Veteran Marine Challenges Bob Marshall For Delegate Seat
Name: Atif Qarni
Political affiliation: Democrat
Occupation: Eighth grade school teacher
Home: Yorkshire, Prince William County. Qarni was born in Pakistan and raised in the Baltimore, Md. area.
Family: Qarni is married to his wife, Fatima. The couple has two boys Zane, 10, and 5-year-old Saber.
A veteran U.S. Marine and 8th grade teacher from Prince William County's Yorkshire area said he's up to the challenge of running against one of the most well-known Virginia politicians, Bob Marshall, for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Atif Qarni, 35, a self-described "progressive" Democrat, wants to represent the 13th district which includes all of Manassas Park and parts of Gainesville, Haymarket, and the Manassas area of Prince William County.
The 85,000 people of the 13th district need someone else to represent them in Richmond, said Qarni, who promises that November's election will be very different from past ones.
Virginia delegates are elected every two years; Marshall, a Conservative Republican, has held his seat since 1991.
"Bob Marshall has played a role in dialing back the clock on civil liberties that people have worked hard for," Qarni said.
Marshall spends a lot of time on personal matters such as abortion rights–something the government shouldn't be involved in, Qarni said.
"Bob Marshall's mindset is stuck in the dark ages," he added.
If elected, Qarni said he intends to concentrate on pertinent issues such as transportation in Northern Virginia.
He is excited about the recently passed bi-partisan Virginia transportation bill that includes $1.5 billion for Northern Virginia.
He would like to see some of that money go toward improving Route 28, he said.
He works in Dale City and many of his friends use Route 28 to commute to the District for work, Qarni said.
His wife, Fatima, rides the Virginia Railway Express train from Manassas Park to work in Washington, D.C., each day and he is worried about the overcrowded parking lot.
The Manassas Park VRE lot is at 109 percent capacity; it has 600 spaces but about 660 cars park there, Qarni said.
Incumbent lawmakers have earmarked millions in transportation funds for rail and he would work to see some of those funds go toward the rails that service Manassas Park and other areas in the 13th district.
"We have to continue to support rail," Qarni said.
As a teacher at Beville Middle School and the father of two boys, Zane and Saber, he is also concerned about education, Qarni said.
Some schools only have decade-old laptops for students to use for work and that's not enough, he said.
Additionally class sizes continue to increase, he added. Right now, the average class size for him is 34 students. At one time his class size topped out at about 26, Qarni said.
He is also concerned about adult education, said Qarni, who teaches adult GED classes in the evenings. He would like to see more free funds for higher education-the money for college for many students comes from loans and not the state, Qarni said.
He also intends to work to bring bussinesses to the 13th District, Qarni said.
Areas like Yorkshire and Manassas Park, where many business parcels sit empty, are badly in need of growth and development which are both good things if done responsibly, he said.
Qarni is the third person to announce they would challenge Bob Marshall in the Nov. 2013 election. The other two people, backed out of the race just a few weeks in to each of their campaigns.
"I'm in it to win it," he said. He was motivated to pursue a seat in the House of Delegates by his wife.
"She said, 'you need to do this, now," he said. He later reached out to local Democrats to help get his campaign rolling.
The Qarni campaign officially kicked off on June 20th at Yorkshire Restaurant.