When she first heard Del. Elizabeth Guzman would not seek re-election to run for lieutenant governor, Kara Pitek said she was worried about how local Democrats would find another strong candidate to hold onto the hard-won 31st District seat, which Guzman flipped from GOP control in 2017.
Then she had an idea: Maybe she should run herself.
“I know I’d be great in the role,” Pitek said in a recent interview. “I know I’d be a voice the 31st District could count on, so I thought I would step up and run.”
The bid for state office is a first for Pitek, 38, a project manager with a small federal contracting firm who lives in the Ashland subdivision in Prince William County. Pitek is also a mom of two young sons, ages 3 and 2.
A New York native, Pitek said she has lived in Prince William for about 5 and a half years. During that time, she has served as chair of the Potomac District Democratic Committee and was recently appointed to the Prince William County Housing Board.
Pitek said she wants to run for the House of Delegates to focus on affordable housing, criminal justice reform, paid family leave and universal access to broadband. Pitek said her interest in helping low-income families afford to safe and stable housing is rooted in her own experience growing up in subsidized housing. She later worked for a nonprofit that helped place families in subsidized apartments.
“A safe home in a safe neighborhood is such a great foundation that everyone should be able to build upon,” Pitek said. “All young children should be able to grow up in a safe neighborhood and go to a stellar schools.”
Regarding criminal justice reforms, Pitek said she believes state lawmakers should ensure “independent entities” investigate allegations of police misconduct and believes police officers and judges should reflect the jurisdictions they serve.
Pitek also called “true family leave” a “huge concern.”
“Whether it be for people caring for an ailing parent or a child with special needs … we should be supporting those who are supporting their families,” Pitek said.
Regarding access to broadband internet, Pitek noted that many in the 31st District, which straddles Prince William and Fauquier counties, struggle with inadequate access to high-speed internet. Pitek said she knows both state and federal lawmakers have been working to create government grants to subsidize wireless and fiber connections but says those solutions have so far fallen short.
“It should be considered a utility,” Pitek said of broadband. “I think the federal and state governments need to team up on this effort.”
Pitek earned her bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University and her master’s degree in public administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, both in New York. She now works as a project manager for Garud Technology Services, a Maryland-based government contractor.
Pitek is one of three candidates who have filed paperwork to run for the Democratic nomination, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Idris O’Connor, president of the Prince William Young Democrats, has also filed for the race but has said he is still deciding whether he’ll run. O’Connor is chair of the Prince William County Cooperative Council of Ministries and a member of the Prince William County Social Services Board.
Katelyn Page, chair of the Prince William County Democratic Women’s Caucus, has also filed paperwork to run but has not yet formally declared her candidacy.
So far, no Republicans have filed to run for the seat.
Guzman, a Woodbridge resident and a social services administrator, defeated longtime Republican incumbent delegate Scott Lingamfelter in 2017 to win the seat with 53% of the vote. Guzman then fended off a challenge from Republican D.J. Jordan, also of Woodbridge, in 2019. Guzman won that contest with about 52% of the vote.
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