Arlington, VA

You’d expect that the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance would be a friendly venue for two Democratic candidates who both have voiced a strong pro-equality, pro-LGBT message. For the most part last night, at the AGLA’s forum for primary candidates, it was. But then 31st District state Senate rivals Barbara Favola and Jaime Areizaga-Soto unexpectedly had some of the negativity of their campaigns thrown back at them.

“I have to say to both of you, I am disgusted and appalled by this campaign,” Betsey Wildhack, a past president of AGLA who’s active in local Democratic politics, said during the forum’s question-and-answer session.

“I don’t understand how you all can present this as the best the party has to offer, with these constant negative attacks,” Wildhack said, as heads nodded in agreement in the audience. “How in the world will any of you beat [Republican 31st District candidate] Caren Merrick when you have laid out her campaign against both of you?”

Favola responded first.

“Well, that’s a very interesting observation,” she said. “Certainly this campaign has been far more robust and lively — and some would say has had more negative a tone — than we have seen in Arlington. I don’t think this campaign has in any way damaged either of us for the general election. I think what it has done is enabled two candidates to develop strong organizations to knock on thousands of doors. We in effect had a six month trial period of really kicking into gear a first-rate campaign team, so that really has been an advantage.”

“Fortunately in Arlington, [Democrats] have a long tradition of coming together after a primary,” she added. “I’m very confident… I know that the November election will turn blue for our seat.”

Areizaga-Soto then weighed in, insisting that his negative mailers were focused on “the facts” while Favola’s focused on “smear attacks and false attacks.”

“All of a sudden I have destroyed the Amazon and destroyed the American economy by being a second-year associate in downtown law firms in D.C… I am very disappointed in the mud that has been thrown in this campaign, especially when it’s not based in facts like all the pieces that my opponent has raised,” he said. “I haven’t raised false claims against my opponent’s records, I have gone to the facts. And those facts the voters deserve to know in the primary, if not they were going to know them in the general.”

“You have a right to your own opinions, but not to your own facts… I’ve always talked to the truth. I stood to the facts,” Areizaga-Soto added. “It’s been overwhelmingly positive.”

Asked about the candidates’ responses, Wildhack seemed to disagree that there are many facts being discussed in the campaign.

“From their mailers, I don’t know a single thing about either one of them,” she said. “I just know bad stuff about both of them. I think they’re getting some really bad advice on how to run a campaign in this town. ”

Wildhack, an early Areizaga-Soto supporter, said that right now “I wouldn’t vote for either one of them, not anymore.”

“Their campaign does not reflect the community that I live in,” she said. “If I didn’t own my house I’d move eight blocks to be in a different district.”

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