Thomas, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic County Board nomination last year, made the surprise announcement via Facebook this afternoon.
“To my friends and supporters, I want to thank you for the kind support and encouragement to run for the Arlington County Board,” Thomas said. “While my enthusiasm to represent our community remains, I have decided not to run in 2015.”
“At this time, with commitments to the continued growth and success in my business and family, I would not be able to focus 100% of my time on the needs of Arlington,” Thomas continued. “I am very encouraged that we have wonderful candidates currently seeking the office and I look forward to hearing how they intend to be good stewards of tax dollars and their vision for the future of Arlington.”
So far, two Democratic hopefuls have publicly announced their candidacy for the two open County Board seats: Andrew Schneider and Katie Cristol. Other widely-rumored candidates include Christian Dorsey and Peter Fallon.
“I’m excited to talk to Arlingtonians from all corners of the county to hear their ideas, frustrations and potential solutions. I believe in one Arlington, one community,” Schneider said in statement announcing his candidacy. “Our county is at its best when we’re having real dialogue with friends and neighbors about how to move our community forward together.”
This is not Schneider’s first foray into an Arlington election; last year, he came in third place in the Democratic primary in the special election to replace retiring Del. Bob Brink.
Schneider joins Columbia Pike resident Katie Cristol as the first two running for the open seat. Candidates are allowed to officially file to run for the primary on March 9.
Schneider has two children in Nottingham Elementary School and, if elected, would be the youngest member of the County Board. He’s a native Arlingtonian, a graduate of Yorktown High School and was named last year to Leadership Arlington’s 40 Under 40.
Schneider’s campaign announcement said his platform will be “managing the county’s financial situation with an understanding that we face a new fiscal reality, having honest conversations that include all Arlingtonians and treats our county as one community, and improving customer service for Arlington’s residents.”
That’s the message from County Board Chair Mary Hynes, who announced her retirement on Wednesday.
Acknowledging that the current County Board majority has been going through “a rough patch,” Hynes urged fellow like-minded Democrats at Wednesday night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting to stand up and speak out at County Board meetings and elsewhere.
“It is very important — I can’t give this message strongly enough to the people in the room — you need to stand with us,” Hynes said. “You cannot believe that just because we’re up there and it feels okay to you that it is okay. We need your voices and we need your faces and we need you to pat us on the back every once in a while and come to the public hearing.”
Unsaid in Hynes’ message: those who oppose things — the Board majority, streetcars, aquatics centers, schools, fire stations, affordable housing developments — are doing a better job of getting their message out and being visible at community functions than the rank-and-file Democrats who support such things.
“Put a little time in,” Hynes urged. “Because it makes the work possible. We do this on behalf of you.”
As for her planned retirement — like Walter Tejada, she will not run for reelection and will serve out her term through the end of the year – Hynes said it was a personal decision.
“It is time for a new chapter for me,” Hynes said. “I’ll be able to make music more and read for pleasure, instead of reading to help me weigh the tough choices before us as a community.”
“I’ve been at this long enough to know that no one person is irreplaceable,” she continued. “My goal was always to leave Arlington better place than I found it, and I hope that I have done this.”
“When Arlingtonians roll up their sleeves and say ‘we can make a difference,’ we do make a difference… We can build a vibrant future, we can move past this rough patch, if we collaborate, use your common sense and build a consensus. That is the task that is before us. I know we can do it.”
Hynes received a standing ovation from the party faithful before and after her remarks.
“Our party, and our values and our people are responsible for creating the Arlington we all love today,” she concluded. “And don’t you ever let anyone tell you something different.”
One of his biggest priorities after being elected in August to replace Del. Bob Brink (D) will be reforming the process by which Virginia draws its districts for both state and federal legislatures. Sullivan’s legislation, HB1485, would follow through on recommendations made by a state government integrity panel last month.
Although a long-shot in the Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly, Sullivan’s bill calls for redistricting to become a nonpartisan process.
Every 10 years, after a new U.S. Census, state legislatures redraw their district maps to align with the population changes. Often, these districts are drawn in a way to include certain blocks of voters with one another in order to gain seats in Congress or the General Assembly. The problems are not unique to Virginia, but they might be worse here.
In October, a three-judge federal court ruled that Virginia would have to redraw its congressional map after it ruled it was drawn to include too many black voters into Virginia’s 3rd District.. The court gave the state until April 1, 2015 to redraw its map, but the case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sullivan and state Democrats think a nonpartisan panel would make redistricting fairer.
“This legislation will go a long way toward creating legislative districts that are truly compact, contiguous and respect political subdivision boundaries,” Sullivan said. “By reducing the role of politics, we will establish a redistricting process that is fair, transparent, and takes into account the interests of the citizens of the Commonwealth. Voters should choose their legislators, not the other way around.”
Sullivan’s legislation appears unlikely to pass; after the state’s panel — co-chaired by former Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling — ruled the process should be changed, House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell told the Washington Post through a spokesman that he would resist redistricting reform.
Nonetheless Sullivan thinks that Republicans, who have a vast majority in the House and a one-seat majority in the state Senate, may come around to his ideas yet.
“I’d like to think people come down to vote for what’s best for Virginia rather than what’s best for themselves,” he said just hour before his first regular session. He said he senses “real traction” from some Republicans on the measure. “The fact that redistricting affects my [district's] lines ought to be way down the list of concerns for someone down here.”
If the Supreme Court decides to overturn the lower court’s decision, Virginia’s electoral map would be redrawn in 2021, after the next census. A statewide organization called One Virginia 2021, which claims to have members from across the political spectrum, has endorsed Sullivan’s legislation.
“Delegate Sullivan’s legislation takes a major step toward ending gerrymandering in the Commonwealth,” Greg Lucyk, the president of One Virginia 2021, said in a press release last week. “Gerrymandering eliminates competition in elections, increases voter apathy, and promotes polarization and gridlock.”
If passed, the bill would prevent the use of election data in redistricting, except to ensure “racial or ethnic minorities can elect candidates of their choice.” It would create a nonpartisan panel to look at population size, makeup and communities of interest when redrawing the maps.
They would almost certainly get returned, given that the former Democratic donor is a convicted sex offender and has recently been in the headlines for claims that he used underage girls as sex slaves, with Britain’s Prince Andrew named as a potential beneficiary.
So why did Gwendolyn Beck, a long-shot independent candidate for Congress in Virginia’s 8th District last year, receive what appears to be Epstein’s only political donations of 2014, totaling $12,600?
Beck — a Rosslyn resident who used to work in the financial industry — tells ARLnow.com she simply asked a number of billionaires in her Rolodex for donations, and Epstein was one of them.
“I did call every billionaire I know to ask for campaign funds, and Mr. Epstein sent the donations,” Beck said via email. “I haven’t spoken with him personally in years. During my years at Morgan Stanley (started in 1995), I managed a portion of his investment funds (about $65 million), and knew him personally. While the press has tagged him ‘a man of mystery’ because they can’t explain how he made his money, it’s mostly a combination of real estate and complex derivatives.”
Beck continued: “At the time, he had a girlfriend he was very close to, and was a hardworking, thoughtful man (he comes from a poor background and made a lot of money really fast). I think he went off the deep end when she left (I left Morgan Stanley by this time and had no relationship with them), and got involved in very bad behaviors which he’s sought therapy for and paid his time in jail.”
Beck, who ran on a platform of being “financially responsible, socially inclusive,” said her decision to accept the cash — given to her campaign and two PACs she controls — “is a question of forgiveness.”
“Did voters forgive Marion Berry, etc. – the list is long,” she said. “I am deeply opposed [to] and shocked by his behavior, but he has paid his debt to society. Although humanly flawed, he can be a great asset to our nation because he understands finance on a level most people can’t comprehend.”
Beck finished a distant third in the November general election, with 2.7 percent of the vote, to 31.7 percent for Republican Micah Edmond and 63 percent for the winner, Democrat Don Beyer. That’s despite other large donations to her campaign coffers from a number of other wealthy, notable people.
Richard Kramer, chairman of Republic Holdings, donated $7,600. Mort Zuckerman, billionaire owner of the New York Daily News and U.S. News and World Report, donated $2,600. George Albrecht, owner of a Boston-area car dealership chain, also donated $2,600.
Beck said they all supported her centrist message.
“They all believe in our Fiscally Responsible, Socially Inclusive message and that Congress needs at least one independent,” she said. “This bipartisan fighting needs to stop. Mort Zuckerman and Richard Kramer have interests in VA08, believe in our message, and think I should continue to get a voice for independents. Mr. Albrecht is a ‘like-minded’ wealthy family friend who was helping me.”
Career-wise, Beck was a sales manager for the now-defunct Eastern Airlines before transitioning to the financial industry in the 1990s, working for firms like Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley. A few years ago, she wrote a book, Flirting with Finance, which teaches finance through romantic stories. She was photographed attending a state dinner in 2010 with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), as The Smoking Gun pointed out yesterday.
Most recently, Beck said she has been volunteering in Arlington, studying for a master’s degree in gerontology from George Mason University and working as an analyst for an investment firm. As for future political plans, she said she was still contemplating her next move.
“Not sure at this point,” she said. “I do believe Congress needs more ‘centrist’ independents and that our country would be better served with their voices being heard.”
Local political blogger and Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett, who correctly predicted that the election of John Vihstadt would doom Arlington’s streetcar project, recently analyzed the Nov. 4 County Board election on the public access program Inside Scoop Virginia.
Tribbett placed the blame for Democrat Alan Howze’s stunning defeat squarely on the shoulders of the County Board itself and its communication “meltdowns.”
“The Arlington County Board is insular, arrogant, doesn’t listen well to the community, insults people when they disagree with them,” Tribbett said.
In addition to discussing the role the streetcar, the million dollar bus stop and other spending projects played in stoking voter discontentment, he examined the precinct-by-precinct crossover vote — those who voted for Democratic Sen. Mark Warner but also voted for independent John Vihstadt.
The smallest crossover vote margin in a precinct was 28 percent, Tribbett said. The largest was 82 percent, in the Arlington Forest precinct, which has objected to a plan to build affordable housing on top of the neighborhood’s Lubber Run Community Center.
Tribbett also blasted the belief of some Democrats that John Vihstadt “tricked” voters by running as an independent and not as a Republican.
“Arlington County has just been full of debacles recently. You can see how Democrats are upset at the local level and making conscientious decisions,” he said. “This is where the Arlington County Board is really messing up. These are extremely well-educated voters. They know exactly what they’re doing. They’re not mistakenly voting for the Republican. And [Democratic leaders] keep expecting them to turn around as if it’s a mistake.”
“[It's] in the heart of the most liberal area of Northern Virginia… the whole thing in Arlington has just been breathtaking,” Tribbett concluded.
Most explanations seem to center around concern about county spending projects. Among them: the delayed and increasingly expensive streetcar system, the indefinitely delayed $80+ million Long Bridge Park aquatics center, the delayed and occasionally problematic $1.6 million Clarendon dog park, and the delayed and occasionally problematic $1 million bus stop.
If you voted for Vihstadt, which of the following, if any, was foremost in your mind in the voting booth?
No one, not even the closest of followers, expected Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt to win re-election on Tuesday by as big a margin as he did.
Vihstadt, an independent, became the first non-Democrat elected to the County Board since 1983. But the eye-opener was how he did it: by winning 39 out of 52 Arlington precincts, even though every one of those precincts chose Sen. Mark Warner (D). Vihstadt took almost 56 percent of the vote and received almost 7,500 votes more than Democratic challenger Alan Howze, out of 62,663 votes cast.
In his regular post-election report to the Arlington County Democratic Committee on Wednesday night, former Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary struck a somber tone and said he was surprised by low turnout.
“I woke up this morning and I didn’t feel so good,” he said. “We had a turnout of about 48 percent. That stinks, particularly when you’re expecting a turnout as high as 61 percent. What the heck is going on? Very disappointing… I had talked about the County Board race that if turnout gets down to 60,000, if Vihstadt had 30,000 he was going to win.
“He did it,” O’Leary continued. “It didn’t seem possible, it didn’t seem likely, but it happened. The end result, if we look in terms of comparisons: first our candidate won 13 precincts, Mr. Vihstadt won 40. That’s really unheard of. I can’t even think of the last time that occurred. Last time I can think of anything like this was 1979.”
The numbers blew Vihstadt’s campaign manager Eric Brescia away, he told ARLnow.com in a phone interview yesterday (Thursday).
“We were not expecting it to be like this,” he said. “When it came in, it was just euphoric. You always have doubts; it’s very rare in modern politics that you get this many people to split their ticket. Somehow this got pulled off. I didn’t fall asleep that night just because of the adrenaline.”
Brescia said the streetcar was on many voters’ minds, but voters had other concerns, too. Vihstadt is adamantly against the streetcar, while Howze supports it.
“The streetcar was the biggest one issue, and we definitely made it a big part of our materials,” the campaign manager said. “It definitely wasn’t the only thing going on. A lot of people have generic frustrations with the county, responsiveness issues, spending issues, feeling like they’re not being listened to.”
County Board Chair Jay Fisette — who, along with Board members Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes, still make up a pro-streetcar voting majority on the Board – said Vihstadt’s messaging related to the streetcar caught voters’ attention. Fisette suggested voters chose Vihstadt because they were misinformed about the streetcar.
“I think there has been a lot of focus in the last year on that issue,” Fisette said after the ADCDC meeting. “This community has such a history of being thoughtful and policy-oriented … Here on this issue, what has been created and what we see at the moment is a lack of even agreement on some fundamental core facts about the issue.
“It’s almost like climate change,” Fisette continued. “Is it based on science that it’s true, or is it not?” (more…)
(Updated at 3:25 p.m.) The shockwaves around the re-election of John Vihstadt to the Arlington County Board last night continue to reverberate today, with many around Arlington wondering if the county is about to undergo a major policy shift.
“The streetcar is dead,” local political blogger and strategist Ben Tribbett told ARLnow.com last night at the Democrats’ election party in Crystal City. “The voters spoke so overwhelmingly tonight. There’s absolutely no way that [County Board members] Mary [Hynes] and Walter [Tejada] can win re-election if they’re running as pro-streetcar candidates next year. The voters have spoken on this now. It’s over.”
The growing chorus that the majority of the County Board — Chair Jay Fisette, as well as Hynes and Tejada — are out of touch with the voters was bolstered by Vihstadt’s margin of victory. The Republican-endorsed independent won 55.76 percent of the vote to Democrat Alan Howze’s 43.8 percent — less than his margin of victory in the April special election but still a big surprise to many who follow Arlington politics, who haven’t seen a non-Democrat win a County Board general election since 1983.
Howze won just 13 of Arlington’s 52 precincts. By comparison, Democrat Sen. Mark Warner won the majority of votes in every one of Arlington’s precincts, and took 70.59 percent of Arlington ballots.
It’s that result that led Arlington County Democratic Committee President Kip Malinosky to determine that Vihstadt’s victory was not from a lack of Democratic voter turnout, but rather the issues and candidates themselves.
“At this point, I’m not prepared to say what the message [voters sent] was, I’d like to look deep into it and hear a lot more,” he told ARLnow.com last night. “Arlington is a wonderful place to live, it’s well-governed, low crime, low unemployment rate. But people are obviously unsatisfied about something, so we’re going to have to do better.”
County Board member Libby Garvey, a Democrat, threw her support behind Vihstadt before the April special election to replace Chris Zimmerman, and was forced to resign from the ACDC executive committee for it. Last night, she experienced a mix of elation and relief at Vihstadt’s home in Tara-Leeway Heights, realizing her efforts had been validated by tens of thousands of Arlington voters.
“This is a mandate,” she said emphatically. “I think our colleagues on the Board have gotten out of touch with what people want, including Democrats. It’s just really a wonderful validation of what we’ve been saying and what we’ve been thinking. I think the people of Arlington are taking back control of their county and that’s a good thing.”
Tribbett agreed, taking it a step further. He said Howze shouldn’t take the blame for the loss; instead, it’s on the Board’s own lack of trust with voters and on the local Democratic leadership.
“It’s on the County Board 100 percent,” Tribbett said.
“This is the problem with Arlington Democrats. They spent the time after they lost the special election, and here’s the arrogant response: ‘When we get more voters, they’ll just take our sample ballot, and they won’t know the issues, so they’ll vote for our candidate,’” he continued. “Their plan is to hope that people aren’t informed? Well, this is one of the most educated electorates in the country, and they just told them basically to eff themselves with that kind of strategy, to rely on them being misinformed. Gimme a break. They ought to be embarrassed.”
While Tribbett believes the Columbia Pike streetcar to be a political impossibility at this point, groups that support it say the election shouldn’t be seen as a referendum on the streetcar.
“It would be reading too much into Arlington voters’ intentions to ascribe the election of John Vihstadt to a full term on the Arlington Board over Alan Howze primarily to the debate over the Columbia Pike streetcar,” said the Coalition for Smarter Growth, in a press release this afternoon. “Streetcar opponents linked the price tag of the streetcar to general concerns over government spending and the state of the economy… [but] we are confident that the streetcar will continue to stand up to scrutiny and prove to be the best investment for the Columbia Pike Corridor.”
Tejada said he hopes the Board can “work together in a respectful manner” and “find as much common ground as possible.” He deflected questions about the future of the streetcar and concerns over his and Hynes’ ability to win re-election in 2015. Instead, Tejada championed the achievement of agreeing on the streetcar plan without sacrificing any affordable housing on Columbia Pike.
Tejada also obliquely referred to Garvey and Vihstadt’s rhetoric as “divisive,” saying many of the Board’s critics are “condensing” the issues into “sound bites.” He said he looked forward to “continue to inform details to the community, particularly factual information that it took quite a long time to get to.”
“I think this is a crossroads moment in time for Arlington,” Tejada said. “We need to decide whether we’re going to become a timid and stagnant community or are we going to continue to be bold and innovative and craft difficult strategic policies that will sustain us in the future in all parts of the county.”
(Updated at 2:00 a.m.) Incumbent County Board candidate John Vihstadt, running as an independent, has won a historic victory in Tuesday’s general election.
With all 53 precincts reporting, Vihstadt has captured 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Democratic challenger Alan Howze. Vihstadt’s margin of victory is just shy of 7,500 votes, with 62,663 total votes cast in the race.
Vihstadt won by attracting a sizable number of Democratic votes. All Arlington precincts reviewed by ARLnow voted for the top of the Democratic ticket, incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Warner, who is in a tight statewide race with Republican Ed Gillespie.
Vihstadt is the first non-Democrat to win an Arlington County Board seat in a general election since Republican Mike Brunner won in 1983. (Ellen Bozman was elected to the County Board in 1985 and 1989 while running as an independent, but she was endorsed by the Democratic party and in 1993 won reelection as a Democrat.)
“We’ve made modern history in Arlington County,” Vihstadt told ARLnow.com at his election party. “In my view, this was not a victory for any one person or any one party, it was a victory for a new way of doing things, a fresh perspective and a new paradigm in Arlington County where partisanship doesn’t mean much but citizenship means everything.”
Howze called Vihstadt to concede the race at 9:15 tonight. He said he was disappointed with the result, which came despite hard work on the campaign trail by his supporters.
“There was a message of dissatisfaction with the electorate,” Howze said. “I worked hard to bring new ideas and a new perspective to the County Board. They chose John and the alternative path he put forward. He ran a very good campaign, ultimately the voters rewarded him for that.”
Now off the campaign trail, Howze said he looks forward to spending more time with his wife and three young children.
At the Vihstadt victory party, the mood was jubilant, with campaign manager Eric Brescia jumping for joy as more and more precincts reported wider and wider margins for Vihstadt. County Board member Libby Garvey was by Vihstadt’s side during his victory speech, and was giddy after the victory. A Democrat, Garvey resigned from the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s executive board in April after backing Vihstadt.
“This wasn’t just a squeaker, we won it big,” Garvey said. “It’s a validation of what I’ve been saying, what John’s been saying. We serve the people of Arlington and we presented them with what we think needs to happen, and they said ‘yes, that’s what we want.’ It’s democracy at its best. I’m thrilled.”
Barbara Kanninen defeated Audrey Clement in one of two School Board races tonight. Kanninen has 66 percent of the vote to 34 for Clement. Nancy Van Doren, running for School Board unopposed, has 97 percent of the vote.
Across Virginia’s Eighth Congressional District, which includes Arlington, Democrat Don Beyer has emerged victorious over his four opponents. Beyer captured 63 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Republican Micah Edmond, 2 percent for Libertarian Jeffrey Carson, 0.5 percent for Independent Green candidate Gerard Blais, and 3 percent for independent Gwendolyn Beck.
“My whole life has been leading up to this moment and this mission,” Beyer said in a statement tonight. “Together, we will move Congress and this nation forward.”
In the statewide race for U.S. Senate, with 98 percent of precincts reporting, Democratic incumbent Mark Warner has 49.18 percent of the vote, Republican Ed Gillespie has 48.27 percent and Libertarian Robert Sarvis has 2.48 percent.
Though news outlets like CNN have yet to project a winner in the race, an “energized” Warner took the stage at his election night party at the DoubleTree Crystal City hotel to declare victory. A centrist, Warner promised to work across the aisle in the newly-Republican controlled Senate.
“Whether it’s here in Virginia or anywhere around the country, the people of America want to move past sound bites, they want us to move past political bickering… to make sure that we get the job done for you and actually govern,” he said. “I’ll go back to Washington and recognize that we have to find that common ground. I know that most of us here are Democrats but neither political party has a monopoly on truth or virtue or patriotism. In this new Senate I’ll work with anyone — Democrat, Republican, independent, you name it — if we’re going to make sure we get our country’s problems fixed.”
Among other things, Warner pledged to a work to pass a budget “so we don’t go back to the stupidity of sequestration.”
Locally, voters on Tuesday approved the all four Arlington County bond questions on the ballot, including:
- Schools ($105.7 million)
- Metro and Transportation ($59.7 million)
- Community Infrastructure ($40.2 million)
- Parks and Recreation ($13 million)
Democrat Carla de la Pava, running unopposed for county treasurer, captured 97 percent of the vote. (more…)
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) The two candidates for Arlington County Board both say they’re feeling optimistic about their chances in today’s general election, but they also admitted that it’s anyone’s guess who will emerge victorious in the race.
Incumbent John Vihstadt, who’s running as an independent, said his campaign has “the message, the momentum and the means to win,” but said he’s “concerned” about the number of Democratic voters who came out specifically to vote on the congressional races, and are voting a straight party line by default.
“We would like to think most people who come out to vote, if they’re going to cast a vote for an office, that they will be informed and they’ll study the candidates in advance,” Vihstadt said while greeting voters outside the Walter Reed Recreation Center, near Columbia Pike. “There’s bound to be some people who just vote party line and don’t really look at the issues. But we feel confident that if voters judge the candidates, look at the issues, look at our background, that they’ll vote Vihstadt for County Board.”
A majority of the voters who talked to ARLnow.com outside the Walter Reed center around lunchtime said they opposed the Columbia Pike streetcar project, the election’s most talked-about issue. Vihstadt opposes the streetcar, while Democratic challenger Alan Howze generally supports it.
Howze acknowledged the “power of the sample ballot” helping his cause, but said he expects his progressive message to resonate with Arlington residents.
“A healthy democracy is always a good thing,” Howze said, while talking to voters outside the Wilson School voting center in Rosslyn. “Having a lot of people out participating in the process will give us a clear signal as to the direction the community wants to go.”
Howze, a father of three young children, said his campaign has been “a family and a community effort,” with a big assist from his wife, Pam.
“We’ve been working hard, we’ve done everything we can do, and now it’s up to the voters to decide,” Howze said. “We’re confident that the voters will choose to move Arlington forward.”
Vihstadt said his campaign has been fighting an uphill battle to reach voters who aren’t as engaged in local issues as those who voted for him over Howze in the County Board special election earlier this year. He’s hoping the Washington Post’s endorsement will help, as well as his television commercials, which have run during primetime football games and other cable TV programming.
“Cable TV ads… were surprisingly affordable, and we decided to give it a go,” Vihstadt said. “We’ve got great feedback, great response from those ads. The other nice thing about that ad is that it broadcasts the fact that as an independent we’re supported by parties across the political spectrum.”
Despite strong turnout this morning, so far few problems have been reported at polling stations. Arlington election officials tweeted that a party worker who had been handing out flyers outside Fire Station No. 10 in Rosslyn collapsed and was treated by emergency responders around 3:00 this afternoon.
Many voters who talked to ARLnow.com today said they were voting out of a sense of civic responsibility.
“I vote in every election because I think it’s our civic duty. I don’t miss a vote,” said Columbia Pike resident Nathan Chaisson.
“I am a huge supporter of Mark Warner, I think he’s done a wonderful job for this state,” Chaisson said of one of the factors that motivated his vote. “[I'm] satisfied with the taxes and the way our local government is run.”
Another voter, Alan Green, said he was voting after just getting back from serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq.
“I just want to come out here and do my part,” said Green. “People who don’t vote, that’s crazy. It’s one way you can express your thoughts and feelings to get the right person in the house.”
“We just need to get somebody… to make better decisions than we’ve got right now,” Green added. “Because right now it’s terrible. Basically we need to get things fixed because a lot of things are broken.”
Many polling places across Arlington had lines out the door as voters streamed in to decide Senate, House of Representatives, County Board and School Board races today.
At Arlington Traditional School (855 N. Edison Street), campaign workers stationed outside the school said lines were surprisingly long considering there is no presidential election this year. Wes Pippert has voted at the school for 20 years, and he said turnout was unusually strong.
Pippert said he hasn’t been following local issues, but that didn’t stop him from voting for all four bond measures — Metro and transportation, parks and recreation, capital projects and schools — on the ballot.
“I voted for County Board and School Board,” Pippert said, “but I can’t say I was very informed.”
Pippert’s son and daughter voted with him, and his son said he voted for Audrey Clement for School Board because he “liked her name” more than Barbara Kanninen’s.
Judy Word and Andrew Smoyer also voted at Arlington Traditional School, but they said they have been paying more attention to local issues — particularly the Columbia Pike streetcar — than in years past.
“I think the bulk of voters in the County Board election are voting their opinion on the streetcar,” Smoyer said. “We both thought more about it, because usually we vote party line. More than in previous years we had to think separately about the issues.”
Martha Deutscher voted at Washington-Lee High School, and she said she votes every year as a “loyal Democrat.”
“Streetcars don’t cross my mind,” she said. “I’m a Democrat, I usually vote Democrat. I’m just here to support the party.”
Arlington General Registrar Linda Lindberg predicts turnout in Arlington will be “about 50 percent” and said turnout is about 10-15 percent so far. The turnout is heavier in North Arlington than in South Arlington so far, Lindberg said, which is typical of most elections, despite the prominence of the streetcar in the race.
There have been complaints about faulty ballot machines in Culpepper Gardens and Arlington Traditional School — one ballot box froze at Washington-Lee but was quickly rebooted, according to the precinct chief — but Lindberg said that could simply be due to voter error.
“Our machines are definitely aging at 11 years old, and seldom does one keep a touchscreen device that long,” she said. “We have had a few issues with voters not properly making selections or complaining the selections they make aren’t registering. At Culpepper there are a lot of elderly voters who don’t always touch carefully. The election officers have been instructed to tell voters having difficulty making selections to either touch directly straight down on the selection or to use a stylus. We haven’t had issues when voters touch their selections properly.”
According to Lindberg, Arlington received 6,800 absentee votes, with “probably several hundred ballots still to be returned,” putting the absentee turnout at less than in the 2010 midterms that didn’t feature a Senate election. This election features the race to replace longtime Rep. Jim Moran, and Independent candidate Gwendolyn Beck was campaigning at Washington-Lee High School this morning.
Beck said it’s her goal to visit every polling place in the 8th Congressional District today, and she started with “packed” polling places Wilson School and Fire Station 10 in Rosslyn. In Rosslyn, she saw several voters she met on Saturday when campaigning during the Clarendon bar crawl.
“That’s the big question: how do you reach millennials?” she said. “You meet them where they go out.”
The Washington Post editorial board has given Republican-backed Independent John Vihstadt its endorsement for Tuesday’s Arlington County Board election.
The Post said Vihstadt would be a “badly needed independent voice” on the otherwise all-Democratic, five-member County Board. Vihstadt was elected to the Board in April in a special election, when he defeated Democrat Alan Howze by a 57-to-41 percent margin.
Howze is again running against Vihstadt, and local prognosticators are predicting this race will be closer; former Arlington treasurer Francis O’Leary thinks Howze will win because of a greater turnout of Democratic “party line” voters. However, the Post writes, the issues that led voters to choose Vihstadt in April haven’t changed.
The editorial board writes:
… Many Democrats have accorded Mr. Vihstadt grudging respect as someone who formulates and presents his views intelligently; he is no tea party bomb thrower. Equally important, in our view, is his insistence that the county reevaluate other expensive projects, such as a proposal for a state-of-the-art aquatic center, which he regards as unaffordable.
Whether Mr. Vihstadt prevails or not, it’s important for Arlington to have the debate; without him, the board runs the risk of groupthink.
The Post writes that it supports the Columbia Pike streetcar, and praised Howze as “a very capable candidate,” but said Vihstadt’s “civil and cogent” arguments against the streetcar have earned him the chance to serve a four-year term. Vihstadt has also been endorsed by Arlington County firefighters for his commitment to public safety
In its editorial, the Post also endorses Barbara Kanninen over Audrey Clement for School Board, citing Kanninen’s experience working with children’s issues.
The community center closed temporarily for major renovations on Oct. 1, but voters in Arlington’s 15th voting precinct — generally, homes south of 10th Street N., east of N. Garfield Street and north and west of Arlington Blvd — have yet to be notified of their new voting center, at 925 N. Garfield Street.
Arlington County General Registrar Linda Lindberg told ARLnow.com today “we are in the process of mailing notices to voters,” and signs are posted at the community center. After they were notified of the community center’s long-term closure, the county struggled to find a suitable replacement.
“Because of a shortage of suitable facilities within the precinct, finding an alternative took a little longer than we would have preferred, but Garfield Park came through for us,” Lindberg said in an email. “Voting will remain there until the community center reopens.”
The Sun Gazette reported on Friday that a June 2015 primary — such as for County Board and Arlington’s General Assembly seats — would also likely have Garfield Park as its polling place before an expected switch back to the community center for next November.
Polling places are determined by local governments, Lindberg said, but because of the short notice before the election, the Electoral Board decided to make an “emergency” switch. The new polling place location must be approved by the County Board with a public hearing, the process for which will happen after the election.
Garfield Park is at the northwestern most corner of the voting precinct, several blocks from the community center, which is on the district’s western edge but more centrally located (it’s the location in yellow on the map in the above photo gallery). At least one resident is concerned about the last-minute change and how it affects voter accessibility.
“This change will certainly result in a much lower turnout for this precinct and prevent many elderly and disabled from voting,” Lyon Park resident Martin Lee told ARLnow.com in an email.
Lindberg said that, like all other polling places in the county, “there will be specific parking blocked off for voters who need accessible spaces.” Voters will enter the apartment building through the community room, and signs will be posted to direct them to the ballot box.
That’s the message from the two candidates for County Board, incumbent John Vihstadt and Democratic challenger Alan Howze, in response to a questionnaire from the Arlington Parks Coalition.
Both Vihstadt and Howze said that Arlington needs more parkland and recreational space to meet existing needs, let alone future demands. Both said they would support the acquisition of new parkland by Arlington County.
In addition, Vihstadt floated a number of specific ideas, like “building up rather than out, in schools and public facilities construction and additions to maximize green space,” and “examining the feasibility of air rights over I-66 in Rosslyn and East Falls Church for fields development.”
On the topic of the “Public Land for Public Good” affordable housing initiative, both candidates rejected the idea of using parkland for affordable housing, schools or other purposes.
Howze, however, kept the door open to potentially redeveloping existing recreational facilities to include housing. His response to the Parks Coalition:
I do not support the development of existing parkland for other purposes. Parks are a public good that are available to all members of the community and it is important that we preserve these public spaces.
When current recreational facilities are renovated or rebuilt, I believe it is appropriate to engage in a community conversation about potential uses. For example, could pre-K and on-site childcare be integrated into a site – making it easier for parents to use a facility? Could housing for seniors be integrated on a site to make recreational amenities and wellness activities more accessible to them? There is no one size fits all answer to these questions – but by engaging the community I am confident that the appropriate solutions will emerge. In fact, it is this confidence in our community that led me to call earlier this year for a broad public process to bring people together to work towards solutions to address school overcrowding, park needs, affordable housing, and public safety infrastructure. By bringing the community together we can emerge with a broader consensus for how to move forward in protecting our parks – while meeting other important community needs in schools, recreational, housing and infrastructure.
Vihstadt said Arlington should find creative solutions for preserving affordable housing and building more school capacity that do not require the loss of parkland.
In my view, Arlington’s 149 parks and our many community/recreation centers are the very essence of “public land for public good” and should be preserved for their intended purpose and adequately maintained. It is both counterintuitive and counterproductive to locate housing, schools, or any other non-parks and recreation-related development on our increasingly precious parkland and recreational sites, and I will work and vote to keep our green space green. As we add ever more population and density to our County, we must more carefully assess how our development decisions are impacting the diversity and character of our neighborhoods and our public parks, as well as our schools and infrastructure. We must also endeavor to ensure that our core services, including our parks and recreation resources, keep pace with our population growth. Clearly, our County faces challenges in ensuring adequate school capacity and preserving our affordable housing stock, but I believe we also possess the resources and creativity to address these challenges while preserving and, indeed, enhancing, our parkland and recreational resources, including sports fields.
On a related note, I believe that our regional parks and nature centers should remain substantially as they are, absent community-driven upgrades and maintenance improvements.