A solid winner Tuesday among three candidates vying to fill the Falls Church City Council seat vacated by the death of Dan Sze last summer, long-time F.C. resident Debbie Hiscott is slated to be sworn in this Monday to join six others as full voting members of the Council.
Her victory Tuesday secured for her the final year of Sze’s unfinished term, and she has said that she will run again next fall for a full four-year term. Among her two opponents this week, Joshua Sharif Shokoor and Simone Pass Tucker, Shokoor has gone on record saying he will also run again next fall when three four-year term seats will be on the ballot.
But for the time being, Hiscott will assume an important role in Council decision making almost immediately, including for the highly lucrative Broad and Washington large scale mixed use project that will be anchored by a mega-Whole Foods store, when final votes of approval will be sought in January following a preliminary unanimous 5-0 vote last month.
She will be on board for the entire Fiscal Year 2022 City operating budget deliberations that will commence later this month and will be particularly challenging due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on City revenue expectations.
In a post-election statement (published elsewhere in this edition), Hiscott, who has served for eight years as the Executive Director of the Falls Church Education Foundation, said her priorities on the Council will include “ensuring that we keep our schools and businesses strong.”
She thanked her opponents Shokoor and Pass Tucker for challenging her in the campaign in commentary seen on page 7 of this issue. “A contested election is good for our community and our democracy,” she wrote. “At a time when our country has never been more divided, I am confident that our community will continue to come together. I look forward to working with Josh and Simone to address our shared priorities.”
These comments echoed what Hiscott told the News-Press at her victory party outside the State Theater Tuesday night. At its peak over 70 persons attended the event that included a large TV screen televising the most tense moments of the national presidential election.
There, she discussed her win, which was not reported out from the F.C. Voter Registrar’s office for over an hour after the City’s three polling locations closed. The delay was due to the need to process all of the ballots submitted by early in person voting and those mailed in, which were numbers extraordinarily higher than in last elections.
There at the event was Falls Church Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly, among the first to endorse Hiscott in the special election. She expressed optimism to the News-Press that the new Council will work in a constructive and collaborative fashion. Council member Phil Duncan was also present at the event.
F.C.’s Treasurer Jody Acosta and Commissioner of the Revenue Tom Clinton were also at the event.
The tensions associated with the presidential election on the ballot Tuesday added considerable gravitas to the local special election, underscoring the importance of democratic values.
The overall turnout in the Falls Church election was a whopping 82.45 percent among active voters. On the presidential election side, the City went for electors for Joe Biden by an overwhelming 75-25 percent margin, 7,077 for Biden to 1,472 for Trump (plus 111 votes for the Liberatrian candidate Jo Jorgensen and 67 write-ins). That 81.09 percent total for Biden was the highest among three jurisdictions in the 8th District that came in over 80 percent for Biden (the other two were Arlington at 80.73 and Alexandria at 80.40).
Also winning handily in the City were Virginia’s U.S. Senator Mark Warner, being elected to a third six-year term with a vote margin over Republican Dan Gade of 6,946 to 1,728, and U.S. Representative from the 8th District Donald S. Beyer Jr., who scored a 6,931 to 1,684 margin over Jeff Jordan.
Hiscott piled up 4,177 votes in winning the open City Council seat special election to 2,402 for Shokoor and 1,019 for Pass-Tucker. Hiscott carried the pre-election day vote by 2,655 to 1,997 for Shokoor and 878 for Pass Tucker and two of the City’s three voting precincts on Election Day.
Shokoor actually topped Hiscott in the Third Ward vote by 152 to 121 and 42 for Pass Tucker.
That polling location, the Community Center, saw both Hiscott and Shokoor doing last minute campaigning virtually all day. About 5:30 p.m. Rep. Beyer showed up to thank everyone who voted for him, and although not on the ballot in this election, State Sen. Dick Saslaw also made an appearance there.
Saslaw stressed the affordable housing initiative he’s taken to get the City of Falls Church access to $2 million earmarked for that. It was originally in the state budget for this year, but had to be pulled out when the pandemic began wreaking havoc with revenues, but it back in as part of a bigger pool that Falls Church and other jurisdictions can apply for.
All three Falls Church Council candidates put affordable housing high on their agendas for action, with Shokhoor taking the lead as a member of the Housing Commission and long-time advocate of the cause.
Hiscott said in her post-election statement that, “For starters, I will push to stem the affordable housing crisis in the City central to our work ahead.”
She said she will work “to balance new development with the interests of all our residents,” adding, “There is still quite a bit we can do to ensure Falls Church City is a place everyone is proud to call home,” and “setting priorities with an eye toward ensuring “equal opportunity for housing, education, health care and employment.”
Pass Tucker gained some wider notoriety for being the first non-binary person to seek public office in Virginia and drew support from a wider circle outside the City, including three state delegates and the Sunrise Movement chapters in Fairfax, McLean and Williamsburg.