STERLING, Va. — Major decisions will be made Tuesday, when Virginians go to the polls in a consequential Democratic primary. Many winners will likely go on to win the election in November since Virginia is mostly blue. In one local race that speaks to the growing diversity of Virginia, all the candidates are first-generation Americans.
The 87th House of Delegates district straddles Prince William and Loudoun Counties. It's been held a Democrat since 2013. Delegate John Bill is leaving the post to run for the state senate.
The four candidates running to succeed Bell reflect the changing community surrounding Dulles Airport, which includes many south Asian and Latino residents.
Hassan Ahmad is an immigration attorney.
"I've lived in the District since 2006, originally from North Carolina," Ahmad said. "My parents immigrated from Pakistan."
Johanna Gusman who grew up in Sterling is a human rights attorney.
"I worked for the United Nations because I'm the product of two nations united," Gusman said.
Suhas Subramanyam is a former technology policy adviser in the Obama administration. He's the son of Indian immigrants.
"They came in through Dulles Airport. Dulles Airport was like their Ellis Island," Subramanyam said. "Since then, the communities have grown here, the communities of color have grown a lot."
Akshay Bhamidipati's parents also immigrated from India. He is a cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins.
"My primary goal is to actually reduce the teen suicide and addiction level," said Bhamidipati. He wants to reform Virginia’s “certificate of public need” process for hospitals, which controls the arrival of health-care facilities. He says the current process prevents competition and keeps hospital monopolies intact.
Besides coming from families of color, the four candidates have something else in common: they were encouraged to run because of policies from the Trump administration. Ahmad volunteers to help immigrants at Dulles Airport. He says he was outraged when President Trump's Muslim ban prevented him from meeting with asylum seekers.
"Seeing that breakdown of law and order, denial of access to counsel, laws that could just be turned off at will at the signing of a pen...that's exactly what people seeking asylum here, that's what they're running from. And to see it happen ten minutes from my house at Dulles Airport, that's something I'm never going to forget," said Ahama.
The only woman in the race, Johanna Gusman, says what happened or didn't happen in Richmond this year also prompted her to run.
"I was very disheartened when Virginia did not ratify the ERA," said Gusman, who was arrested at a protest during the confirmation hearings for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh
Whoever wins the primary on Tuesday goes on to face Republican Bill Drennen in November.
Virginia's democratic primary is on Tuesday. It is open to all registered voters.