WINCHESTER — Five candidates in the Nov. 5 election, including an independent, briefly introduced themselves on Saturday during a breakfast sponsored by the Blue Ridge Democratic Committee.

Speakers at the event, held at Winchester Country Club, were Irina Khanin, a Winchester lawyer running for the 29th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates; Ronnie Ross, who is seeking the 27th District seat in the state Senate; Steve Jennings, who is running for the Back Creek District seat on the Frederick County Board of Supervisors; Will Gardner, who is seeking to become Winchester’s next circuit court clerk; and Frederick County Sheriff Lenny Millholland, who is seeking re-election.

Millholland is running as an independent. He believes politics should not be part of law enforcement.

“The sheriff needs to be a neutral person,” he told approximately 50 people at the breakfast.

Khanin, a native of Russia and a Winchester resident for about four years, is challenging incumbent Republican Del. Christopher Collins, a local defense attorney. She believes the GOP, under the leadership of President Donald Trump, is trying to destroy American ideals. She mentioned freedom of the press as an example.

“The press no longer gets briefed about the (federal) government’s work,” Khanin said, adding that Trump tries to discredit the media whenever possible.

She also asserted that state lawmakers are trying to make protesting in public a criminal offense.

As long as Republicans are the dominant party in the General Assembly, “there will be more attempts to criminalize our basic rights and freedoms,” Khanin said.

Having undergone persecution in the former Soviet Union, she vowed that she will not stand for any attempts to restrict freedoms in Virginia or the United States.

“When we get there,” Khanin said, referring to her hopes that Democrats sweep the November election, “we will challenge the system.”

All 140 seats in the General Assembly are up for election in November.

An English teacher at the Highland School in Warrenton, Ross is trying to unseat incumbent state Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Upperville).

Vogel ran unopposed in the November 2015 election but had two official challengers four years earlier. However, Ross surmised that “the last time she really was challenged” for the Senate seat was in the 2007 election, her first victory.

Ross has lived in Northern Virginia for a decade. He said that after he became a father two years ago, he decided to run for public office so he could try and help current and future generations have better lives.

Improving education and access to health care are among his priorities.

He favors more state spending for classroom learning. Although it is recognized as the 12th wealthiest state, Virginia ranks in the bottom 20% among states in terms of per-pupil spending, he mentioned.

Among other things that he pledged to work for are transparency within state government and environmental improvements.

Khanin and Ross were the keynote speakers for the breakfast.

Jennings also is an educator. In his brief remarks, he said he wants to become a supervisor because “I want to help make our schools the best in the state.”

“I want to make the lives of these kids (students in the Frederick County Public Schools) better than what I know” as an adult, said Jennings, who is a music teacher at Sherando High School.

He pledged that as a supervisor he will be concerned with the interests of all county residents, not just those in the Back Creek District.

Millholland said that as sheriff, “I’m in the middle of doing a whole lot of things” that he believes will improve the protection of county residents. He did not elaborate.

He said, though, that area law enforcement agencies “need to start getting along better.”

Gardner told the audience that he has been Winchester’s deputy circuit court clerk for 16 years and asked for voters’ support.

The current clerk, Terry Whittle, is not seeking re-election and is endorsing Gardner to become his successor.

Local Democratic leaders encouraged their fellow party members to show up at the polls on Nov. 5.

“The biggest thing we can do this year” to oust Republicans from office, Blue Ridge Democratic Committee Chairwoman Suzanne Conrad said, “is to get out and vote. When we get out, we win.”

— Contact Mickey Powell at

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