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Del. Mark Keam (D) is facing a challenge from a first-time candidate and Vienna native in his bid for re-election to the House of Delegates 35th District seat.

The 35th District includes portions Vienna, Dunn Loring, Tysons Corner, Oakton, Fair Oaks and McLean.

Challenger Leiann Leppin Luse, a Republican who works as an analyst and project manager, said one of her main reasons for running is that she didn’t want to see Keam running unopposed.

“I’m having a great time listening to people,” she said. “Everyone has been really supportive and people seem happy to see a new face.”

Luse serves on the Fairfax County Consumer Protection Commission.

Keam, an attorney from Vienna, said prides himself on his listening skills and accessibility to his constituents during his first two terms in the General Assembly.

“I’ve tried my best to be the most transparent delegate,” Keam said. “I make it a point to be as open and accessible as possible.”

Supporting job growth is a top priority for both candidates, although they have differing areas of focus.

Keam’s priority is creating a long-term vision to reduce Northern Virginia and the state’s dependence on federal spending. While sequestration has not been as bad as predicted, he said, there could be more challenges to come.

“We really have to think about how we have alternate economic opportunities that are not as dependent on the federal government and contracting,” he said.

Luse said she would focus on lowering taxes and reducing regulations on small businesses in hopes of spurring private sector hiring activity.

“I’m going to be talking with [business owners] through the whole summer to get more specifics about what it is they need help with,” Luse said.

Improving the quality of the state’s educational systems are also important to both candidates.

Keam, who is a member of the House Education Committee, said he is looking forward to having conversations about ensuring Virginia’s K-12 curriculum keeps pace with the rest of the country and reducing the workload for teachers.

“We’ve just thrown a lot of burdens on teachers and the classroom,” he said.

Luse’s top educational priority is expanding access to higher education by opening up more seats to Virginia residents at the state’s colleges and universities.

The two candidates differ on the transportation funding bill that was passed in this year’s General Assembly session.

Luse said she might have voted against it.

“We do need support for traffic in this area, but I don’t want to increase taxes in order to do that,” she said.

Keam supported the bipartisan compromise bill and said he intends to keep monitoring it to ensure that it’s working as planned.

One piece of the package that he would like to see go is the new registration fee on hybrid cars and alternative fuel vehicles.

“It makes no policy sense,” he said, saying he and other delegates will work to repeal the fee during next year’s session.

One area of special focus for Luse is the issue of human trafficking. She hopes to use her platform to raise awareness about the issue.

“We can be more vigilant about what is going on in our communities and look out for one another,” Luse said.

The election for House of Delegates and statewide candidates is Nov. 5.

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com