Voters in the areas of eastern Loudoun and northwestern Fairfax counties will be headed back to the polls Tuesday for a special election in the 86thHouse District.
Three candidates are running to replace Democrat Jennifer Boysko, who was elected to the state senate last month.
Democrat Ibraheem Samirah is a dentist from Herndon who has campaigned on expanding affordable health care and public transportation, protecting the environment and pushing for universal prekindergarten.
Republican Gregg Nelson is a retired U.S. Air Force sergeant from Herndon who campaigned on lowering state taxes and boosting vocational training in schools.
Independent Connie Hutchinson is a former Herndon council member who said she would work with representatives of both political parties.
The election is being held out as a bellwether of the fallout from the scandals of top state Democrats—Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring for admissions of wearing blackface while in college and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax for two allegations of sexual assault.
The short special election campaign also has been dominated by controversy rooted in a candidate’s past.
Samirah, a Palestinian American who would be the second Muslim elected to Virginia’s General Assembly, has been under fire since the disclosures of 2014 postings on his Facebook page denouncing Israeli leaders. In one, he shared a letter by musician Brian Eno about Palestinian civilian deaths caused by Israeli missile strikes in Gaza. The letter likened providing funding Israel to supporting the Ku Klux Klan. “I’d say worse, but I’ll go along with Eno on this one,” Samirah wrote in the posting
Another, posted after the death of Ariel Sharon, called for the former Israeli prime minister to “burn a million times for every innocent soul you killed. Hell is excited to have you” and called for the same treatment for “our beloved Arab ‘leaders’ (butchers I should say).”
Samirah apologized for the comments, which he said were taken out of context as part of “a slander campaign.”
“I am so sorry that my ill-chosen words added to the pain of the Jewish community, and I seek your understanding and compassion as I prove to you our common humanity,” he said in a statement.
Republicans at the state and national level called on Democrats to denounce their candidate’s comments as anti-Semitic.
The Loudoun County Democrat Committee also condemned Samirah’s Facebook postings, specifically one that stated, “Most Israeli teenagers not only want to cover up the murders in their name, but they have young urges that need to be released somehow! Tinder’s perfect for that,” and linked to a video that promoted anti-Semitic propaganda.
The LCDC did not call for Samirah to drop out of the race. “We appreciate that he’s since apologized, and we hope he will work hard to demonstrate that he is capable of representing our values,” Committee Chairman Alfonso Nevarez stated.