Supervisor Chair candidates agree on policies, debate on leadership

By Brad Swanson:

The four Democratic Party candidates for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chair met on Friday, May 24, to debate the issues and found themselves largely agreeing on the need for affordable housing, universal pre-kindergarten, school trailer elimination, and mass transit expansion.  The candidates differed less on the goals and more on who could accomplish them best.

Jeff McKay underlined his Fairfax County elective experience as a “battle-tested” Lee District supervisor for 12 years.  He said the county “needs a chairman who understands how to get things done” from the inside.

Ryan McElveen, like McKay, is a veteran of elective politics in Fairfax County, as an at-large school board member since 2012. But McElveen cast himself as a progressive and visionary with his gaze fixed on the future.  He said he was proud that The Washington Post, in withholding its endorsement, termed him “a school board member who has antagonized supervisors.”   (The Post favored McKay)

Tim Chapman, a real estate developer and a newcomer to county politics, played the role of outsider who would reform the “ponderous decision-making” of county government.  “I have spent my life building things and solving problems,” he asserted.

Alicia Plerhoples,  a Georgetown University law professor, also is an outsider, whose commitment to ease economic disparities was formed from her own experience of hardship growing up.  Although Fairfax County is affluent, “I see the economic prosperity leaving people behind,” she said.

While largely agreeing on county needs, each candidate tried to set a unique tone.

For McElveen, “Universal pre-K is my top priority… Once we tackle universal pre-K we need to deal with universal child care.” He also set a goal of 100% renewable energy use in Fairfax County by 2050.

“Affordable housing is personal for me, ” said Plerhoples, adding that the county needs 15,000 units over the next decade. She also noted that “one in four children in Fairfax County is food insecure.”

Chapman also stressed affordable housing, setting a target of 10% of all housing in that category by 2035. In education, Chapman vowed to raise teacher salaries by $10,000 over several years.

McKay touched on the same points as the others but also evoked a high level viewpoint. “Every decision county government makes needs to be intentionally reviewed through a social and racial equity lens,” he said.

The forum’s only heated moments came when moderator Julie Carey, a News4  television reporter, brought up allegations by Chapman that McKay had paid a discounted price for his house in exchange for voting to give the developer a zoning change.

McKay said, “the allegations are totally false” and had “zero credibility.” “To try to smear me because you’re not winning this campaign is a Trump maneuver.”   Chapman insisted, “the allegations are real and accurate.”

The other two candidates did not take sides in the battle but emphasized their own integrity. “I don’t take political contributions,” said Plerhoples. “Developers are not coming to me with funding because they know where I stand,” said McElveen.

The candidates will face off in a primary on June 11.

The forum, held at Valo Park Auditorium in Tysons, was sponsored by the Democratic Business Council of Northern Virginia, the Fairfax County Democratic Committee and  the Northern Virginia Labor Federation.

Brad Swanson is the editor of The Blue View. He can be contacted at

Photo: L-R, Supervisor Board chair candidates McKay, Plerhoples, Chapman and McElveen faced off in Tysons on May 24