Candidate Profile: Alfonso Lopez For VA House Of Delegates

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Candidate Profile: Alfonso Lopez For VA House Of Delegates

By Michael O'Connell, Patch Staff
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ARLINGTON, VA — Del. Alfonso Lopez represents the 49th District in the House of Delegates, where he also serves as the majority whip. The 50-year-old Democrat lives in Arlington with his wife Sarah Zevin and their two sons. 

In the June 8 primary, Arlington voters living in the 49th District will have a chance to decide whether incumbent Lopez or challenger Karishma Mehta will be the Democratic candidate on the ballot for the Nov. 2 general election. Early voting is already underway.

Patch asked each of the candidates running in the Democratic primary to fill out the following profile:

Candidate

Alfonso Lopez

Position sought

House of Delegates - 49th District (Incumbent)

Party Affiliation

Democrat

Family

Sarah Zevin - Wife
Aaron Zevin-Lopez - Son
Gabriel Zevin-Lopez - Son

Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?

My wife works at the U.S. Department of Education.

Education

B.A. Vassar College - 1992
J.D. Tulane University Law School - 1995

Occupation

  • Majority Whip & Member of the Virginia House of Delegates - 49th District (Current)
  • Senior Corporate and Federal Government Relations - Becker & Poliakoff, LLC (Current)
  • Assistant Administrator for Congressional and Legislative Affairs - U.S. Small Business Administration - during the Obama Administration
  • Director of Congressional, Federal, and Intergovernmental Affairs - Governor Tim Kaine’s Administration
  • Deputy Policy Director - Governor Tim Kaine’s Transition Team
  • Partner - Alcalde & Fay
  • Senior Advisor/Legislative Assistant - Democratic U.S. Senator
  • Associate Director for Policy - Physicians for Social Responsibility

Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office

Member of the House of Delegates - representing the 49th District since 2012.

Campaign website

www.alfonsolopez.org

Why are you seeking elective office?

We have made incredible progress in our efforts to build a Virginia where we lift everyone up and leave no one behind. That being said, there is so much more that needs to be done in order to eventually achieve our goals.

I also love my community. The 49th District is arguably the most diverse in Virginia. There are over 100 languages spoken in the District and over 40 languages spoken at our local high school. We truly are the world in a zip code.
My family’s experience and the experiences of my father as an undocumented immigrant who came to the area at the age of 19 from Venezuela also gives me a unique sense of purpose and motivates me to fight for my community. I see my father in every DREAMer or DACA student striving to get an education and create a better life for themselves. I see my family in the struggles of folks in the community working tirelessly to provide for themselves and their children.

I believe my extensive public policy and legislative transaction experience at the highest levels of State and Federal government makes me uniquely qualified to serve (and deliver for) the people of the 49th District. Indeed, my experience in both the Clinton and Obama Administrations, as well as my service as the head of Congressional and Federal Affairs for the Commonwealth of Virginia during the administration of then-Governor Tim Kaine provide me with special insights into how to be an effective legislator for my community. In addition, with a decade of seniority – and as the Majority Whip and a member of the Senior Leadership Team in the House – I am well positioned to fight effectively for my community and the issues important to us.

The single most pressing issue facing our district is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.

As the House Majority Whip and representative of the Commonwealth’s most diverse district it is almost impossible for me to pick just one issue.
What I will say, is that the three issues I prioritized this session are affordable housing, criminal justice reform, and equity for immigrant and new American communities.

I created and passed the Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund back in 2013, and during the COVID-19 pandemic it served as a backstop to prevent evictions and provide rental/mortgage relief for families suffering from housing instability. I’m proud to say that the program has been so effective that we have had fewer evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic than we did in 2019.

While this is a great progress, I don’t plan on stopping until there are no evictions in the Commonwealth and we have housing for all Virginians. Along those lines, I intend to ensure we seize this moment to increase investment in the Trust Fund and pursue options for new, innovative rental policies in Virginia.

The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year served as strong reminders of just how far we have to go in this country in terms of racial justice. It was an honor to work with the Governor, as well as my colleagues in the House and Senate this session, to pass legislation abolishing the death penalty, legalizing cannabis for adults, expunge records, repeal Virginia’s constitutional ban on same sex marriage, and more.

These steps are the first of many in a fight to bring racial and social justice to our Commonwealth. We must also do much more — including addressing qualified immunity and pay parity for public defenders.

As the son of an immigrant, and the General Assembly’s first elected Democratic Latino, equity for immigrant and New American communities is central to everything I do. I passed the Virginia “De-ICE” bill to help put an end to targeted harassment from law enforcement officers in the Commonwealth that was endangering our immigrant populations. I also passed legislation granting in-state tuition and financial aid to DREAMers and undocumented students because Virginia had not provided equal educational opportunities to our immigrant population for far too long. Now we must go further - and make some of the recently passed programs mandatory (and not simply optional) for localities.

What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?

My time advocating for progressive policies goes back over 30 years, from working in the Clinton White House on environmental policy to founding the Democratic Latino Organization of Virginia and creating the Virginia Environment & Renewable Energy Caucus (both organizations that are going strong today).

Since being elected in 2011, my work advocating for progressive policies has turned into real life tangible results for people throughout the 49th District and the Commonwealth at large.

Throughout my time as a Delegate I have introduced, Chief Co-Patroned, or Co-Patroned over 150 bills in the General Assembly that have been signed into law. Some of the most notable include creating the Affordable Housing Trust Fund which has provided housing for thousands of families, helping close the “Charleston Gun Sales Loophole”, passing the Virginia Clean Economy Act which moved Virginia from being one of the worst states on addressing climate change to one of the best, repealing Virginia’s ban on project labor agreements, passing legislation allowing the Attorney General’s office to finally investigate State and local police departments that exhibit a “pattern or practice” of violating constitutional rights, securing $800 to address wastewater pollution and clean up the Chesapeake Bay, and creating the first ever LGBTQ+ State Advisory Board in the South.

My progressivism does not stop at my rhetoric, it carries into the results I deliver to improve the lives of the people I represent and all across the Commonwealth.

How do you think local officials performed in responding to the coronavirus? What if anything would you have done differently?

Our Democratic majority worked alongside the Northam administration to deliver PPP loans to support small businesses, provided paid leave, supported local school systems, protected the credit of tenants impacted by COVID-19, dramatically increased support for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, expanded emergency Medicaid coverage, and more.

We rose to the challenge as legislators, but many lessons were learned from this pandemic. From housing instability to broadband access to child hunger, above all we learned that our social safety net is incredibly fragile. Much of the work we did to provide relief and support during the pandemic should be implemented permanently. Among other things, our eviction prevention programs should be strengthened and improved. We must work to provide Medicaid for All because no family should have to choose between putting food on the table or paying medical bills. We need to provide for universal child care programs. We also need to guarantee meals for children whether they are able to attend school in-person or not. Indeed, the stories during the early days of the pandemic of children going hungry because they were not able to access free and reduced lunch programs in school was heartbreaking.

Latinos make up 9.4 percent of Virginia’s population, but (at various times) accounted for 31 percent of the COVID-19 cases. One thing that I would have definitely done differently is ensured that there were adequate public translation services for medical and emergency information earlier during the course of the pandemic.

Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.

My record clearly shows that the environment/renewable energy, education, and the needs of small business have always been important issues to me.

I have 100 percent lifetime ratings from the Virginia League of Conservation Voters and the Virginia Education Association because of the work I’ve done in these issues. I am also the Chair of the VIrginia Small Business Commission.
Finally, providing COVID-19 relief to our Commonwealth is something that will continue to remain at the top of our agenda until we are long past this global pandemic.

What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?

Judge me by my legislative accomplishments and the organizations that have recognized that record of achievement over the years.

For instance, I was the 2012 Rookie of the Year of the Virginia Education Association and I’ve had a 100 percent rating — and been endorsed by Virginia’s teachers — ever since.

I’ve had a perfect score over my tenure with the Virginia AFL-CIO, Equality Virginia, and NARAL Pro-choice Virginia.

The Sierra Club has presented me with their Energy Freedom award and their 2020 Legislative Leader award.

And I’ve received the highest A+ rating from the Virginia League of Conservation Voters over the last decade – something only one other legislator has achieved over that time – and the organization has consistently named me a Virginia Legislative Hero.

I’ve been named the Virginia Interfaith Center’s Legislator of the Year.

I’m also very proud to have been named the 2021 Virginia Legislator of the Year by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

These awards are given for not only voting the right way, but for enacting landmark legislation that moves Virginia forward after years – and in some cases decades — of inaction.

The best advice ever shared with me was:

My parents used to love to say the following to me: “Actions speak louder than words. Be reliable. Always think about others. Be respectful. Keep your word. Follow through. And, above all, always strive to be kind.”

What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?

I support and have always fought for Medicaid for All, I am a Green New Deal champion, and I support universal child care and Pre-K.

I’m also proud to be endorsed for re-election by many elected officials, including:

  • U.S. Senators Tim Kaine & Mark Warner
  • Congressman Don Beyer
  • Governor Ralph Northam
  • Terry McAuliffe
  • Former School Board Chair Emma Violand Sanchez
  • Former Arlington Board Member Walter Tejada
  • Speaker Eileen Filler Corn
  • Majority Leader Charnielle Herring
  • Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan
  • Many Delegates - such as Patrick Hope, Dolores McQuinn, Marcus Simon, Hala Ayala, Suhas Subramanyam, and Kathy Tran
  • Delegate & Bernie for President Virginia Co-Chair Elizabeth Guzman
  • Many State Senators - such as Adam Ebbin, Barbara Favola, Scott Surovell, and Jeremy McPike
  • Fairfax County Board Chair Jeff McKay
  • Former Fairfax Board Chair Sharon Bulova
  • County Board Members including Katie Cristol, Takis Karontonis & Matt De Faranti
  • Arlington School Board Members including Cristina Diaz Torres, Reid Goldstein & David Priddy
  • Community Leaders like Whytni Karnoodle and Zakiya Worthey
  • I’m also very proud to be endorsed for re-election by numerous prominent and mainstream Virginia organizations, including:
  • Virginia Education Association
  • The Arlington Firefighters and Paramedics
  • The Virginia Chapter of the National Organization of Women
  • Environmental Groups like the Sierra Club, Clean Virginia, and the League of Conservation Voters
  • And every Labor Union that has endorsed in this primary — including IBEW, UNITE HERE, LIUNA, the Building Trades, SEIU 32BJ, and the EAS Carpenters.

They understand — as I do — that politics is about getting things done and improving people's lives.

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