Atif Qarni, Democratic candidate for the Va. State Delegate from the 13th District, who is running against Del. Bob Marshall in the November election, celebrated the opening of his campaign office on Centreville Road in Manassas Saturday with Attorney General candidate Senator Mark Herring and Delegate Mark Sickles.
Qarni, 35, is a former Marine and current eighth grade math teacher at Beville Middle School in Prince William County and husband and father of two small children.
He told supporters at the opening that he was motivated to run to see Virginia politics move away from Tea Party-driven social issues and return to what he sees as bi-partisan priorities for Northern Virginia.
“(Bob Marshall) focused so much on certain social issues that it has turned off a lot of people,” said Qarni. “Businesses are very smart, and they do research. They are not going to move down here if folks are very extreme, which this district, including Manassas and Gainesville, is not. It is diverse; it is family-friendly.”
Qarni said his priorities would be bettered aligned with that of the people in his district. As a Virginia Delegate he would fight for an increase in funding for education and the building of new roads and transportation to decrease traffic congestion. In addition, he would support The Affordable Care Act and provide affordable healthcare to all Virginians.
In a one-on-one interview with Bristow Beat, Qarni said that improving education in the Commonwealth is his number-one priority as he has seen his own class sizes grow on an average from 26 to 34 students over the last five years.
He said the increase in class sizes across the state is a direct result of decisions made by a majority Republican House of Delegates.
“In 2010, a House bill cut $620 million in state-wide funding for education. It affected all different areas,” said Qarni. “My goal is to restore funding levels to 2009 levels.”
Qarni said he recently received the recommendation from both the Virginia Education Association and Prince William Education Association and hopes teachers and parents stand with him in the November election.
On transportation, Qarni said he generally supports new roads to serve the growing population of Northern Virginia, but he would also like to shorten commute times by encouraging satellite offices and telecommuting options for workers, as well as the opening of new businesses within his district.
However, he has not yet committed to the state-proposed Bi-County Parkway because he is not convinced the Parkway will help grow the economy.
“I haven’t taken a strong stance on it just yet because I’m still doing research into what VDOT is really proposing,” Qarni said.
In his speech to campaign supporters, Qarni drew sharp differences between himself and his opponent, proclaiming himself as the new face of District 13, representing not just one small group, but people from diverse backgrounds, ages, races and religions. He said for that reason, it is difficult to be a Democrat because it is always easier to represent just one small group, but ultimately his challenge will be bringing people together.
However, Qarni said the presidential election proved there are enough progress-minded individuals in the 13th Distric; it is just a matter of getting them out to vote. Moreover, he attested to making in-roads with moderate Republicans who are more economically than socially conservative.
He emphasized the importance of getting out to vote, saying people should not underestimate the impact of statewide elections which affect their roads, their schools, their healthcare, their property, their taxes, and ultimately, the politics that affect them personally everyday.
At the opening of his campaign office, Democratic Candidate for Attorney General Mark Herring spoke in favor of Qarni.
“The 13th District deserves a delegate who will focus on solving problems, not on an extreme social agenda. That’s why I am proud to support Atif Qarni. I know Atif will put his energy and his experience to work to do what’s right for the people of Prince William County and the people of Virginia,” Herrick said.
Herring likened Marshall’s social policies to those of Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Ken Cuccinelli and his running mate E.W. Jackson and argued that Virginia needed more voters to show they would no longer support an extreme agenda that had become an embarrassment to the people of the 13th District and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
While Qarni holds many pragmatic views, he is also a strong Democrat, championing progressive issues such as marriage rights, workers’ rights, access to healthcare and abortion rights.
At the office opening, people chatted excitedly about the prospect of a strong Democratic candidate in their district.
One woman said she was really enthusiastic about volunteering for the campaign and kept waiting to hear who would be running against Marshall.
Readers who are interested in volunteering with the Qarni campaign can visit qarnifordelegate.com.
© 2013, Stacy Shaw. All rights reserved.