Two more candidates have filed paperwork to compete for the Democratic nomination to challenge Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) next year.
Alison Kiehl Friedman, an expert in combating human trafficking, and Deep Sran, founder of the Loudoun School for the Gifted, join an already-crowded field.
Democrats think they have a chance to flip the Northern Virginia seat, which has been in Republican hands since 1980, after the area backed Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
Comstock supporters say the congresswoman’s ability to outperform GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump by 16 points to win a second term cemented her dominance in the district.
The district includes Loudoun County and parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties, as well as Clarke and Frederick counties to the west. As the closest thing to a battleground district in the region, it attracts more than its share of activists and donors.
A native of Takoma Park, Md., Friedman, 38, grew up in an activist household. While pregnant with Friedman, her mother founded Voters for Choice with Gloria Steinem and her father worked for a nonprofit organization that helped build assets for the poor.
Friedman earned a bachelor’s degree at Stanford University and worked at People for the American Way before joining the staff of then-Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.). She served as executive director of the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking, and in 2009 went to work for the State Department’s anti-trafficking office.
Friedman said she was inspired to run by her daughter. The girl had written to Trump urging him to love instead of hate in the spirit of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., but feared he would discover her letter and “bring guns to our house,” Friedman said.
“If my daughter is brave enough to write a note like that,” she said, “I do have the ability to do more, and what I’ve always loved doing is working on protecting the world’s most vulnerable.”
She disputed Comstock’s claim that she leads on human trafficking because she supported legislation that President Barack Obama signed. Friedman opposes Trump on a host of issues, including, she said, “his disregard for institutions vital to our democracy” and his “scapegoating of people of color and immigrants.”
Friedman, who is pursuing an MBA through Oxford University, left the State Department in 2015 and moved from the District to McLean in April.
The newest candidate, Deep Sran, 45, grew up in Silver Spring, attended Montgomery County public schools and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a law degree from Georgetown. He worked for firms in Baltimore, Chicago and Washington for three years “but always felt like education was the way to make lasting social change.”
Returning to the University of Maryland, he earned a doctorate in educational psychology and went on to teach and serve as curriculum director at the Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School. He moved to Ashburn, in the district where he is seeking office, in 2004, and still lives there with his wife and two daughters.
Tired of the long commute, he started a small private school, the Loudoun School for the Gifted, about a decade ago as a laboratory for education ideas that could work in public school, he said.
“It’s purely ‘Field of Dreams’ — if you build it they will come,” he said. “I love education. It is in my mind the way to build a better world.”
Sran, whose parents are from India, said that with his background and experience, he can relate to the district’s robust South Asian community.
“I understand why small-business people don’t tend to vote for Democrats,” he said. “On the other hand, my whole life has been about social justice.”
At least seven Democrats, including Friedman and Sran, are running or say they plan to run for the party nomination to challenge Comstock.
State Sen. Jennifer Wexton, a former prosecutor from Loudoun County; Lindsey Davis Stover, who worked in Veterans Affairs during the Obama administration; and Dan Helmer, a Rhodes Scholar and Army veteran, announced their campaigns early, followed by David B. Hanson, a retired Navy intelligence officer from Clifton.
Kimberly Adams, past president of the Fairfax teachers union, said she will begin her campaign next month.
Democratic leaders in the congressional district will decide early next year whether to nominate a candidate through a state-run primary open to all voters or a party-run process.