The coronavirus pandemic and the shift to distance learning have led many college-age adults to rethink their education in the short term. Simone Pass Tucker decided to put undergraduate work on hold and try politics.
Pass Tucker, 22, who is Jewish, is one of three candidates running in a special election for a seat on the Falls Church City Council. Pass Tucker identifies as non-binary, and uses the pronouns they and them. If victorious on Nov. 3, Pass Tucker would be the first openly non-binary person elected in Virginia.
“I decided to run because I think anyone and everyone should have a voice in local politics,” they said. “Whether it’s age or race or gender, income level, whatever it is, I think everyone should be able to have a voice in government. And the easiest way to do that is to start with local government.”
If elected, Pass Tucker’s immediate priority will be to amend the city’s zoning code. They said a large number of homes in Falls Church are zoned for single families. Removing this stipulation would allow for accessory dwelling units, duplexes and multiple families living in the same house. Pass Tucker said the change would allow for more lower-income families to move to the city of about 14,600 residents.
The council seat was left vacant by the death in July of council member Daniel X. Sze. Two others, Debbie Hiscott and Joshua Shokoor, are vying for the seat.
“In terms of what I had seen from [the council] in the past, I wasn’t confident that they were going to put into place the changes that I think are important in Falls Church city and that I know a lot of my neighbors would like to see happen,” Pass Tucker said.
Other issues they’re running on include downsizing the city’s carbon footprint, increasing the stock of affordable housing, scaling back parking and speeding tickets and supporting local businesses.
Pass Tucker grew up in Falls Church and graduated from George Mason High School in 2016. Pass Tucker was a student at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in Judaic studies, and less than a year away from graduating, when the pandemic began. With classes now online, Pass Tucker decided to take a break until the pandemic passed. As a candidate, Pass Tucker is learning as they go.
“This is going to sound a little weird, but I forgot I was non-binary — like, I forgot that that was something that would matter — until I had already announced,” Pass Tucker said.
Most people have been accepting of their gender identity, Pass Tucker said.
“There’s the occasional person where I knock on their door and then they say something homophobic or transphobic,” Pass Tucker said. “But the majority of people in Falls Church are pretty liberal and accepting, which is another reason why I love Falls Church so much.
“It’s important to have minority representation in whatever form it comes in, because people who are members of marginalized groups understand what it is like to be oppressed,” Pass Tucker added. “And, quite frankly, it is easier to have empathy for and to help lift up other marginalized communities, even if they’re not a part of them.”
As a Jew, Pass Tucker said they observe Shabbat and try to live a life guided by Jewish values. Pass Tucker identifies with the Reconstructionist movement. Pass Tucker has been involved with groups including J Street, Planned Parenthood and Sunrise Movement. A notable Jewish experience for them was traveling with 26 other college students to Israel in 2019. The 10-day Let Our People Know trip was organized and funded by J Street and Pass Tucker wrote of the experience in an opinion piece in Washington Jewish Week.
Upon finishing their studies, Pass Tucker plans to go into full-time activism and advocacy work, particularly around racial equity or the Israel-Palestine conflict. But meanwhile, the election is nearing.
“I don’t really have a date to go back to things anymore because of the campaign,” Pass Tucker said. “I am happy to take as much time off from school as needed. I can do it part-time until I finish. But enacting positive change in my local community is something that’s super important to me. More important than a traditional career.”