J. Chap Petersen

  • District: 34
  • Member since: 2008
  • Localities represented: Fairfax City, Fairfax County
  • Committees: Agriculture, Courts, Education & Health
  • Website:

John Chapman "Chap" Petersen grew up in Fairfax City, next door to his great Grandmother. His family has a long history in Fairfax County.

Chap is a graduate of Fairfax High School (1986), Williams College (1990) and the University of Virginia Law School (1994).  

Chap has been an attorney in private practice since 1994.  He is licensed in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia and has tried hundreds of cases in his career, including thirty jury trials.  His law firm is located in downtown Fairfax.     

In 1998, the voters in Fairfax City elected Chap to serve on Council, where he served two terms.  In 2001, Chap ran as the Democratic challenger in the 37th House District seat and was elected after an intense six-month campaign against the incumbent John H. Rust.  In 2003, the voters re-elected Chap in a rematch with Mr. Rust.   

For four years, Chap served the 37th House District as its State Delegate. He sat on the Public Safety and Technology Committees in Richmond and served as minority whip.  Back in Fairfax, he focused on neighborhood-based constituent service.  Among his accomplishments was opening a DMV service center at City Hall in Fairfax.  That state-local partnership became a model for the entire state.  

In 2005, Chap ran for the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor of Virginia.  He was defeated in a four-way primary.  As a result, he did not run for re-election to his House seat, which is now represented by Delegate David Bulova (D).     

In 2007, Chap re-entered politics as the Democratic challenger for the 34th State Senate seat in central Fairfax.  Over ten months, he knocked on over 18,000 doors across the district -- from Lake Braddock to Wolf Trap -- and wore out several pairs of shoes. 

On November 6th, 2007, the voters of the 34th Senate district elected Chap Petersen as their new State Senator.  He received 25,513 votes (or 55.3% of the total) to defeat the incumbent Jeannemarie Devolites Davis.     

The Petersen-Davis race had the highest turnout of any 2007 contest in Fairfax County and was the most expensive legislative election in Virginia history.  With his historic win, Chap earned the unique distinction of defeating an incumbent to win a seat in both the Virginia House and Virginia Senate.   

On January 9th, 2008, Chap Petersen was sworn into the Virginia State Senate and assigned to permanent standing committees on Transportation, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Privileges and Elections, and General Laws.  In 2009 he was assigned to the Courts of Justice committee. He also serves as the Senate's representative on a state commission on Energy and the Environment.   

In his first session as a State Senator, Chap was the chief patron on several successful bills, including SB 450 which forbid domestic abusers from inheriting the property from spouses that they killed and SB 510 which guaranteed Virginia college students the right to a fairly priced student loan.  He also was a chief sponsor of legislation (SB 443) to outlaw the notorious "abuser fees" and served on the joint House-Senate conference committee which successfully repealed that law.   

In addition, Chap in 2008 sponsored the Clean Energy Future Act which required Virginia utilities to purchase 20% of their energy load from clean, renewable sources by year 2022, while making substantial gains in efficiency.   That bill was defeated in Committee but received more support than any pro-clean energy bill in Virginia history.  

Chap is a student of Virginia history, authoring his college honors thesis on economics and politics in antebellum Virginia.  He enjoys traveling the Commonwealth with his family in their classic 1999 Dodge Caravan.  The Petersens particularly enjoy the Old Time Fiddler's Convention in Galax and the Oyster Festival in Urbanna.   

Chap's other love is competitive sports and the outdoors.  He is a long-time member of the Northern Virginia Rugby Football Club and plays on its over-35 "Old Boys" squad.  He has twice completed the Marine Corps Marathon (most recently in 2008) and participates often in local road races. Finally, he enjoys hiking, fishing and hunting with friends or family. 

Chap is married to Sharon Kim Petersen, who was born in Daegu, South Korea and raised in Cleveland, Ohio.  Sharon is also a licensed Virginia attorney and coaches field hockey at Fairfax High School.  Chap and Sharon have three children, Eva Emmeline, Mary Walton and Thomas Henry, who attend local schools.   

The Petersens live in Fairfax City, within walking distance of the downtown, and attend Truro Church, where Chap was baptized in 1968.  Chap is also active in the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry based at the Fairfax County jail.

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