Virginia State Delegate Jim Scott’s long and storied career representing Northern Virginia, including the City of Falls Church, as a champion of human rights and affordable housing will end this year as he announced last Sunday he will not seek election to a 12th term this November.
The news moved swiftly through regional political circles of both Democrats and Republicans, and by Monday afternoon, there was plenty of buzz about who might throw their hat into the ring to fill the seat.
For the City of Falls Church, it marks the first state legislative open seat to surface in over 20 years. It was in November 1992 that Rep. Leslie Byrne became the first woman from Virginia ever elected to Congress, opening her 38th District state assembly seat. It was filled by Del. Bob Hull at a “firehouse primary” with a very low turnout.
Under 2001 redistricting, Hull ceased to represent Falls Church as Scott’s 53rd District was reshaped to include the City. Upon his decision not to run again, Scott had the right to choose the means for finding a replacement, and he chose a full primary, which will be held June 11, coincidentally on his birthday.
But while opting for a wide-open primary, Scott has also made it clear from the get-go who he will be backing to replace him. That would be Marcus Simon, who was Scott’s aide in his first run for the Virginia general assembly in 1991, in the infamous race that Scott wound up winning by a single vote (earning him the affectionate nickname of “Landslide Scott”). Simon has also worked as an aide to former Fairfax County Board Chair Kate Hanley, who in her earlier days had a stint as a teacher at George Mason High.
Del. Scott brought Simon to introduce him at a meeting of Falls Church movers and shakers this Monday.
But Scott told the News-Press Tuesday that he has picked up on a lot of buzz about at least three others who may also want to run. Among those who’ve ruled it out is former State Del. Hull, who served for 17 years before being upset in a primary in 2008. Hull called Scott on Monday to congratulate him on his marvelous career.
Scott told the News-Press that he plans to kick off his imminent retirement with his wife, Nancy, on a nine-day safari tour of South Africa the middle of this month. He said he’d been considering the decision to end his legislative career for some time, but did not finally make up his mind until the end of the regular legislative session last week.
He will return to Richmond to partake of the one day “reconvened” or “veto” session on April 3, and will continue to serve at monthly meetings of the House Appropriations Committee until his term officially ends at the end of the year.
The June 11 primary will include a contest for the Democratic nominee as lieutenant governor, as Aneesh Chopra and Ralph Northam have announced, and there could be other challengers, as well. Republicans will not have a spring primary, but will chose their candidates at a May 17-18 convention.
Getting on the primary ballot to compete for Scott’s seat is surprisingly easy. Between March 11 and March 28, a prospective candidate must gather 125 signatures of registered voters in the 53rd District and file them by 5 p.m. March 28 along with a check for $352.80. Party officials will certify the candidates qualified for the ballot on April 2.
In a statement issued by his office on Sunday, Scott said, “I feel privileged to have spent the last twenty two years as a member of the oldest continuously meeting legislative body in the new world, however, I’ve come to the decision that it is time to make room for new ideas and new voices.”
He added, “I am very proud of the things I’ve been able to accomplish in nearly 40 years of public service, particularly in the areas of housing, conflict resolution, and technology.”
The release noted the following highlights of Scott’s political career:
• Early in his career in the House of Delegates, he introduced legislation to allow localities in Virginia to implement affordable dwelling unit ordinances to increase the availability of low cost and workforce housing throughout Virginia,.
• He was a champion in Richmond for the George Mason University School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, which will break ground on its long awaited Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution in the Mason Neck area of Fairfax County later this year,
• He introduced the legislation that created the office of Secretary of Technology in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and together with U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly and U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, worked on legislation at the state level to facilitate the increased use of telework in Northern Virginia.
• Earlier, during his 20 year career (1971-1991) as a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, he authored Fairfax County’s human rights ordinance. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Office for Children and the implementation of the School Age Child Care program (SACC).
Scott was first elected to public office in 1971 when he won election to the Fairfax County Supervisors from the Providence District. He was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1991, defeating his Republican opponent by the storied single vote.