House Of Delegates Candidates In District 7 Square Off At Reston Forum

RESTON, VA — Four Democrats running to represent Reston in the Virginia House of Delegates squared off Tuesday night during a candidate forum at the Reston Community Center – Lake Anne.

Hosted by the Reston Citizens Association, the forum included the four candidates running in District 7 race and competing in the June 20 Democratic Party Primary: Mary Barthelson, Paul Berry, Shyamali Hauth, and Karen Keys-Gammara. Dennis Hays, RCA’s at-large director, moderated the forum.

After each of the candidates had a chance to discuss their platforms and reasons for running, they fielded questions posed by Hays and then members of the audience. Below are some of the candidates’ responses to the audience’s questions.

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Shyamali Hauth on LGBTQ protections …

“I’m also a mom of four, the youngest is transgender non-binary. I’ve seen firsthand the harmful impact of the Youngkin administration policies and the far-white legislation on our youth. I know that providing protections is not just nice, it’s a matter of life and death. I have and will always be a brick wall of protection for the LGBTQ community and the community has endorsed me. …

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“Right now, Virginia’s not a safe place to be. They’re currently looking at where could they go to live, and we are not one of the states that they are looking at. So, what do I want for Reston? I want a safe community, a welcoming community, one that embraces everyone. People like me, immigrants, and people like my children who have a different sexuality.”

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Mary Barthelson on preventing domestic violence …

“Right now, there are laws which prevent domestic abusers from owning a gun, but there’s no mechanism in place to make sure that those guns are taken away. We almost got it passed this year, when a policy was introduced to resolve that. But we didn’t quite get it passed. We opened up the conversation, but I think next year could be the year that we get it passed. We can protect a lot of women that way.

“Homicide is currently the leading cause of death of women in the workplace. That’s something that we can prevent. In addition, I’d like to support more safe storage laws to protect children from guns that are not stored properly, and also increase waiting periods, and invest in more mental health services to prevent death by suicide.”

Karen Keys-Gammara on abortion access …

“I cannot lower my goal of codifying Roe V. Wade. It has to happen, and we can do that as a state, especially if we win the House and we keep the Senate. That is a big dream, but that to me is the ultimate goal. We also have to continue to make sure that we’re fighting for equal pay and our own ERA.

“I understand the federal government is having these continuous discussions, pontificating, but we don’t have to wait for them. We can do our own constitutional amendment to make sure that women’s rights are codified into our Constitution in the event that we have to be on the defense. Some of the issues that I would have to fight for are addressing the infant mortality rate and the maternal mortality rate, which is ridiculous, depending on who you are, where you live, and how much money you make.”

Paul Berry On education funding …

“The governor keeps talking about a $200 million, sorry, $2 billion surplus. There is not a surplus. We have been underfunding services across the board since the global recession in 2008. Education funding by law should have 863 million more dollars every single year. But, the people who make the decisions down in Richmond cannot allocate that money because of a variety of different political reasons. That surplus needs to go to mental health funding. It needs to go to housing solutions. It needs to go to building schools through the Capital Construction Fund. We should pay our teachers more. This ‘surplus money’ is available and we can use it right now to solve problems. And I think we should start doing that starting in January 2024.”

Early voting for the June 20 Democratic Party primary begins on Friday. Voters must register by May 29 to be eligible to vote in the primary. The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot for the Democratic primary is June 9.

Reston Chamber, Cornerstones Forum On May 17

Voters will have another opportunity to meet and ask questions of candidates running in the District 7 race before the Democratic Party primary.

Cornerstones and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce are hosting a candidates forum on Wednesday, May 17 from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation at 1441 Wiehle Ave. in Reston.

Tracey White, a Cornerstones board member and vice president of government and community relations for HCA Healthcare, will serve as the moderator. Following the forum, attendees can engage directly with the candidates during a dessert reception.


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