that he can work with us or he can face a brick wall,” Ebbin said.

Statewide, Virginia Democrats campaigned on protecting abortion rights and retook control of both houses of the General Assembly, making Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin a lame duck for the remainder of his term.

Bennett-Parker said that she is one of a handful of Virginia legislators to have a child while in office.

“She inspires me every day to do this work,” Bennett-Parker said of her daughter. “I want her to grow up in Virginia where she has the right to make decisions about her own body.”

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine also stopped by to congratulate the winners.

“Times are tough in this country right now,” Kaine said. “Times are tough in this world right now. But when times are tough families pulled together and that’s what we’re doing… I always say I was born with a good compass, and I married a good anchor. And if you have a good compass and a good anchor, there is nothing that will ever stop good.”

Voter turnout in Alexandria exceeded expectations. About 35% (40,166 votes) of the city’s active registered voters cast ballots on Tuesday.

Election signs outside Alexandria City Hall on election day, Nov. 7, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)
Alexandria Democrats on election day (photo via Alexandria Democratic Committee/Facebook)

Today (Tuesday) is the last chance Alexandrians have to vote in the Democratic primary.

In-person voting is underway for the 8th Congressional District Democratic primary, in which incumbent Rep. Don Beyer faces political newcomer, Arlingtonian Victoria Virasingh.

Election Day turnout was at about 1.5%, with 1,534 Alexandria residents voting in person, as of 10 a.m. today, according to the Alexandria Office of Voter Registration and Elections. But about 5,000 absentee ballots have been returned, bringing total turnout to about 6.7% of registered voters.

Virasingh, a daughter of immigrants, was born and raised in Arlington and is active with the Arlington County Democratic Committee. She was previously part of Communities in Schools at Barcroft Elementary School. Her professional resume includes work for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the IRS Criminal Investigations Unit, and tech company Palantir.

Virasingh’s website lists some campaign priorities as housing for all, equity in education, securing a living wage and Medicare for all.

Beyer has held onto the 8th District, which also includes Arlington, the City of Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County, since he won a crowded primary for former Congressman Jim Moran’s seat in 2014 and the general election later that year.

Among issues Beyer lists on his campaign website are climate change, housing, immigration, gun violence prevention, the federal workforce and others.

The winner will face any non-Democratic candidates in November. The Republican Party nominated Arlington resident Karina Lipsman.

How to vote

Any voter can cast a ballot in the Democratic primary, regardless of party affiliation, because Virginia is an open primary state. The deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration, was May 31.

Polling locations are open until 7 p.m. Voters must cast their ballots at their assigned location, which can be found on the Virginia elections website. If mailing a ballot, it must be postmarked no later than today or delivered in person today.

Photo via Alexandria Democratic Committee/Facebook


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