Mark Keam, Longtime Democratic Virginia Delegate, Resigns

FILE - Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, center, talks with Del. Matthew James, D-Portsmouth, right, and Del. Luke Torian, D-Prince William, left, during the House session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Feb. 17, 2016. Keam, the long-serving Democratic member of the House of Delegates from northern Virginia, has resigned his seat, a move that will set up a special election to fill the vacancy in the blue-leaning district. According to a spokesman for GOP House Speaker Todd Gilbert, Keam's resignation is effective midnight, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
FILE - Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, center, talks with Del. Matthew James, D-Portsmouth, right, and Del. Luke Torian, D-Prince William, left, during the House session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Feb. 17, 2016. Keam, the long-serving Democratic member of the House of Delegates from northern Virginia, has resigned his seat, a move that will set up a special election to fill the vacancy in the blue-leaning district. According to a spokesman for GOP House Speaker Todd Gilbert, Keam's resignation is effective midnight, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Mark Keam, a long-serving Democratic member of the House of Delegates from northern Virginia, has resigned his seat, a move that will set up a special election to fill the vacancy in the blue-leaning district.

An attorney who was first elected to his Fairfax County-based seat in 2009, Keam said in an interview Tuesday that he had stepped down to take a job in the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Keam said he will serve as a deputy assistant secretary running the National Travel and Tourism Office, which is focused on bringing foreign travelers to the U.S.

Keam said he was excited to step into the new role at a time when the travel and tourism industries are at a “critical moment” in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Garren Shipley, a spokesperson for Republican House Speaker Todd Gilbert, said discussions were still underway about the timing of a special election, which will not impact the GOP's control of the chamber.

Bryan Graham, chair of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, said in a statement that the group was formalizing its plans to operate an “open and fair process” to choose its nominee.

One contender, Fairfax County School Board member Karl Frisch, announced his candidacy Tuesday.

Graham's statement thanked Keam for his service and noted that he made history as the first Asian-born immigrant and the first Korean American elected to any state office in Virginia.

Keam said he was particularly proud of his record on environmental issues and his work to end the sales tax on menstrual products.

“I hope that my efforts, my accomplishments will make a difference in Virginians' lives,” he said.