Georgetown University Law Center Professor Alicia Plerhoples was endorsed by grassroots advocacy group VA Democracy Forward in her bid for chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the highest governing body of Fairfax, Va., on March 2.
VA Democracy Forward, a group that promotes progressive candidates, joins Jennifer Carroll Foy, a delegate in the Virginia House of delegates, in supporting Plerhoples’ campaign. Foy is headlining a March 30 campaign fundraiser for Plerhoples.
Plerhoples had previously announced her candidacy for Fairfax County’s School Board, but suspended her campaign Feb. 15 to run for chairman of the county board instead, a switch motivated by a desire for her ideas to have a wider platform.
“I had previously been running for school board but realized that my skill sets around community economic development are much more better suited for chairman, and that I can make a bigger and larger and more meaningful impact as chairman,” Plerhoples said in an interview with The Hoya.
Plerhoples, a woman of color, began her campaign in the face of the impending retirement of Catherine Hudgins, the only person of color on Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors. She launched her campaign because of the lack of candidates discussing the issues that matter in her eyes to the county.
“I also looked at the field of the candidates that were in the race and, as a resident of Fairfax County, I didn’t see anyone that I would vote for or anyone that was talking about the issues that I really care about, which includes the affordability of the county,” Plerhoples said.
Fairfax County must help its disadvantaged communities that face important hurdles in economic security, according to Plerhoples.
“I am running for Chairman because I want to close the gap,” Plerhoples wrote in a Facebook post announcing her candidacy. “Because there are two Fairfax Counties, divided by economic security and opportunity. ”
Plerhoples’ time at Georgetown Law has given her the motivation and experience to run for office.
“Certainly my time teaching at Georgetown has encouraged me to run for this position, and I think it’s really because some of the work that I do at the law school is directly transferable to the skillset for chairman,” Plerhoples said.
Plerhoples is the director of the Social Enterprise and Nonprofit Law Clinic at Georgetown, which supports the economic growth of small businesses, social enterprises and nonprofit organizations in the Washington, D.C., area through providing free legal assistance.
While at Georgetown Law, Plerhoples has chaired the Diversity Committee and co-taught “Campaigning for Public Office,” a class that simulates running for public office, with Zakiya Thomas, who now serves as her campaign manager. Plerhoples said she started the course with Thomas because of an uptick in interest among students in entering public office and government service.
To focus on her campaign, Plerhoples will be on sabbatical through the Democratic primary on June 11.
Fairfax County is one of the prosperous counties among its peers, with an average median household income of about $117,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, Plerhoples describes two distinct realities of the County: one that is affluent and enjoys strong economic development, and one that does not enjoy Fairfax’s overall economic prosperity.
“We are one of the wealthiest counties in the country, but that masks some of the realities on the ground of our county,” Plerhoples said.
The mean income of the top 20 percent of earners in Fairfax county is over 11 times higher than the bottom 20 percent of earners, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve data.
Despite the county’s prosperity, certain districts have poverty rates that reach as high as 14 percent house thousands of students who receive free or reduced price school lunch. The county needs to do more to help these communities, according to Plerhoples.
Plerhoples said she hopes to continue this work as chairman through focusing on affordable housing, early childhood education and growth that addresses the threat of climate change.
“Under my leadership, Fairfax County can become the leader in the region for stemming the effects of income inequality — by investing in affordable and workforce housing, universal preschool, and economic growth that addresses the existential threat of climate change,” Plerhoples wrote on her campaign website.
This article was updated March 22 to correct Foy’s involvement in Plerhoples’ campaign.