Albemarle County School Board Member Katrina Callsen formally announced her campaign as a Democratic candidate for the 54th District in the Virginia House of Delegates on Monday.
A crowd of about 50 people at C’ville Coffee and Wine—including fellow school board members Kate Acuff, Jonno Alcaro, Judy Le, Ellen Osborne and Graham Paige—gathered for the launch of Callsen’s campaign. Charlottesville mayor Lloyd Snook was also in attendance.
“I wasn’t planning on running for office, it wasn’t an ultimate ambition of mine,” Callsen said. “But I felt like the timing was right to have someone step into that seat and really focus on advocacy for these children and families.”
Callsen, who works for the City of Charlottesville as an attorney in the Department of Social Services, said she would prioritize public education if she receives her party’s nomination and wins the Nov. 7 election.
“There’s a movement underway to not just defund … but also devalue public education in a way that I think is a problem for democracy,” Callsen said.
Earlier this month, Republican Delegate Glenn Davis proposed a bill that would establish a school voucher program, allowing families to use state money to homeschool their children or send them to private schools.
Callsen also said she would work hard to protect abortion rights. Virginia Republicans have also introduced a bill that would ban abortion at 15 weeks and expose doctors to criminal charges if they perform emergency abortions.
“Politicians should not be making health decisions for women. I say this as a woman. I say this as a mother,” Callsen said.
Callsen fielded questions from the audience after a speech, responding to concerns about everything from criminal justice reform to climate change. She pointed to a Virginia law that expunges people’s criminal records for particular crimes after a certain period.
“In many other states, that process happens automatically,” Callsen said. “In Virginia, it does not…There are efficiencies to be had there.”
For Callsen, climate change is a social justice issue. She brought up her work on the school board to make the division’s schools more environmentally sustainable. Albemarle County Public Schools, for example, can fight to have solar panels installed in part because it is a well-funded division.
“Those are limited, so we snapped up a bunch of them in the county. But our wins are another division’s losses,” Callsen said.
During a Jan. 12 school board meeting, Callsen was elected board chair for the year. Between that and her job at the Department of Social Services.
“It really truly is just becoming hyper-efficient and having good staff,” Callsen said.
The Democratic primary field is already crowded, with two other candidates having filed paperwork and more rumored to hop in the race. Still, Callsen won at least one vote.
“I’ll support her, all right,” said Paul Boggs.