John Chapman “Chap” Petersen represents central and western Fairfax in the Virginia State Senate. He grew up and lives in Fairfax City. His family has a long history in Fairfax.

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, successfully representing thousands of local people and businesses. In 2011, his peers selected him as one of thirty “Leaders of the Law” in Virginia. His law firm, Chap Petersen & Associates, PLC, is located in downtown Fairfax, near the historic Fairfax County courthouse.

Chap began his career in politics by serving on the Fairfax City Council (1998-2002) and as a member in the Virginia House of Delegates (2002-2006).

In 2007, the voters of the 34th Senate District elected Chap as their State Senator. As a Democratic challenger, he defeated the incumbent Jeannemarie Devolites Davis in one of the most expensive legislative races in Virginia history.

In doing so, he walked the entire district and wore out several pairs of shoes.

With his historic win, Chap earned the distinction of defeating an incumbent for a seat in both the Virginia House (2001) and Virginia Senate (2007). He is the only member of the legislature to hold that distinction.

In 2011, after redistricting, voters of the “new” 34th Senate District re-elected Chap with 60% of the vote. He was re-elected again in 2015. The district stretches from Annandale to Centreville and includes the Town of Vienna and City of Fairfax.

Chap is a student of Virginia history, authoring his college thesis on economics and politics in antebellum Virginia. He enjoys traveling the Commonwealth with his family.

Chap’s other love is competitive sports and the outdoors. He is a long-time member of the Northern Virginia Rugby Football Club “Old Boys.” He has completed the Marine Corps Marathon three times and the Richmond Marathon twice.

Chap is married to Sharon Kim Petersen, who was born in Daegu, South Korea and raised in Cleveland, Ohio.

Chap and Sharon have four children. The Petersens live in Fairfax City and attend Truro Church, where Chap was baptized in 1968 and where he is active in youth education and the choir.

Legislative Record:


  • The 2010 “SAVE Act” (SB 113) successfully upgraded Virginia’s natural gas system.
  • The 2010 “PACE bill” (SB 110), created an innovative system for allowing property-assessed clean energy investments.
  • SB 843 in 2011 toughened laws on aboveground storage tanks.
  • SB 627 allowed homeowners in HOAs to install solar panels. 
  • Chap has sponsored bills to protect the Chesapeake Bay, including 2015’s SB 886, which would have established a 5¢ fee on plastic bags to fund Bay recovery programs. (Continued every year since).

Protecting Citizens and Businesses:

  • 2008’s SB 510 guaranteed college students the right to a fairly priced student loan.
  • “The Homeowners’ Bill of Rights (SB 1008 in 2015) guaranteed rights and liberties for citizens in HOAs or condo associations.
  • Chap has consistently fought for the rights of business and property owners when faced with an eminent domain “taking.” Chap’s eminent domain reform legislative package from 2018, (SB 278 and SB 809), are now law.

Ensuring a Healthy Virginia:

  • Establishing “Good Samaritan” protections: 2015’s SB 892 allows those who witness a drug or alcohol overdose to call emergency services without facing criminal prosecution. 
  • Requiring child abuse reporting: 2012’s SB 662 required establishments that care for children to report suspected child abuse or neglect.
  • In 2018, a group of self-described “Recess Moms” came to Chap with a simple problem: their kids weren’t getting enough time outside. SB 273 solves this problem.
  • Chap has consistently supported competition and free enterprise in healthcare, including repeal of the “Certificate of Public Need” requirement for healthcare providers.

Fighting for Constitutional Rights:

  • Protecting academic free speech: SB 831 in 2011 would protect the rights of professors to research academic issues without fear of government intervention.
  • Protecting citizens: Chap led the effort to stop unwarranted police surveillance (SB 965) in 2015.  It passed the Senate but was vetoed by the Governor.
  • For many years, Chap led the effort to raise the felony larceny threshold. Minor property crimes should not be charged as felonies. In 2019, a bill doubling that threshold, SB 138, was signed into law.

Protecting Education:

  • Chap has sponsored numerous budget measures to bring funding for George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community Colleges.
  • Chap sponsored successful legislation in 2010 (SB 712) to establish George Mason University’s South Korean branch campus. 
  • Chap’s 2017 legislation (SB 1376) requires public colleges and universities to give “30 days notice” before raising undergraduate tuition.
  • In 2019 Chap successfully required public colleges and universities to explain why they are proposing a tuition increase, and provide a public meeting for students and families to comment (SB 1118). That same year many Virginia higher education institutes opted to freeze tuition.

Leveling the Playing Field

  • For years, Chap has introduced measures to limit campaign donations in Virginia; there are currently no such limits. For example, Chap’s 2019 legislation, (SB 1114 and SB 1146), would ban donations from publicly-regulated monopoly utilities and limit “super sized” campaign donations.
  • Chap took on the major power companies in 2017, with SB 1146 which sought to end the “refund freeze” for utility consumers and would have returned hundreds of millions of dollars in utility over-earnings to Virginians.