Richmond Times-Dispatch: Youngkin, Democrats form ‘united front’ in push for Virginia FBI headquarters


Standing in the shadow of a sprawling federal government complex, Gov. Glenn Youngkin joined with Virginia Democrats on Wednesday to make what he declared was “a rock solid case” for the FBI to move its headquarters here on land the government already owns.

Youngkin, a Republican who has reversed some state initiatives on racial equity in his 13 months as governor, was backed by national, state and local Democratic officials to tout the virtues of Fairfax County as the heart of a culturally and racially diverse region that is already home to hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

They are promoting a 58-acre site owned by the U.S. General Services Administration, or GSA, and next to the agency’s administrative headquarters for the region that includes and surrounds the nation’s capital in Washington.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., says the Springfield site would be good for the FBI’s workiers.

“You see the strength and the power and the influence of government in the commonwealth of Virginia,” proclaimed Del. Luke Torian, D-Prince William, a Black minister and former General Assembly budget leader who serves on the legislative commission that vets larger economic development initiatives for Virginia. “We say to the GSA, we are a united front.”

Virginia’s push to lure the new FBI headquarters from the outdated J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington has intensified because of determined lobbying by officials in Maryland to land the project at one of two proposed sites in Prince George’s County, where they say the national law enforcement agency’s presence would lift the economy and well-being of a majority-Black locality that traditionally has been underserved.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-11th, the feisty former chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said “our friends across the [Potomac] river have done everything they can to cook the books to get the FBI to locate in Maryland.”

Connolly joked that Maryland’s “dirtiest trick” was a cold drizzle the morning of the rally here, “and I blame that on Steny Hoyer,” the former House Majority Leader and longtime Democratic congressman from Anne Arundel County, Md., who has led his state’s lobbying effort.

Virginia’s political unity was clear in a nine-page letter that Youngkin and 10 of the state’s 13-member congressional delegation sent to the leaders of the FBI and GSA on Feb. 3 to champion the superiority of the Springfield site on each of the five federal criteria set to choose the new headquarters site.

The governor was joined on Wednesday by Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, and congressional representatives Connolly; Don Beyer, D-8th; and Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, a former CIA case officer whose new district includes the FBI’s training academy and crime lab at the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico, 27 miles south of the proposed headquarters site. Three other representatives who signed the letter — Rob Wittman, R-1st; Jen Kiggans, R-2nd; and Jennifer Wexton, D-10th — did not attend the rally.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., says the Virginia site is important for the FBI workforce.

Warner, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he hopes the government will make a final decision soon in what has been a nearly 15-year push for a new FBI headquarters, which he said then-President Donald Trump, a Republican, inexplicably delayed.

“We need to make sure there is a process that is fair, that has appropriate criteria and that does not have further political interference,” Warner said.

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He also gave credit to President Joe Biden, a Democrat, for adding opportunities to promote equity and diversity to the criteria “to reflect what Virginia and our country look like.”

Political leaders in the Northern Virginia region showed up in force with the same message, led by Fairfax Board Chairman Jeff McKay and Springfield District Supervisor Rodney Lusk; Loudoun County Board Chair Phyllis Randall; and Susana Marino, president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, says Springfield site would strengthen FBI’s mission.

Randall, who also chairs the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, boasted of the region’s transportation assets and its commitment to racial and cultural equity.

“Equity and opportunity are not the same thing,” said Randall, who is Black. “You have to have equity before you get the opportunity.”

The regional transportation authority and Fairfax are joining with the state to pledge $200 million to one major transportation improvement they say is critical to supporting the FBI headquarters. Youngkin has been using the FBI project as a justification for seeking greater authority over the state Transportation Partnership Opportunity Fund — specifically, to use the fund for economic development incentives without lengthy review by the General Assembly.

Youngkin emphasized Springfield’s location — next to the Transportation Security Administration headquarters and closer than the Maryland sites to major national security installations. “The material difference is this — Springfield is simply better situated,” he said.

The governor also touted a cumulative $15 billion in transportation improvements in the Northern Virginia region — including commuter rail and transit — as well as the state’s efforts to boost pay, training and equipment for law enforcement. “We are a state that is committed to the men and women who put on a uniform every day,” he said.

For Youngkin and his Democratic allies, the clincher is the low cost to the federal government.

“The site is already federally owned,” McKay said, “meaning that the GSA can start work now.”

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