Interview With Primary Winner Salim

In the region’s most notable upset, state Senate candidate Saddam Azlan Salim beat 16-year incumbent Chap Petersen in the July 20 primary, taking the 37th District remapped seat by a decisive 64-36 percent. The son of Bangladeshi immigrants and a Democratic Party leader who was class president at Falls Church High School overperformed in greater Falls Church, where the Fairfax-based Petersen, 55, had not run before last year’s redistricting.

Salim, 33, a financial consultant who raised $188,653 by June, finished in the 60 — 70 percentiles in Falls Church City’s three wards and the precincts of Pimmit, Graham-Greenway, Marshall and Timber Lane.

In a Monday interview with the News-Press, Salim discussed his plans for the November contest against Republican former Loudoun County supervisor Ken Reid. (Until January, the seat will remain filled by retiring Dick Saslaw.)

On his conversation with defeated Petersen: “It was a good call. He congratulated me and wished me good luck, and I thanked him. It may be some time before I reach out for his institutional knowledge and projects he’s working on. It’s my first time running, so I don’t know the formalities. At the end of the day, there were a lot of committees he sat on, so I want to look at the unfinished projects. I will pick up the phone to have a relationship and get advice, but I want to give him a month or two.

On winning in November: My opponent is new too. I will campaign the same way, but I haven’t done research yet because my focus was on the primary. It’s a very difficult process to take down an incumbent, let alone campaign.

On the key issues on which Salim, if elected, will concentrate: Preventing gun violence is one of my top priorities, followed by reproductive care and rights. There’s a growing number of shootings across the country in public places in broad daylight. So how do we make sure communities and public spaces are safe? Gov. [Glenn] Younkin may not be thinking about preventing gun violence, so we have to work toward keeping our Senate majority and getting the House back. My priorities now are also going out to [localities] with tight races to see if I can help out. Another elected official or nominee can help, and I can talk to voters so we can get to a place in January where we can pass measures.

On issues that specifically help Falls Church: If we win in November, public safety will definitely be a big issue—traffic lights, sidewalks, bike lanes. There’s a number of new traffic lights compared with sidewalks and new development, so the city’s going to need funding and will benefit from me. We haven’t had congestion throughout the city, but usually on Route 7, so we’ll look at how transportation funding plays out with new homes and apartments. It increases the number of people and families, so we’ll look at the safety component. Given my background in budget and appropriations, I can weigh in for funding.

On working with Gov. Youngkin: I met him only when he spoke at events, so there’s no relationship. But I think I can work with him. I’ll ask, what’s better for the Commonwealth and my constituents who need help? The governor will be forced to work with us to get things he wants, so there will be dealmaking, and bipartisanship is better for the Commonwealth.

On consulting with veteran colleagues: I have spoken to Saslaw and soon-to-be colleagues. They’re very welcoming. They understand it was a tough primary, and some may have been my side or the other side. I appreciated that. Prior to announcing, some said don’t think they’re all friends just because they talk to you. It’s a tough process. Almost all offered advice, navigation, phone numbers. I spoke to [Sens.] Scott Surovell and Jennifer Boysko, and [Del.] Marcus Simon, pretty much all the Democrats. There’s a lot of coalition building with folks who’ve been there for years.

On cultural barriers to his immigrant identity and name: During this campaign it was only an issue for people not even in my constituents’ area, which surprised me. No one asked. Our area is so diverse, whether you’re here from South Asian countries or Europe. I have [neighbors] from South America and South Africa. I don’t think anyone in this area cares. Because of diversity, people don’t feel worried about someone’s name. It reflects on how well voters in this area are informed, educated and aware of cultural sensitivities.

On complaints that Chap Petersen spoke at the Memorial Day gathering: Some of my supporters expressed concern, but I didn’t weigh in. I kept campaigning. I was there when he spoke and it wasn’t political. We forget we’re all human.