Four Vie for Democratic Nomination for District 35 House Seat

By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 4, 2009

In part because of Northern Virginia's tilt toward the Democratic column this decade, voters in Fairfax County's 35th House District face an abundance of choices to replace Del. Stephen C. Shannon, a Democrat who is running for attorney general.

Four men are vying for the Democratic nomination to succeed Shannon on Tuesday: Roy J. Baldwin and John F. Carroll, both lawyers in private practice; Mark L. Keam, former chief counsel to U.S. Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.); and Esam S. Omeish, chief of surgery at Inova Alexandria Hospital.

The winner will face Republican Jim Hyland, who until last year was chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee. But Democrats say they maintain an edge in the 35th, where voters have chosen a Democrat in every recent statewide election. It's also where Shannon's margin of victory grew in each of his two reelection campaigns and where new housing trends, particularly condominiums and townhouses in Dunn Loring and near the county government center, have brought immigrants and lower-income families, which tend to vote Democratic blue.

"There's been an overall shift," said Scott Surovell, chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. "Independents vote for Democrats more because they see what's going on in Richmond. And Fairfax County is increasingly diverse."

The Democratic field reflects that. Keam, who worked stints at the Federal Communications Commission and Small Business Administration before joining Durbin's staff, was born in South Korea and lived in Vietnam and Australia before moving to the United States. Omeish was born in Libya and graduated from Fairfax County public schools. He completed undergraduate and medical studies at Georgetown University.

Baldwin has touted his experience as a small-business owner. He has been active with the Vienna-Tysons Chamber of Commerce. He has focused on maintaining school quality and improving roads. And although construction has begun on a Metro extension to Dulles International Airport that will run aboveground through Tysons Corner, he says that the line must go underground.

Carroll is a former Fairfax prosecutor who has earned endorsements from the current commonwealth's attorney, Raymond F. Morrogh, and the previous one, Robert F. Horan Jr. On issues, Carroll has highlighted his support for abortion rights and for maintaining quality schools, public safety and roads.

Keam, whose most recent job was as a lobbyist for Verizon, has the most government and political experience. He also had raised the most money, $124,000 as of March 31, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. He has received endorsements from the Virginia chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League and the Sierra Club.

Omeish is a longtime activist in Muslim-American organizations, and he has been criticized for public statements praising Palestinians who follow "the jihad way." Those comments caused him to step down from a statewide panel studying immigration issues a day after Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) appointed him. Omeish has said he never promoted violence and he was simply supporting people under occupation. He does not mention his Muslim activism on his campaign Web site, where he cites health care as his top issue.

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