The race for Virginia’s 28th District Senate seat pits a Republican incumbent who grew up in the district and has spent most of his life there against a Democratic challenger who immigrated to the United States as a child from Pakistan.
But both Sen. Richard Stuart and challenger Qasim Rashid share at least one thing in common: a desire to serve others. They are competing in the Nov. 5 election to represent the district that covers parts of Spotsylvania, Stafford, Prince William, Westmoreland and King George counties.
Stuart, 55, is a lawyer who grew up in Montross in Virginia’s Northern Neck and has lived there most of his life. He is a military veteran who was elected as Westmoreland’s commonwealth’s attorney in 2003 and then won a state Senate seat in 2008. He also served as county attorney, School Board attorney and serves on a variety of statewide commissions and committees.
Rashid, 37, is a Stafford County attorney who specializes in human rights law and helping women who are victims of domestic and sexual violence. He has also worked with various nonprofit agencies and published several books.
Stuart attended Virginian Wesleyan University and while there, joined the Marine Corps reserve. Following graduation, he went on to attend T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond. While at law school, Stuart studied international law in the United Kingdom at Emmanuel College at the University of Cambridge.
Stuart returned to Montross after law school to begin practicing law at his first job with a law firm in Colonial Beach, but soon opened his own practice.
Although Stuart and his family reside in King George, they previously lived in Stafford County during their children’s school years. Stuart said they moved to Stafford in order to enroll their autistic daughter into what Stuart describes as “a top-notch public school program.”
In 2018, Stuart introduced a bill to establish the Commission on Autism as an advisory commission in the executive branch of state government. The commission reviews and makes recommendations for the improvement of services and programs for individuals with autism spectrum disorder.
Stuart, whose father was on the beaches of Normandy during World War II, and whose brother served in Vietnam, said, “We were raised to believe in public service and service to our country. I am running for office because the people in the community asked me to.”
Stuart’s top campaign priorities include easing traffic congestion in the region, stemming the rise in college tuition, improving schools and teacher pay, and controlling growth in the region by charging developers’ across-the-board impact fees instead of using proffers.
Rashid hopes to become the first Muslim American elected to the Virginia Senate. His family immigrated to America from Pakistan over 30 years ago and settled in the Washington area.
After several years, the family relocated to northern Illinois, where Rashid spent the majority of his life, but the family returned to Virginia about 10 years ago. The Rashids bought their Stafford home in 2015, and their children attend Stafford public schools.
Rashid earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his Juris Doctorate degree from the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond.
In addition to his work as a lawyer, Rashid also works with nonprofit organizations such as Humanity First, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and the Virginia Poverty Law Center. He also serves in various other capacities as a consultant, board member and volunteer.
“My life’s work really focuses around serving the community, uplifting marginalized people and trying to create more equity and fairness for everyone, regardless of their background,” he said.
Rashid said that while he believes he’s been a successful advocate as a lawyer, he thinks he can do even more as a policymaker. His campaign priorities include expanding health care access, ensuring schools and educators are funded effectively, and building out the region’s transportation infrastructure to help eliminate traffic congestion in the area.
“My focus is, I’ve been an advocate fighting for lower income people, for the middle class, for women, for people of color, for the incarcerated, for immigrants,” said Rashid. “It’s easy to say that you’re fighting for the middle class, but it’s actually much different to actually exemplify that with your actions.”
The latest campaign finance report posted by the Virginia Public Access Project shows Stuart raised more than $441,000 for this campaign and had a balance of $180,135 as of Sept. 30. Rashid raised more than $311,000 and had a balance of $144,486 at the end of September, according to VPAP.