Several new elected officials joined fellow lawmakers and constitutional officers at Belmont Country Club in Ashburn last week to meet with constituents and business leaders at the Loudoun Chamber’s annual legislative reception.
Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney-elect Buta Biberaj (D) was joined by Del.-elect Suhas Subramanyan (D) and Del. Ibraheem Samirah (D). All three will start their first full terms in January. Also on hand were the re-elected Sheriff Mike Chapman (R), Leesburg Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (D), Commissioner of Revenue Robert Wertz (R), state Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D), and Dels. David Reid (D) and Kathleen Murphy (D).
The new office-holders offered up some commentary and thoughts during the event.
Following her narrow win over Republican Nicole Wittmann, Biberaj said she's moving quickly to get her office in order and shore up staff.
She said she's spending time reviewing data and in-progress cases and speaking with current commonwealth's attorney's office staff. She said her goal is to strengthen the criminal justice system.
“The first thing that we want to be able to do is to be able to get data as to what we do in that office," Biberaj said. “How we are prosecuting cases, where we are focusing our resources — that's evidence-based practice versus us just doing it anecdotally.”
Biberaj said she is open to joining some county supervisors' efforts to curb instances of stray gunfire hitting adjacent properties. Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors stressed that it values input from the law enforcement and legal community before making any ordinance changes. A public hearing is scheduled for Dec. 11 to review proposals.
Under the weapons and explosives section of the county ordinance, the discharge of a firearm within 100 yards of an occupied building is prohibited unless the owner has been given permission. Discharge is also prohibited within 50 yards of primary and secondary roads.
Biberaj said the county ordinance needs to be reviewed. “... in Loudoun County we are caught between being rural and being much more densely populated. How do we meet the needs of our community? That's what going to take a community conversation," Biberaj said. “But at the end of the day, if you own a firearm or use a firearm, you better use it responsibly. It doesn't matter what the ordinance is, it doesn't matter what the law is – if you're responsible, then it's going to be consequences.”
Whether voters agree or disagree with Del. Samirah’s actions, he has been a conversation starter since stepping into public view. Samirah won a special election in early 2019 to succeed Jennifer Boysko, who moved on from the House of Delegates to the state Senate.
Samirah, who ran uncontested for his first full term, represents the 86th District, which covers parts of eastern Loudoun and western Fairfax counties.
Samirah received national attention earlier this year after protesting and interrupting a speech from President Donald Trump (R) during an event in Jamestown for the 400th Anniversary of the America's First Representative Legislative Assembly.
Samirah said he's standing against hate and that his actions derive from the historical resistance shown by one of his heroes, former boxing champion and civil rights activist Muhammad Ali.
Samirah, who is Muslim, said he believes his actions are going to inspire others.
“I know my road ahead has a lot of obstacles, but I know what the end of the road is, and it’s going to be beautiful,” Samirah said. “It's going to help people in a major way, it's going to uplift them in ways that they never been uplifted … Just like Muhammed Ali was able to do that to me … I want to do that for everybody else. I want to be able to inspire every single person in America in that way, and I want to start it from right here in Fairfax, in Loudoun County, Herndon, Sterling—I want to help everybody I can in the process.”
On Wednesday, Samirah announced six bills in preparation for the January legislative session. The bills focus on discrimination and maternal and mental health.
“The through-line here is lifting the marginalized. In each of these policy areas, low-income people and people of color are affected the most,” Samirah said in a prepared statement. “While my proposals are certainly first steps to larger solutions, I’m confident as a medical professional that they can lead to a healthier Virginia. A healthier Virginia means more folks can go to work, stay in school or care for a child – contributing to a more productive and more prosperous economy for all.”
Lines of supporters – many from the Indian community – smiled and waited patiently to take a photo with Subramanyan after he became the first Indian American to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly. He succeeded state Sen.-elect John Bell (D).
“When I first started running, I never thought of myself as ‘the Indian American candidate,’" Subramanyan said. “I thought of myself as someone with a lot of experience who embraces being an Indian American ... but I learned very quickly that Loudoun has a very vibrant and very strong and close-knit Indian American community and south Asian community ... basically, they see my victory as their victory, and I'm proud of that.”
Subramanyan will represent the 87th District, which covers parts of Loudoun and Prince William counties.
After a nearly 30-point win over Republican Bill Drennan, Subramanyan said it's been a whirlwind preparing for the upcoming session. He has attended an orientation and is preparing legislation to introduce.
Subramanyan said he is supportive of the new majority’s push to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and calls to address gun violence, voter rights and equality.
“I'm going … to make sure that we're not discriminating against people, regardless of where they come from, their race or who they love,” Subramanyan said.
The new 87th District delegate said his top priorities include combating traffic congestion and making sure the schools are meeting or exceeding expectations.