Republicans are crying foul in Loudoun County as Democrats have seemingly cleared the field for an embattled school board member to easily win a seat as a Virginia state delegate.
Loudoun County School Board (LCSB) member Atoosa Reaser, who in February blocked the release of an independent report detailing the district’s response to multiple sexual assaults that took place in 2021, is running as a Democrat for Virginia House District 27. Initially, she faced a strong primary opponent in businessman Kannan Srinivasan, but Srinivasan announced on March 4 that he would be running for the open seat in District 26 instead.
It is with immense pride that I declare my candidacy to represent Loudoun County, which has been my home for a quarter century,” said Srinivasan. “My experience in both the public and private sectors will serve the residents of Loudoun and Virginians across the Commonwealth well. pic.twitter.com/kX7MCGfq1l
— Kannan Srinivasan for Delegate (@Kannan4Delegate) March 4, 2023
Republicans claim the move helped Democrats deflect attention from the buried report, which could have become a point of contention during a competitive primary.
Now that she is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination in a blue district, Reaser is likely to prevail in the general election, according to Sam Shirazi, a Virginia political pundit and trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
“Former HD-27 candidate Kannan Srinivasan announces that he will now run in HD-26 after Del. Suhas Subramanyam’s State Senate run. It looks like he has many elected officials in Loudoun backing him, including Rep. Wexton,” Shirazi tweeted. “This should clear the way for Loudoun School Board Member Atoosa Reaser to win the Democratic nomination in HD-27. She will be the heavy favorite in this deep blue seat.”
Christopher Harnisch, a former deputy coordinator for counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department, is running against Reaser as the Republican candidate for HD-27. He told the Daily Caller that Reaser’s decision to block the independent report was a “dereliction of duty.”
“Our community, our parents, and our children deserve answers, and they deserve to be heard. The independent findings in this hidden report are not trivial, and it is a dereliction of duty to conceal those findings from the public. We can, and must, do so much better than this,” Harnisch said. “My focus right now is on ensuring the people of eastern Loudoun know they have a common sense alternative in their choice for state delegate – someone who will always put children and parents first, and someone who will steadfastly prioritize transparency and integrity.”
“Moreover, I will hold no duty more sacred than ensuring our schools and children are safe,” Harnisch added.
Results in statewide Virginia elections show HD-27 voters lean Democratic, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. In 2021, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe carried HD-27 by about 20 points over Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition (SUVGOP) Co-Founder Ron Wright told the Caller he believes the Democratic Party “pushed [Srinivasan] over into another seat” in order to hand the embattled school board member the state delegate seat.
“The Democrats know that [Reaser] cannot win reelection on the school board, so basically, they are moving her up to run for the House of Delegates,” Wright said. “She was going into the primary against Kannan Srinivasan, and then they pushed him into another seat.”
“My concern is that the Democratic party knows they would have a tough time getting her reelected to the school board. Now they are turning around and practically promoting her by sending her down to Richmond. She was basically hiding things from parents and students,” Wright told the Caller. (RELATED: ‘Unconditional Surrender’: Parents Demand Loudoun County School Board Members Resign Following Grand Jury Report)
Srinivasan dropped out the HD-27 race less than three weeks after Reaser voted to block the release of an independent report conducted by Virginia law firm Blankingship and Keith. Reaser previously stated she would support the decision to make the investigation’s findings publicly available.
Loudoun County School Board members Tiffany Polifko, John Beatty, Jeff Morse, Erika Ogedegbe, and Atoosa Reaser have all said they support the release of the independent review. If they all stay true to their word tonight, LCPS will be required to release the report. @7NewsDC
— Nick Minock (@NickMinock) February 14, 2023
The report focused on how the district responded to the sexual assault incidents that took place at Stone Bridge High School on May 28, 2021, and at Broad Run High School (BRHS) on Oct. 6, 2021.
The 15-year-old male student, who identifies as “gender fluid,” admitted to sexually assaulting a female student at Stone Bridge, including “forced sodomy” and “forced fellatio,” according to the special grand jury for the investigation into Loudoun County Public Schools. LCPS moved the male student to Broad Run, where he allegedly sexually assaulted another female student on Oct. 6.
“The individual snatched an unassuming female out of the hallway, abducted her into an empty classroom, nearly asphyxiated her, and sexually assaulted her. The individual was taken into custody that day, where he has remained ever since,” the report said of the Oct. 6 assault.
Superintendent Scott Zeigler was fired after the investigation condemned how he handled the May and October incidents. The report did not find that the school board intentionally kept the sexual assault cases hidden from the public, though it did accuse Loudoun County administrators of “looking out for their own interests instead of the best interests of LCPS.”
Reaser’s role in the sexual assault cases at the two Loudoun County high schools started a movement to get her recalled from the school board. Parents working with Fight for Schools sought to remove Reaser and fellow board member Brenda Sheridan for neglect of duty, misuse of office and incompetence.
Virginia Supreme Court Judge H. Thomas Padrick Jr. dismissed the recall petition after City of Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joseph Platania filed a motion supporting Reaser’s and Sheridan’s defense.
“Even if the court were to find a reasonable factual basis in the petition to establish a neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of the duties, the commonwealth is unable to locate evidence in the petition that such conduct had a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office,” Platania said.
Fight for Schools founder and executive director Ian Prior told the Caller it “clearly looked like [Democrats] are clearing the field” for Reaser, putting “the Democratic party apparatus” on the “opposite side of parents, again.”
“I certainly was aware she had a primary opponent, and about two weeks ago, he said he was switching districts,” Prior said.
“It’s not clear why Democrats continue to defend this administration and school board when all evidence from parents and the special grand jury show a complete lack of transparency, accountability, and willingness to focus on the job of managing a school system and not political agendas,” he continued. “I think it is an embarrassment that someone who has failed so epically as a school board member would then put herself up for the House of Delegates. And it shows an arrogance that she deserves effectively a promotion to serve in the House of Delegates when she has shown herself to be incapable of adequate public service.”
Prior said it’s hard to “get away from the fact Atoosa Reaser certainly saw the independent report in early 2022″ on the district’s response to the sexual assaults, adding he believes Reaser “cares about her political career more than she cares about accountability and transparency.”
The Democratic Party of Virginia denied any involvement in Srinivasan’s decision to run in HD-26 instead of HD-27.
“The Democratic Party of Virginia did not receive communication from Mr. Srinivasan prior to his decision, nor did the Democratic Party of Virginia advise Mr. Srinivasan on his plan to switch districts,” Liam J. Watson, press secretary for the Democratic Party of Virginia, told the Caller in a statement.
Atoosa Reaser and Kannan Srinivasan did not respond to the Caller’s requests for comment.