State Senator John Chapman “Chap” Petersen (D-VA), who has represented Virginia for the past 16 years, is a familiar name in the state’s political landscape.
Now, as the state’s senate election draws near on Nov. 7, Petersen is vying for re-election in Virginia’s 37th State Senate District. In an exclusive interview with Vision Times, Petersen shared thoughts on his political journey, legislative achievements, and the challenges he faces going against opponent Saddam Azlan Salim in the state’s Democratic primary slated for June 20.
Born in Washington D.C, and raised in Fairfax City, Petersen’s roots run deep in Virginia. A graduate of Fairfax High School, Williams College, and the University of Virginia Law School, he has been committed to his community and the constituents he represents.
His commitment is evident in his public service track record — particularly amongst the Asian American community — starting with his time on the Fairfax City Council, to his 22-year tenure serving in the General Assembly after defeating a Republican incumbent, and then onto the State Senate.
A proven track record
“I have a proven track record of supporting the Asian community,” said Petersen, adding, “Most importantly, I led the fight to reopen schools in 2021 and bring our students back to normal.” Petersen has also repeatedly “voted to prohibit discrimination against Asian students to apply to Virginia universities and Governor schools.”
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In his tenure as state senator since 2008, Petersen has advocated for transparent governance in his district’s school systems, environmental protection, stricter gun control laws, supporting human rights in other countries, and more. “Whether it was the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the Clean Energy Act, and some of the other major environmental issues, [I’ve had a role in them] to address public safety,” Petersen told Patch.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, Petersen, who also works as an attorney, has been a fierce advocate in bolstering support for small businesses in his region. “I led the fight to re-open the economy and save small businesses when they were shut down in 2020,” said Petersen, adding, “I will continue to be a voice for small business and non-discrimination. I am a strong voice for freedom of speech and religious freedom, which are our most precious American freedoms.”
READ MORE: At Virginia Forum, Attorney General Addresses Discrimination Against Asian-American Students
Furthermore, Petersen has been a strong advocate in addressing gun violence, creating sensible reform to cap prescription drug prices, and introducing laws surrounding addiction, and drug abuse.
“I had the good Samaritan bill, which allows young people that suffer an overdose to contact the police and get help without being arrested,” said Petersen, adding, “I will continue to fight for small business. I will also seek to reform prescription drug prices to save costs for our seniors that rely on prescription drugs. I have legislation that I filed in 2023 (and passed the Senate only) that I plan to refile in 2024.”
Challenges in re-election
As Petersen gears up for his re-election campaign against Democratic opponent Saddam Azlan Salim, he faces a unique set of challenges. The political landscape of Virginia has become more polarized in recent years, with crucial issues such as redistricting and gun control at the forefront of heated debates. The state — like the rest of the nation — is also grappling with post-pandemic recovery, and voters are closely scrutinizing their elected officials’ responses to these crises.
“At the end of the day, I’m probably most proud of my record and advocating on behalf of kids, small businesses, and also the elderly,” said Petersen, adding, “In that respect, I think that the prescription reform bill is a big deal and it is going to be a major help to elderly Virginians.”
Petersen’s strong community ties, a well-rounded record, and consistent dedication to public service, make him a formidable candidate for re-election. He has demonstrated his commitment to his constituents by staying accessible and responsive to their concerns. Whether these efforts will translate into a successful re-election remains to be seen, but Petersen has undeniably left his mark on Virginia’s politics, and has shown a steadfast commitment to serving his community.
In his re-election bid, Petersen promises to continue his fight for transparent governance, robust public school fundings, gun control, and a cleaner and safer environment for all. He also wants to help Virginia in its continued efforts to recover from the impacts of the pandemic — aiming to make the state a model for recovery and growth.
If re-elected, Petersen vouches to continue “being a voice for a very diverse and hard-working 37th Senate District.”
Virginia’s primary is scheduled on June 20, 2023. The general election will occur on Nov. 7, 2023.