(Aug. 13, 2018) Catherine Read interviews Del. Karrie Delaney (D-67) about her first year serving in the Virginia House of Delegates. They speak about her experiences that led her to run for office, along with the challenges she faces in balancing her life in her new role. They also discuss legislative victories and initiatives.
Del. Delaney first shares with Catherine about her background and what drove her to run for office. Her professional background is as a counselor, helping children in foster care and victims of sexual assault. Early in her career, she recognized the importance of public policy, and how it can have a real affect on peoples’ lives – in both positive and negative ways. When living in Florida, she sought to learn about the inner workings of local government, which led her to eventually winning a seat on the local town council in Melbourne, FL.
After moving to Northern Virginia, Delaney settled down and started her family in Chantilly. Upon the birth of her daughter, she recognized Chantilly as “home” and wanted to get involved and make a positive impact in her new community. She contacted her local Supervisor to share her skill set and learn what opportunities were available, and was soon appointed to the Citizens Corps Council. She then served on the Fairfax County Library Board, where she eventually took over as Chair. Simultaneously, she started to pay attention to her representation in Richmond, and saw that her Delegate’s voting record was out of line with her community’s values.
Following the presidential election in November of 2016, Delaney gave serious thought about running for the House of Delegates. She jumped in the race and unseated Jim LeMunyon, a 4- term incumbent who was first elected in 2009, with a commanding 58% of the vote. It was a monumental year for Democrats, as they picked up 15 news seats and sent 16 freshmen legislators to Richmond. Although they did not achieve a majority, the shakeup sent shock waves through the commonwealth and opened up many doors, such as the expansion of Medicaid, that eventually passed with bi-partisan support.
Upon winning her seat, Delaney was on a roller-coaster ride to get up to speed for the upcoming legislative session. Her biggest surprise when starting in her new role was simply how quickly things move. Following the election, freshmen delegates need to undergo training, hire staff, setup an office, figure out where they will live in Richmond, secure childcare arrangements to accommodate a new schedule and last but certainly not least, draft and submit legislation for the upcoming session.
When considering which bills to sponsor, she collaborated with her caucus, while also paying close attention to issues she learned about from her constituents while out knocking on doors. Her first big success, HB 1419 (otherwise known as the “Recess Bill”) gained quite a bit of traction and passed through both the House and Senate with tremendous bi-partisan support. The bill requires local school boards to count unstructured play time toward the minimum instruction hours public schools must meet each year, giving an incentive for the schools to provide more recess time. She worked together across the aisle with her chief co-patron Del. John McGuire (Louisa) who was also passionate about this issue. As a mother of elementary aged school children, Delaney fully understands the importance of this bill and is thrilled to see it signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam.
Other legislative victories include being a chief co-patron on the Kinship Guardian Assistance Program Bill (HB 1333), carried by Del. Emily Brewer. This bill establishes a KinGAP program to facilitate child placements with relatives and ensure permanency for children for whom adoption or being returned home are not appropriate permanency options. The program provides for assistance to families who take in the children, similar to how the foster care system works. The goal is to keep the welfare of the children in mind, and support the best possible outcomes for them.
Looking ahead to next session, Delaney is very excited to be working on drafting legislation, listening to her constituents, and working at getting the language of her bills to be “just right”. She finds it critical to ensure that her bills are reasonable, accomplish the right thing and do not have an unintended consequences. She places a strong emphasis on working across the aisle to find common ground, while standing strong with her principles. Del. Delaney encourages constituents to reach out to her via email, visit with her during office hours, come to a town hall, or just give her a call to share their ideas.