Rob Krupicka argues he’s the only candidate in the Democratic primary for the 30th District state senate seat with a clear, focused agenda for the office.
In a race against two other similarly-aligned party members—Del. Adam Ebbin (D-49th) and Arlington School Board member Libby Garvey—Krupicka believes it is this agenda, one he says has specific plans to boost education in the state and to create state-local partnerships to build mass transit and environmental solutions for Northern Virginia, that sets him apart.
“We’re asking people to hire us for a job that we could be in for a very long time,” Krupicka said. “I think people need to not just understand what your experience is or what your values are. I think they need to understand what you’re going to focus working on. That’s a critical part of the job application process we’re going through right now.”
Sitting outside near his Del Ray home and campaign headquarters, the 40-year-old Alexandria City councilman discussed his agenda, experience and values in an interview with Patch.
Lisa Krupicka says sleep has been a luxury for her husband in recent weeks.
“Rob usually runs as a pretty hard pace, but this summer it’s even more,” she said of how much he has been working on the campaign.
That drive began in the early 1990s when Rob Krupicka moved to Alexandria after graduating from the University of Virginia with a degree in economics. He says he was attracted to the city’s history (a subject he minored in at UVa) and made plans to live there no matter where he worked, even commuting every day to his job at a Baltimore bank.
He quickly became involved with local Democrats and eventually served as Patsy Ticer’s deputy campaign manager for her first election to the 30th District state senate seat in 1996.
He met Lisa at the (“true story,” he says). Then, after moving into a place together on Nelson Avenue in Del Ray, the Krupickas became active in their local neighborhood citizens association.
“We started working out some of the big problems people were facing like parking, traffic, bringing businesses, speaking to people on both sides of development issues,” Lisa Krupicka said of their work in the Del Ray Citizens Association, where Rob served as president. “It gave us a great grounding on how city neighborhoods function and work together.”
The couple also got involved in the PTA at nearby before they had children. Now their daughters—Janelle, 9, and Gillian, 7—attend the school.
Krupicka said he feels Richmond is oftentimes disconnected with what’s happening in neighborhoods and community organizations in Northern Virginia.
After being elected to the Alexandria City Council in 2003, he began working on creating a mass transit plan as well as new environmental initiatives in Alexandria. With both these projects, he said he experienced obstacles with state government.
“I’d like to find ways to break down some of those roadblocks,” he said. “If you want to sum up one of the large philosophical reasons why I am running for this seat, it is because I think some of the biggest challenges in our state manifest themselves in the conflicts between state government and local government. And I think we can solve a lot of our transportation problems and a lot of our environmental issues if we create a better partnership between state and local governments.”
Krupicka says he is quite proud of some of the work he has done in Alexandria. The environmental initiative he helped create became the award-winning Eco-City Alexandria, which is responsible for making the city environmentally sustainable.
And he says the city’s mass transit plan, which didn’t exist before he was elected to City Council, has moved Alexandria away from a “cars and roads” model, doubled the number of people who bike and walk to work and increased mass transit usage.
Though most of his political career has played out within the confines of Alexandria, Krupicka says his work in the Virginia Municipal League and as a member of the State Board of Education has given him a strong foundation on the ins and outs of the state house. These positions have also placed him in working situations with legislators from both parties.
“I know there are great opportunities to create consensus when you’re really focused on solving problems,” he said. “I think the next piece of the puzzle is building the coalitions to make that happen.”
Krupicka said he learned how to build consensus during his business career and experiences as a “deal guy.”
He has worked for several startup technology companies, including AOL. Until recently, he held a job at the Pew Charitable Trusts working with business leaders around the country to promote early childhood programs that have a positive impact on the U.S. economy.
“I know how to do strong-arm negotiations when you need to, and I know how to bring people together and create win-wins when you need to,” he said in January when he announced he would run for the 30th District seat.
Krupicka grew up in the Pacific Northwest in a family with divorced parents. His mother was just 17 when he was born and he has often said in his campaign speeches that the circumstances of his early family life should not have led him to the worlds of big business and politics.
However, Krupicka said there was an early emphasis on education in his life and that, though divorced, his parents put a priority on preschool. He says he knows that made a difference.
“To be successful in school, all children need a solid foundation, and the opportunity to develop skills that allow them to show up to kindergarten ready to learn,” . “In both my public and professional life, I have devoted myself to this issue.”
It's also an issue close to Lisa Krupicka, who works as an early education specialist for the New America Foundation.
Rob Krupicka was chairman of former Governor Tim Kaine’s School Readiness Task Force and he’s made early education a priority in his work as a member of the State Board of Education and in Alexandria.
During his campaign, he has set his sights on making Virginia the best state in the country to get an education. To reach this goal, he prioritized individual instruction and maintaining a strong investment in higher education as well as that emphasis on early education.
The three candidates in the 30th District Democratic primary have raised more than $725,000 according to the Virginia Public Access Project, making it the most expensive primary in the state.
As of Aug. 10, Krupicka had raised $263,691, about $25,000 more than Ebbin and about $40,000 more than Garvey. Ebbin out-gained the other two during the final fundraising period from July 1 and Aug. 10.
Krupicka has also carried a lion's share of the endorsements in the race, including nods from U.S. Rep. Jerry Connolly (D-11th), Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille, Del. David Englin (D-45th), former Alexandria City Manager Vola Lawson as well as the approval of the Washington Post.
In a recent interview with Patch editors, new Alexandria City School Board Chairman Sheryl Gorsuch gave her personal endorsement to Krupicka.
In his campaign kickoff speech, Krupicka said connecting the Pentagon to Fort Belvoir with transit is a critical priority. With that, he says serious improvements are needed in the Fairfax County section of the Route 1 corridor.
“We've worked really hard in Alexandria to build a collaboration with Arlington [County] to make transit improvements along the Route 1 corridor,” Krupicka said. “Folks in Fairfax are wishing and hoping that happens. One of the things, when I talk to folks in Fairfax that I think resonates, is that I've actually worked on those sorts of Route 1 transit improvements. I know how it works and how complicated it is to make them happen.”
Krupicka says raising the gas tax is one solution, but there’s also the political reality that such a measure probably wouldn’t pass in Richmond.
He suggests an alternative way to fund these projects by establishing a local government authority to create mass transit districts, similar to an enterprise zone or an arts district, where a geographic area is designated, a transit vision is identified for that area and the revenues within that district (which normally would go to the state) go toward supporting transit infrastructure.
“I think it's good economics, because if you build transit infrastructure, you're going to see job growth, you're going to see employment growth, you're going to see more livability of that area, which will lead to higher tax revenues of the state,” he said. “So I think the state ultimately benefits from this.”
Krupicka said these districts have been used to finance sports stadiums and convention centers in the state, as well as for part of the Route 28 corridor.
Throughout the campaign, Garvey has repeatedly blamed Krupicka in his role as a city councilman for allowing the Department of Defense to build a new facility at the Mark Center in Alexandria as part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. The massive building, which will house 6,400 workers, lacks adequate commuter access and could cripple traffic in the region.
Krupicka maintains he has always opposed the creation of the Mark Center site and that he is committed to finding solutions to the problems the massive building is creating.
“I think in the short term, BRAC is going to have a real significant impact,” Krupicka said. “The good news is we've indentified the projects that need to be in place and we've secured the funding to implement them.”
He also sees benefits with BRAC, including the securing of funds for road improvements that otherwise would not have been culled from private property owners.
He says the situation also presents an opportunity to think about a regional mass transit system, which he sees as “the last piece of the puzzle” for not only BRAC, but also as being critical to the future of Crystal City, Bailey’s Crossroads, Skyline, Fort Belvoir and Route 1.
“The question for this campaign is I think who is best qualified and best experienced to lead the creation of that regional transit system?” he said.
Krupicka believes his work on Alexandria’s transportation management plan and on a potential Potomac Yard Metro Station as well as his determined advocacy of a regional mass transit system makes him the right fit.
“I am the only candidate who has actually worked on local and regional mass transit systems at kind of the neighborhood planning level,” he said. “And I understand the complexities of them and how critical they are to quality of life because I have lived with them. … [This experience] puts me in a really good position to fight that fight in Richmond.”