Delegate Mark Keam - Virginia's 35th House District

Keam Kicks Off Re-Election Campaign

Vienna Patch

Keam Kicks Off Re-Election Campaign

35th District Delegate gains Tysons, eyes transportation and education in 2011 election -by EricaR.Hendry

Photo by EricaR.Hendry

May 01, 2011

The last time Del. Mark Keam (D-35th) ran for the Virginia House of Delegates, there weren't many voters in Vienna or Oakton that knew his name.

"I was somebody that most people hadn't heard of," he told supporters gathered at his re-election campaign kick-off celebration on Saturday. "I had nothing more to show than my resume for my experience. All I had was passion."

Two years later, the Virginia General Assembly's first Korean-American and first Asian-born immigrant is preparing to run again. And while the district he won by just 356 votes in 2009 looks different today -- thanks to the redistricting plan signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell on Friday — Keam intends to keep his focus the same: creating jobs, strengthening education, improving transportation and "making sure the next generation has the same, if not better, opportunities than we do."

"He embodied [the idea that] politics is a service, it's part of the service industry — and whether you're making a cocktail or proposing a bill, the rule is the same: you listen to the customer," said State Sen. Chap Petersen, who shares many constituents with Keam. "Whether those constituents are Democratic or Republican, you represent them all. You listen to them all. And he does that."

Keam welcomed supporters to a kick-off party at the newly-opened Harmonia School of Music and Art on Mill Street in Vienna, a business that moved from Oakton last month. Members of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee and several elected officials attended the event to show their support, including Vienna Mayor Jane Seeman; Linda Byrne, representing Providence Supervisor Linda Smyth; School Board candidates Pat Hynes (Hunter Mill) and Greg Brandon and Ted Velkoff (both at-large); Vienna Town Council member Howard Springsteen and Fairfax County Board of Supevisors Chair Sharon Bulova, who said she was first inspired to support Keam in his 2009 run because of his energy.

"If you look in the dictionary for the word energy, you'd see a picture of these two guys standing next to each other," Bulova said gesturing to Keam, on her left, and Petersen, on her right. "that's the way they operate."

So far, no other candidates have stepped forward to challenge Keam.

Keam drew No. 100 in his first term in office, an "unlucky move" that left him the most junior member in the House. He said most people wished him luck and warned he wouldn't get anything done.

While he did struggle in certain areas — particularly in the house budget committee, on which he was the only Democrat and "couldn't get a motion seconded" — he succeeded in others. One of his largest victories was the House Joint Resolution 64, co-sponsored with Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-67th District), which will make delegates' voting records more accessible on the General Assembly's website next year. Prior to the resolution, constituents could only track the activity of their officials if they knew item or bill numbers. With it, they can search for issues by the delegate's name.

He also worked on a number of bills that addressed veterans issues during this year's session. HB 2279, unanimously passed by both chambers, will require the Virginia Commissioner of Health to "consider relevant military training, experience, and education in evaluating an applicant for certification as a civilian Emergency Medical Technician," which will make it easier for many veterans to secure jobs.

Keam worked to get extra funding for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology — the only school in Virginia that received extra funding this year, he said.

Thirty-three percent of the bills he introduced into session were passed.

The state's new redistricting plan, which the Governor signed into law on Friday, actually worked in Keam's favor, he said. He picked up some democratic precincts, and many of the precincts he lost were Republican. He now represents most of Tysons — including the Tysons and Magarity precincts — along with the Thoreau and Stenwood areas and a number of precincts along Route 66, including Fair Oaks.

He loses the Wolf Trap, Westbriar, Flint Hill and Vale precincts, among others.

While Keam now sits in a slightly smaller district — he lost 35,00 constituents and gained 29,000, he said -- he has nearly 30,000 new voters to meet who aren't familiar with his name or his issues.

Keam said with the addition of Tysons to his district, he'll have a larger focus on transportation. He'll continue to work on jobs and veterans issues, and will also explore higher education.

"We've been talking about, do we have enough spots for our in-state students," he said. "How can we help them? How can we get more funding to create opportunities?"

Many of the constituents he keeps are drawn to his honesty and commitment to the community. One of them is Cindy Stewart, a member of the Vienna Women's Club, Keam will be the keynote speaker at their scholarship ceremony for local students this year.

"I admire how connected he is to the community," she said. "And I admire his willingness to work on a bipartisan basis with the governor and other members of the opposite party — he's gotten some criticism for that, but I admire his courage in reaching out to get things done."

Toora Arsala, a Northern Virginia Community College student, recently joined Keam at the college's Annandale Campus in April, when President Obama held a town-hall style chat. He said he's impressed with how much of the community Keam seems to reach.

"He really cares about his constituents and reaches out to listen to every one of them," he said. "I haven't seen many delegates like that."

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