House Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, issued a Writ of Election today, calling a special election to fill the House seat vacated by former Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, who resigned his seat to join the Biden administration.
“Earlier today, per my duties under the Constitution of Virginia, I issued a Writ of Election for the 35th House District, the seat vacated by our former colleague Del. Mark Keam,” said Gilbert. “The Special Election will be held on January 10, 2023.”
“This date not only gives the voters of the district an adequate opportunity to examine the candidates, but also ensures that the 35th District will have a voice in the 2023 Regular Session,” said Gilbert. “Every Virginian has a right to have their voice heard in Richmond.”
Mark Keam is a veteran Democratic delegate and a known leader in Richmond. Keam will be leaving to take a position with Biden-led Commerce Department in Washington.
An attorney who was first elected to his Fairfax County-based seat in 2009, Keam said in an interview Tuesday that he had stepped down to take a job in the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Keam said he will serve as a deputy assistant secretary running the National Travel and Tourism Office, which is focused on bringing foreign travelers to the U.S.
Keam said he was excited to step into the new role at a time when the travel and tourism industries are at a “critical moment” in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the past, Democrats have weaponized special elections in order to enhance their majorities, an abrogation of tradition that Speaker Gilbert is eager to bring to an end.
“Unfortunately, not everyone charged with the responsibility of calling special elections has recognized that fact,” said Gilbert. “Following the death of Sen. Ben Chafin in 2021, former Governor Ralph Northam refused to call a special election in the 38th Senate District until the following legislative session was over.”
“Holding the seat open in an effort to gain a partisan political advantage was an affront not only to the people of Southwest Virginia, but to every Virginian who believes that the over 8.5 million of us should have an equal voice in Richmond,” stated Gilbert. “Said simply, it was an attack on our democracy. People should always come before politics.”
Virginia Democrats are already scrambling to run for the Democratic leaning seat, a race which should cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars during a Republican resurgency.