Nothing slow about winter

It’s a sign of strength for the Franconia Dems when 50 people turn out for a monthly meeting with no guest speakers, no VIPs with an insider’s take on the latest political drama — just a bread-and-butter agenda related to fundraising and budgeting.

The lively conversation on January 12 came on the heels of Virginia Beach Democrat Aaron Rouse’s huge win in a special election two days earlier, flipping a Republican state Senate seat thanks largely to voters permanently registered to cast absentee ballots. Read about that and more below.

“January tends to be thought of as a slow month in politics. It’s anything but,” Franconia Dems Chair Kathy Rhem said. “The enthusiasm we’re seeing so early in the year among our members and Democrats at large gives me a lot of hope.”

It’s worth noting that an off-off-off-year election like the one we’ll have this November is always the most challenging cycle for our volunteers. It’s harder to GOTV in these years, but so much is at stake.

In Fairfax County, voters will elect:

  • Virginia General Assembly: All State Senate and House of Delegates seats
  • Board of Supervisors: District Members and Chairman
  • School Board: District Members and 3 At-Large Members
  • Constitutional Officers: Sheriff, Clerk of Court and Commonwealth’s Attorney
  • Northern Virginia Soil & Water Conservation District Board: 3 Directors

If needed, primary elections will take place on June 20; the general election is on November 7.

So, what can we do?

Based on the January discussion, Treasurer Hugh Robertson and Rhem are preparing a line-item budget to present at the next meeting, February 9. For now, all regular monthly meetings are being held online via Zoom. To attend, register here.

January participants made one thing clear: Franconia Dems love getting together for events that put the “fun” in fundraising. But for years, the same core group of volunteers has done the lion’s share of work for what’s been Opening Day in the spring and the Luau in the summer — folks who are already spread thin with other committee duties on top of day jobs and families.

Our goal, as members affirmed in a voice vote, is to continue with a minimum of one in-person fundraiser a year. What type of event and when are open questions. But, as the motion stated, we won’t move forward with any plans unless and until we recruit a new fundraising chair or a team of volunteers to share the responsibilities 

We are grateful beyond words for the time, energy, and heart that retired fundraising chair Carol Marek brought to the job. That includes her grand slam with last year’s Opening Day, which raised more money than any past event.

Can you help plan events and raise money for our committee?

We’re issuing an urgent call to fill Carol’s big shoes. It’s an especially important role in our committee because Rhem — for all the endless hours and inspiration she brings to our committee — is a federal employee and can’t be involved in the fundraising end of our activism.

If you’re willing to serve on — or lead — our new fundraising committee, please let us know ASAP. It’s actually fun to plan and execute our events — and our longtime volunteers are always around to help! Drop an email to

Virginia’s permanent absentee voter list helps Dems win big

Newly minted state Sen. Aaron Rouse’s victory in the January 9 special election in Virginia Beach is a case study in the power of Virginia’s new permanent absentee voter list, one of the reforms passed by Democrats in 2020 to expand access to voting.

The election came together at lightning speed to fill the Virginia Beach SD-07 seat after its GOP incumbent was elected to the U.S. House in November. 

District voters had little time to apply for absentee ballots, and, atypically, Republicans turned out more heavily than Democrats for early in-person voting. But, as reported by Blue Virginia, the majority of early votes were mail ballots cast from the permanent absentee list. By mail, Rouse won by a nearly 3-1 margin.

A former NFL player and recent Virginia Beach City Council member, Rouse took a fierce stand for abortion rights when the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year. His far-right opponent, Kevin Adams, ran on a platform that included further restricting women’s access to reproductive health care. In the early days of the current legislative session, the Democratic Senate has proved to be a blue brick wall against the plans of the governor and the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.

To learn more and register to join the permanent absentee ballot list, go to the Fairfax County elections site

Franconia Dems
February meeting

Thursday, February 9 | 7 pm on Zoom | Sign up here.


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The best thing you can do to avoid serious illness this winter: Schedule a bivalent COVID booster at — and get a flu shot while you’re at it.