The mother and child bond is on the ballot for Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (At-large) and her son, state Del. David Bulova (D-Dist. 37). While there are plenty of examples of politics continuing down the male line, from father to son — think presidents John and John Quincy Adams, George Bush and sons George W. and Jeb Bush, Chicago’s Daley dynasty family, and Ron and Rand Paul — less common are the mother to child chain.
“I’m not shy about saying that [my mother] was a huge influence on my decision to run for office,” said Del. Bulova, 43, who is seeking re-election this November. “She was a great mentor.”
Growing up, Del. Bulova would banter politics with his mother and father during meals.
“Around the dinner table, we would always talk about different political events,” Chairwoman Bulova, 65, said. While Del. Bulova’s father was right-leaning politically, Sharon Bulova said her son and she are Democrats.
“When David was a little kid, his favorite pastime was to draw worlds, land masses and create languages,” she said. “I always wondered what David would do [when he grew up] and, lo and behold, he chose public office.”
Sharon Bulova’s first run for office was vice president of the Kings Park West Civic Association, a neighborhood organization representing residents in the Kings Park West subdivision. David said he remembered his mother saying she wanted to help the association out, but not be in charge or have to give speeches. Shortly after taking the vice presidency, however, the president of the civic association was deployed on military assignment, pushing Bulova up into the presidency.
“The thing about my mom is she was really big into the personal contact [with neighbors]… Some people really shy away from the personal, backyard issues that tend to be emotional. But she really likes that,” Del. Bulova said. “I love the fact that that’s how she got into political office.”
Running for office during the 1980s and 1990s was a family affair for the Bulovas, a tradition Chairwoman Bulova said is maintained in Del. Bulova’s campaigns.
“He was a senior in high school when I first ran,” she said. “And he helped me a little bit with a very modest grass roots campaign and with signs.”
In 1987, Sharon Bulova ran for supervisor of what was then the Annandale District, now the Braddock District.
“She didn’t have a lot of money [to run],” David Bulova said. “I remember she sat down with [fellow Democrat and state Sen.] Dick Saslaw and when he told her how much it was going to cost to run for office she nearly cried.”
Fifteen years later, Del. Bulova would run for his first publicly elected office — the Virginia’s Soil and Water Conservation Board’s Northern Virginia District seat.
“She always knew I was interested in running for office,” David Bulova said. “She had a lot of great advice, but I learned a lot watching her… Sometimes it’s hard to have the mom hat and the political hat. Every once in a while we disagree on something and it makes for an interesting discussion.”
Fairfax County’s elected leaders often lobby General Assembly members on issues as diverse as local transportation funding to global climate change. Because of their shared political views, Chairwoman Bulova said she and her son rarely bump heads over what’s happening down in Richmond. However, it happens, and Supervisor-mom calls.
While Chairwoman Bulova said she has lobbied her delegate son, Del. Bulova described them more as “policy chats with mom.”
“Last year during the General Assembly session, I was very proud of David and his role on the transportation bill,” Sharon Bulova said of a bill which provides new local taxing authority for regional and local projects.
She said when her son decided to run for office she was proud and supportive.
“David is a very independent person. He didn’t need a whole lot of help from his mom,” she said. “If you asked David in college what he wanted to be, he’d say secretary of state and then he modified his goal to be governor.”
Del. Bulova’s daughter, Josette, a teenager, may also follow in her grandmother’s and father’s footsteps.
“My daughter Josette is really interested in politics and she came down [to Richmond] and served in the Senate page program,” Del. Bulova said, adding that he enjoyed seeing the family’s shared interest bloom into a third generation.
Mother’s Day marks an opportunity for the Bulovas to embrace their bond and shared interests.
“I love Mother’s Day because it’s a chance to really just hang out with someone who loves you unconditionally,” Del. Bulova said. “That’s one thing I remember from growing up. I always felt loved.
“The simple ‘I love you Mom’ is what Mother’s Day is all about.”