With no Republican contenders in the race, the Democratic primary for the 49th District House of Delegates seat will almost certainly decide who will represent the South Arlington district for the next two years.
When comparing the two candidates, however, one realizes that they are nearly identical on the issues. Both Stephanie Clifford and Alfonso Lopez say they will bring their “progressive values” to Richmond but will work with lawmakers across the aisle, both are pro-choice and pro-LGBT equality, both support increasing funding for Pre-K education and transit, and both oppose off-shore oil drilling.
“It’s obvious, we are pretty much exactly alike on the issues,” Clifford acknowledged recently. “There’s not a lot of daylight between us, we will vote the same way much of the time, which is why… personality issues are so much more important in this race.”
Those personality differences became a bit more clear earlier this week during a live televised debate sponsored by ARLnow.com and Arlington Independent Media. Asked about the one thing that most separates them from their opponent, Lopez and Clifford had two very different answers.
“I think it comes down to experience,” said Lopez, whose resume includes time as an Obama administration appointee in the Small Business Administration, an appointee with the administration of Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, an environmental policy advocate and a leader of local Democratic organizations.
“I’ve been working on these issues that matter to the 49th District for about 20 years,” he said. “It’s not just about building coalitions… it’s having the history, having the years of experience, and knowing the people in Richmond already. I’ve put in the time, I know how to get things done.”
Lopez added that the long list of endorsements he has received shows that he’s ready to go to Richmond.
Clifford, 34, said that while she doesn’t have the experience of Lopez, she has other qualities that make her the best choice for the Democratic nomination.
“I absolutely believe I bring that strong work ethic, the temperment and the perspective that we need to have a very effective delegate, to get down there and work for the real results we need,” she said.
“I’ve walked the entire district twice. I’ve talked to people over and over again about these fundemental issues. People are worried about housing, they’re worried about the education that their kids are receiving, they want to be able to afford to live here,” Clifford said. “People need help, and that’s why I’m stepping up.”
The primary will be held on Aug. 23. See a video of the entire 50-minute debate, after the jump, or watch on Arlington Independent Media (Comcast channel 69 or Verizon channel 38) on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. or Wednesday at 9:00 p.m.