Before heading back down to Richmond in January, Alexandria’s state-level elected officials are hosting a townhall to hear from locals.
State Sen. Adam Ebbin, Del. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, Del. Charniele Herring and Del. Alfonso Lopez are hosting a pre-legislative town hall on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 6:30 p.m. in Alexandria City Hall.
After Virginia Democrats secured a majority in the House of Delegates and the Senate, Bennett-Parker said there’s hope that Alexandria’s state senators and delegates can accomplish more of their goals.
According to Bennett-Parker’s newsletter:
As we get ready for the start of session on January 10th, the General Assembly will be very different. Earlier this month, the voters of Virginia elected a Democratic majority in both the House of Delegates and the Senate. Thanks to redistricting and election results, both chambers are also experiencing significant turnover.
Bennett-Parker noted that the upcoming session will be a “long” one, lasting for 60 days. Bennett-Parker said some of the bills and joint resolutions being considered include:
As introduced, the bills and joint resolutions will: institute a ban on AR-15 style assault firearms and certain ammunition; increase the minimum wage to $15 by January 1, 2026; work to create a constitutional amendment to codify the automatic restoration of voting rights; and work to create a constitutional amendment that will codify abortion access in Virginia.
Attendees to the town hall are asked to register in advance.
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.
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.
About 30% of Alexandria voters are expected to turn out at the polls on election day today, Nov. 7.
As of 10 a.m. — four hours after polls opened — 21,661 voters cast their ballots, which is about 23% of the city’s 96,232 active registered voters. A vast majority of those ballots, 13,927 votes (64%), are from absentee voters. Also as of 10 a.m., 7,734 voters cast their ballots in person, according to the city’s Office of Voter Registration and Elections.
Alexandria Registrar Angie Turner said her office is basing the 30% estimate on the turnouts of the 2015 and 2019 elections, which were both non-presidential and Congressional election years with members of the Virginia General Assembly on the ballot.
“So, 2015 and 2019 are our last comparable elections, and both of those elections hovered right at about 32%,” Turner told ALXnow.
As previously reported, the only contests on the ballot in Alexandria are for the 39th District of the Virginia State Senate and three House of Delegates districts. The City’s solid block of Democratic voters makes the prospect of defeat unlikely.
Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-31) is running against Republican Sophia Moshasha for the newly redrawn 39th District and has campaigned that a Republican takeover of the State Senate would result in catastrophe for women’s reproductive rights.
Incumbent Delegates Charniele Herring (D-46) and Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-45) are both running unopposed, for the new 4th and 5th Districts. Incumbent Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49), the incumbent Democrat for the 3rd District, is up for re-election and is challenged by independent Major Mike Webb, a frequent candidate for office in Arlington County.
Alexandria Republican Committee Chair Annetta Catchings, who is considering a second run at the city’s mayorship next year, spoke to voters outside Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library, and said that the city has a growing base of Republicans.
“Over the last week I’ve talked to a lot of residents, and it only confirms what I know,” Catchings told ALXnow. “The city of Alexandria isn’t as blue as people think.”
Just after 10 a.m., a Democratic voter started shouting at Catchings.
“You are insane,” the woman told Catchings. “Republicans are against me as a woman, they’re against me as a Black person. How are you supporting Trump? You think Trump likes Black people? You think he supports you?”
Catchings invited the woman to coffee after she voted.
The Alexandria Republican Committee has no formal election night watch party organized. The Alexandria Democratic Committee will host an election night watch party at Pork Barrel BBQ (2312 Mount Vernon Avenue) after polls close at 7 p.m.
Thousands turned out in costumes for the 27th annual Del Ray Halloween Parade on Sunday.
This year, the parade was named one of the top 10 Halloween Parades in the country by USA Today.
The Del Ray Business Association parade started at Mount Vernon Avenue and E. Bellefonte Avenue and ended with live music and prizes at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center athletic fields.
“We couldn’t have made such a successful event without more than 100 volunteers,” said parade organizer Gayle Reuter. “We start planning for this months in advance, and it takes so many neighbors and friends to make it a success.”
Del Ray’s next big event is the 48th annual Alexandria Turkey Trot on Nov. 23.
The @AlexCityTitans Zombie Band was out in force for the best Halloween Parade on the planet in Del Ray!
Amazing and creative costumes!
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) October 29, 2023
Another great Del Ray Halloween Parade is in the books! pic.twitter.com/yjlrAkjElq
— Canek Aguirre (@CanekForCouncil) October 29, 2023
Another amazing Del Ray Halloween Parade this afternoon! pic.twitter.com/DIGmAUrnXk
— Alexandria Sheriff (@AlexVASheriff) October 29, 2023
One of #AlexandriaVA favorite traditions, the Annual Del Ray Halloween Parade! I had such a fun time judging the Pet Costume Contest! Over 50 pets entered the contest this year! @visitdelray pic.twitter.com/I7KVGtsH2b
— Alyia Gaskins (@Alyia4ALX) October 29, 2023
Thousands attended Alexandria’s birthday celebration on the waterfront on Saturday.
For a minute it seemed that rain on Saturday would result in a washout, like last year when the event was postponed. But skies cleared and grass dried enough for the event to continue as planned.
The annual event at Oronoco Bay Park (100 Madison Street) is always held the first Saturday after July 4, and this year featured performances by Three Man Soul Machine, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, a declaration from Town Crier Ben Fiore-Walker, a poem from Alexandria’s Poet Laureate Zeina Azzam and brief speeches by city leaders.
City leaders also handed out more than 3,000 cupcakes before the grand finale fireworks display with the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra performing the 1812 Overture accompanied by howitzers from the 3rd US Infantry Regiment.
Happy 274th Birthday to the best City on the planet! pic.twitter.com/hAHScp8GRK
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) July 9, 2023
Happy 274th birthday to Alexandria and 247th birthday to the USA!
(Fireworks footage taken from a previous year). pic.twitter.com/TOlJCQK4nj
— Visit Alexandria VA (@AlexandriaVA) July 9, 2023
— DC Fire and EMS (@dcfireems) July 9, 2023
Fireworks, cannon fire from the Army's Old Guard, free cupcakes served by Alexandria City officials on the Potomac River. #betterThanDC #Alexandria #AlexandriaSymphonyOrchestra #celebration #fireworks pic.twitter.com/GZ5oXDoogI
— Elissa Hackerson (@yankee_girl) July 9, 2023
Fresh off a busy legislative session, Del. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-45) and her husband Stephen welcomed a new constituent to their district last week: their new daughter.
Bennett-Parker announced on social media that their daughter was born on Monday, May 8.
“We’re happily settling in at home and enjoying our time together,” Bennett-Parker wrote. “Thank you all for your warm wishes and support.”
From the team at ALXnow: Congratulations!
I’m excited to share that Stephen and I welcomed our daughter on Monday, May 8! We’re happily settling in at home and enjoying our time together. Thank you all for your warm wishes and support. pic.twitter.com/qMuZtNjPEJ
— Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (@EBPforVA) May 16, 2023
(Updated 4:15 p.m.) Are there too many Alexandria School Board Members? Should their terms be staggered and should districts be eliminated? The Board wants these questions answered by the time voters cast their ballots in November 2024.
Yesterday (Tuesday), the nine-person Board unanimously agreed to establish a process for asking the public these questions. The answers will inform a Board resolution that is expected to go before the Alexandria City Council next year and the Virginia General Assembly in 2024.
For years, the Board has weighed whether to restructure its composition and change the frequency of elections to try and reduce turnover. Last night, members tied Board turnover to a pattern of superintendent resignations and heightened anxiety among school staff.
“The impact that the Board turnover has on staff is extremely significant,” said Board Member Tammy Ignacio, who was an Alexandria City Public Schools administrator before retiring and running for office last year. “When you have a turnover of the board, you have a turnover of some staff and a turnover of leadership. It causes a lot of stress and anxiety on staff, and when that happens it impacts kids.”
For instance, six new members joined just three incumbents on the School Board after the November 2021 election. Board Members said school leadership suffers when more than half the Board is learning the ropes of the school system at one time.
“I can attest to the to the challenges that happen with with the high level of a learning curve that Board Members have to go through, the impact it has on staff, and in both of those cases we also had superintendents resign,” said Board Member Kelly Carmichael Booz, who has served two non-concurrent terms.
There were also five new Board Members elected in the 2018 election, five new Members in the 2015 election and seven new Members in the 2012 election.
There have also been three ACPS superintendents in the last decade, with a fourth set to be hired this spring.
“On average in ACPS, Superintendents resign nine months after a new School Board takes office,” notes an ACPS staff report. “Since 1994, four of the five superintendents left when the School Board turnover was five or more members.”
Since their first election in 1994, the city’s nine School Board members have served three-year terms for (three apiece in Districts A, B and C) with their elections and City Council’s held on the same day.
Last night, the Board reviewed some preliminary alternatives to the current election cycle, suggested by ACPS staff. They include:
- Three-year Board Member term options — The two members of one district would be up for election every year, starting in 2025, followed by the second district in 2026 and the third district in 2027
- Four-year Board Member term options — One district would be up for election every year, starting in 2025, followed by the second district in 2026, the third district in 2027 and the fourth in 2028. There would be no election in 2029, and the rotation would begin in 2030
- Four-year and only at-large positions — There would be five members up for election (selected randomly by the registrar) in 2026, no election in 2027, and the remaining four members up for election in 2028
Del. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-45) says that the concept of staggered terms makes sense, but said the option of having more elections for individual districts could confuse voters.
“If a single district was up for election every year as opposed to one seat, that could potentially lead to voter and candidate confusion, as many individuals don’t necessarily know what districts they reside in,” Bennett-Parker advised the Board.
Bennett-Parker serves in the legislature’s County, Cities and Towns Committee, which would would send forward the amendment to the Virginia Charter for the General Assembly for approval.
Inova Alexandria Hospital celebrated its 150th anniversary on Monday with local elected officials.
The hospital was founded in 1872, in the wake of a typhoid outbreak. It is Virginia’s oldest continuously operating community hospital.
“The city of Alexandria faced a significant health threat,” said Inova Alexandria President Dr. Rina Bansal. “A ship docking in Alexandria’s port had an outbreak of typhoid and everyone in the city fear a wider epidemic was on the way.”
The hospital was founded as the Alexandria Infirmary Association in 1872 by Julia Johns, the daughter of the Episcopal Bishop of Alexandria. Johns called on her charitable friends and formed a board of Lady Managers, who operated the hospital for decades. The first surgery at the hospital was reportedly a leg amputation in 1882, at the first location at the intersection of Duke and Fairfax Streets in Old Town.
The infirmary was also the first nursing school in Virginia. Alexandria Hospital was officially renamed in 1904, and the current 318-bed facility at 4320 Seminary Road has been in use since the 1960s.
“Alexandria residents don’t have to choose between getting world class and health care and getting convenient health care close to home,” said Dr. J. Stephen Jones, president and CEO of the Inova Health System.
The hospital merged with the Inova health system in 1996, and will eventually move to the Landmark area. By 2028, the proposed 675,000 square foot Inova at Landmark project will include a 130,000-square-foot cancer center and 110,000 square-foot specialty outpatient care center.
“You all are not only contributing to the health of our community for the future, but you’re also contributing to the economic health of our community and very much becoming a catalyst for redevelopment at Landmark law and we’re very excited to see that come to fruition,” Mayor Justin Wilson told hospital staff.
Alexandria Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker is running for reelection for Virginia’s 45th District, she announced on Wednesday.
Bennett-Parker will kick off her campaign formally on Jan. 7.
“It’s been an honor to serve the people of Alexandria and I’m going to work hard for them this session and in the future,” Bennett-Parker told ALXnow. “Among other items, I’m working on bills to increase access to mental health services, enhance gun safety, improve voting access for individuals with disabilities, prevent evictions, protect consumers from deceptive practices, address inland flooding, and support working families.”
Bennett-Parker won her seat in November 2021 by defeating Republican Justin “J.D.” Maddox in the general election and incumbent Democrat Mark Levine in the June primary. She began her political career four years ago when she was elected Alexandria’s vice mayorship in her first-ever campaign for office.
Bennett-Parker is now a substitute teacher for Alexandria City Public Schools and is a former co-leader of Together We Bake, a non-profit job training and personal development program for underserved women.
In her announcement, Bennett-Parker listed a number of endorsements, which are listed below.
- Congressman Don Beyer
- State Senator Adam Ebbin
- Delegate Charniele Herring
- Mayor Justin Wilson
- Vice Mayor Amy Jackson
- Councilman Canek Aguirre
- Councilmember Sarah Bagley
- Councilman John Taylor Chapman
- Councilwoman Alyia Gaskins
- Councilman Kirk McPike
- Sheriff Sean Casey
- Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter
- Clerk of Court Greg Parks
- School Board Chair Meagan Alderton
- School Board Vice Chair Jacinta Greene
- School Board Member Ashley Simpson Baird
- School Board Member Kelly Carmichael Booz
- School Board Member Abdel-Rahman Elnoubi
- School Board Member Christopher Harris
- School Board Member Michelle Rief
Old Town just got a little brighter.
On Saturday (Nov. 19), Santa Claus made his way to City Hall on the King Street Trolley to help members of City Council light the holiday tree at Market Square in front of City Hall.
Town Crier Ben Fiore-Walker started things off with a proclamation, followed by speeches by Santa and Mayor Justin Wilson.
There are 40,000 lights on the 40-foot-tall tree at Market Square.
Coming up, the Del Ray holiday tree and Menorah lighting is on Sunday, December 4. Santa is also expected to make an appearance at the annual event.
Photos via Elijah Walter Griffin, Sr./Griffin Vision