Voters in Virginia’s 86th House District will now have three candidates to choose from when they go to the polls on Feb. 19.
Former Herndon Town Councilmember Connie Hutchinson announced on Jan. 25 that she will seek the delegate seat vacated by State Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-33rd), serving as an independent candidate after the Republican and Democratic parties also selected their nominees last month.
“As a member of the town council for many, many years here in Herndon, we worked very closely with the state legislature on a number of issues,” Hutchinson said. “I think it’s important at this point that we have a lot of open-mindedness, people that are willing to think independently to come up with solutions at the state level.”
Since she was first elected in 1992, Hutchinson has served seven terms on the Herndon Town Council over the past 20 years, including stints as vice mayor from 2008 to 2010 and again from 2012 to 2014.
Hutchinson unsuccessfully campaigned for town council again in 2016. Her margin of defeat was narrow enough that preliminary election night results suggested she would edge out eventual winner Signe Friedrichs for the sixth council seat, but it was not to be.
Representing a town of 24,393 people may be different from speaking for a district with a population of 80,747, but Hutchinson believes her experience in local government gives her a strong grasp on the responsibilities and subjects that elected officials tackle at the state level.
As a town council member, Hutchinson and her colleagues sometimes advocated for state legislation, including a bill prohibiting people from soliciting for work on sidewalks and another that stiffened penalties for driving without a license.
While she acknowledges that she faces an uphill battle running for the General Assembly as an independent, Hutchinson is used to campaigning without the affiliation of a major political party.
The Herndon Town Charter does not allow candidates for elected office to be identified by party on voting ballots, though candidates can accept endorsements.
Hutchinson says her time on the Herndon Town Council helped her appreciate the importance of working on compromises and embracing differing points of view.
“I think there’s a lot of unhappiness right now within the public for politicians in general,” Hutchinson said. “…It’s very difficult to come up with solutions when both sides are very stubborn, so I think having somebody that’s willing to listen, be open and honest, and discuss different ideas is really important.”
A Herndon resident with four children and seven grandchildren, Hutchinson now works as a general manager for the marketing and public relations firm The Borenstein Group.
Before joining Herndon’s town council, Hutchinson served on the town’s architectural review and heritage preservation review boards.
She has also been involved with the Virginia Municipal League and served as executive director and president of the Herndon Dulles Visitor’s Center board of directors from 2001 to 2010
As a former president and board director for the Dulles Area Transportation Association, Hutchinson cites transportation infrastructure as a particular concern, arguing that congestion and traffic should factor more into state decisions for distributing funds for repairs and maintenance.
“I also think it’s time to raise the minimum wage, but I think that much would be too hard on the economy, especially on small businesses,” Hutchinson said. “I can support a raise to maybe $8.00…but I think the present proposal is too much of a jump at one time.”
Hutchinson says she was also relieved when a bill introduced by Del. Kathy Tran to eliminate abortion restrictions got tabled on Jan. 28.
“I think it’s important to keep abortion safe and legal, but also it should be a very rare occurrence,” Hutchinson said. “It should not be something just based on a decision that I’m not ready for this. It should not be used as a form of birth control.”
Boysko vacated the 86th House District seat after she was elected to the State Senate on Jan. 8.
Democrats nominated Dr. Ibraheem Samirah, a community dentist, in a primary caucus on Jan 12. Republicans followed suit by choosing U.S. Air Force veteran Gregg Nelson as their nominee during a mass meeting held on Jan. 19.
“I just want to encourage people to get out and vote,” Hutchinson said. “Special elections are hard, especially with the kind of weather we’ve been having, but I think it’s important for everybody to participate in the democratic process of voting.”