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Libby Garvey Wins County Board Special Election

by ARLnow.com March 27, 2012 at 7:29 pm 9,402 115 Comments

(Updated at 11:50 p.m.) School Board member Libby Garvey has been elected to the Arlington County Board after a special election that saw historically low voter turnout.

Garvey, a Democrat, received 49.2 percent of the vote to 43.5 percent for Republican Mark Kelly and 7.1 percent for Green Party Candidate Audrey Clement. Only 14,252 votes were recorded — a 11.5 percent turnout — in contrast to between 18,000 and 22,000 votes recorded in the previous five County Board special elections.

Though Garvey emerged the winner, the race was relatively close when compared to the usually lopsided general election results in favor of Democrats in Arlington.

In Barcroft, a precinct in which the Columbia Pike streetcar is a hot-button issue, Kelly received 184 votes to 182 for Garvey and 22 for Clement. That compares to the 2010 general election, when Democrat Chris Zimmerman was elected with 58.3 percent of the vote in the precinct to 34.3 percent for Kelly.

At her victory party, Garvey said she and her volunteers ran “a good campaign,” but acknowledged that the results were a bit close for comfort.

“It was a nail biter,” she sighed. “I said that these [special elections] are the ones we lose. The lower the turnout, the more likely we are to not win. There was not the turnout that we had hoped for today.”

Garvey is scheduled to be sworn in as a Board member at 5:00 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday). In a statement, Garvey said she was “ready to get to work.”

“I’d like to thank the voters of Arlington,” she said. “It’s been an honor and privilege to serve you on the School Board, and I look forward to serving you on the County Board as well.”

In his own statement, Kelly conceded defeat, but pointed out that Garvey received less than half the vote.

“While I am disappointed in the final result, I am proud of the substantive, issues-based campaign we waged against a 15-year incumbent of the School Board and the Democrat machine in Arlington,” Kelly said. “Despite electing her four times before, a majority of voters in the most Democratic county in Northern Virginia agreed with me that it was time to change course in Arlington.”

“It is clear that at the end of the day, Arlingtonians wanted real fiscal discipline and accountability from the Board,” Kelly continued. “They oppose the Columbia Pike trolley. They think we are paying far too much for things we simply do not need. They want community input to be considered, not ignored.”

Kelly concluded by saying that he hopes Garvey will bring a fresh perspective to the Board.

“Throughout the campaign, she promised to be an independent voice from the current Board, and all Arlingtonians should hold her accountable to that promise,” he said.

  • Mary-Austin

    Tells you something about what neighbors think of the streetcar. Barcroft never goes Republican and a number of people showed up.

    • drax

      Oh well. I don’t like I-66 either.

    • FrenchyB

      Clearly, because Barcroft is the only precinct on the proposed streetcar route

      • Mary-Austin

        Kelly also won Jefferson. He almost won Claremont and Fillmore.
        You miss the point that these are normally solid Democratic precincts in almost every election.
        Garvey won handily in Arlington Forest and other similar precincts that would not be severely disrupted by the trolley.

        • FrenchyB

          Yes, clearly I missed the point of the three precincts you mentioned above – while not mentioning Arlington, Arlington Mill, Arlington View, Columbia, Four Mile Run and Claremont.

          • DP

            …or Douglas Park, which voted Libby and supports the Street Car.

          • Arlington Democrat

            And not to put a fine point on it, but African American turnout was nil yesterday. Dems frankly didn’t take this election seriously. That’s why it was close.

          • Tabs

            I saw plenty of African-Americans at my polling place, the Walter Reed Community Center. But they were playing foosball.

          • OccasionallyAFact

            Arlington Democrat: The turnout was also abysmally low in precincts with small African American populations. Was it that Democrats didn’t take it seriously — that Garvey’s base is limited — or that there’s growing unhappiness with the current county leadership? Or all of the above?

          • Mary-Austin

            Yea, you’re right who cares what they think.
            Guess we know what French B stands for!

          • Tabs

            Wow. Totally uncalled for.

          • FrenchyB

            No, I’m actually amused at what she thinks it stands for.

    • dk

      The election results do tell us that there are very divergent views on the streetcar project; many people are opposed.

      The election results also tell us that the people who are for the streetcar and who have no opinion about the streetcar outnumber (or at least out-vote) the people who are opposed.

      • Zoning Victim

        No it doesn’t; she didn’t get over half of the vote, she got 49.2%, and I’d be surprised if anyone voted on that one topic alone.

  • Hikin the pike

    How soon befor the ACDC announces a “decisive” win?

  • Ashton Height Bob

    Audrey “Nader” Clement helps cement the establishment.

    • Rick

      She’d probably take that as a compliment

    • southarlington

      You may be right but you never know if all those votes would have gone Mark’s way. I hope he will not give up and run again ….and this time not have a person to spilt the votes.

      • BlueLoom

        I’m a Clement voter who would have held her nose & voted for Garvey had Clement not been in the race. I bet a large percentage of Clement voters felt the same way. We were voting eco-progressive. We’re not, for the most part, potential Republican voters

        • A real green

          As an eco-progressive, I find nothing in Clement’s platform worth voting for. She opposes new transit investments for crying out loud. She hasn’t articulated any particularly green philosophy. She has nothing to say about Fresh Aire or other county initiatives. How exactly is she greener than Jay or Chris?

          • Clarendon

            I too was puzzled at her entry for the reasons you cite. She seemed quite ignorant of human ecology for someone professing to be an environmentalist of some sort.

      • Unbeeweebable

        My vote would never have gone Kelly’s way. I agree with absolutely nothing he believes in and to which he has dedicated his career.

        If Clement hadn’t run, I’d have written a vote in.

        Garvey needs to prove her independence to me. Also, I’m uncomfortable with the school overcrowding issue which she had a long tenure to recognize and deal with.

        Horrible grammar, I know. Sorry.

    • brown before green

      You are delusional. Many Clement votes are a vote against Garvey & the establishment but by those who cannot stomach voting for Kelly.

      • Junior

        You’re absolutely right (at least in my case). I’m thoroughly exasperated by the wastefulness of the machine government in this county. I was pleased that I had an actual choice for fiscal responsibility and a candidate with a backbone without the psychotically incoherent metaphysical elements you have to swallow to vote for a Republican.

    • Josh S


      Just. Wow.

    • Voted Tuesday

      Aw, what a shame that Republicans are Nader-screwed for once.

  • J

    Wonderful. More of the same one-sided, business as usual.

    • MB

      Which appears to be what Arlingtonians want, eh?

      • Patrick

        Maybe. We know it’s what half of those that voted in this election want.

    • Flip Flop Brah

      She ran against the current board – who knows what she’ll do now. She may be a democrat, but I don’t know how predictive that is given how she campaigned.

  • OccasionallyAFact

    Hmmm. Democrats like to brag about never losing a precinct. Looks like Garvey lost 17. What a mandate … for apathy?

    Clearest result here is that Clement gets much support only when there’s no Republican in the field.

    • drax

      That’s creative spin.

  • Mark

    I like many of Clement’s positions. Especially regarding environmental issues. Just don’t understand why in a sit down restaurants in Arlington you are given paper plates and plastic forks and knives. That’s a disaster for the environment and completely crazy.

    • Tabs

      I vote with my feet in that case. I was appalled to see Styrofoam containers at Senor Pan.

      • John K.

        Styrofoam is par for the course in most Latin American-owned businesses in the Pike Corridor…

  • Elmer-The real progressive

    49.2% of the vote means less than half of the voting electorate chose to keep the status quo. That’s a blow to the machine and progress for Arlington.

    • Josh S

      Except that the key phrase in your analysis there is “the voting electorate.” Who was more motivated to get out and vote in this election- those opposed to Garvey or those in favor of her? I expect it was those opposed.

      If you had a larger turnout, the margin of victory would have been bigger and I submit that she would have crossed the 50% mark easily.

      • Arlington Democrat

        Put these same three candidates up again in November and Garvey wins 65-70 percent, without trying. It is just the reality of turnout, not a mandate one way or another.

  • John Fontain

    So the takeaway here is that most people didn’t want Garvey to be on the board.

    • drax

      You could just as easily say most people didn’t want any of these candidates to be on the board. So back to square one on that one, John.

      • Zoning Victim

        Actually, I think you’d be more accurate with that statement than any other on what this vote means.

        • drax

          Perhaps. But “none of the above” is not a choice.

    • Josh S

      You’ll be claiming that now until November, so it’s a good thing I don’t have to waste any breath typing these words.

      The takeaway is that it was a historically low turnout which means it’s almost impossible to conclude much of anything from this election. About half of those who voted voted for someone else. However, such a tiny fraction of the public voted that it is grossly unfair to make any conclusions about what “most people” want or don’t want.

  • Archerrules

    It shows that republicans can’t mount a credible enough candidate (even after the fourth election…) to win. Boo all you republicans out there. You had a shot. You lost AGAIN. Don’t blame the liberal democrats. Blame your own damn selves that can’t take advantage of an opportunity when it is put in your lap. Boo. Boo! It shows that the minority in this county prefers to complain and obstruct rather than participate. Boo.

    • Harry

      As a Democrat I have a lot of respect for Mark. The Republican contingency in the county complains all the time about being ignored and trod-upon by their more progressive counterparts. And yet, for this special election, the one time when Republicans have historically had a shot at winning an election, nobody wanted to actually get up and run! While the Dems were having a 6-way primary for this seat the Arlington GOP were twiddling their thumbs until Kelly, the ACRC president, had the cajones to step up and be the candidate. I hope the Republicans will remember this cycle the next time they bellyache about not being represented in the county government.

      • FedUp

        It’s “cojones”, Harry. Not that any Republican in Arlington has any.

    • Sue

      Really? DC solidly democratic in every single presidential election no matter how good the republican candidate. This is no longer an informed vote.

      Congratulations Arlington Co. – you have the mindset of the city you so often mock.

      • FrenchyB

        Both Carol Schwartz and David Catania were elected to the DC City Council as Republicans in the past decade (Catania has since become an Independent). If more Republicans (like above) were on the ballot here in Arlington, I bet they’d get a lot of support.

        • dk

          +1. I am a die-hard liberal, but I voted for Carol Schwartz several times when I lived in the DC. I even voted for Arlen Spector when I lived in Pennsylvania. Alas, those kind of Republicans appear to be a vanishing breed.

          I also resent the notion that because I tend to vote in a fairly consistent way that my vote in uninformed. I vote for the candidates who I feel most closely represent my views on important topics. I assume you do the same.

          • South Awwwlington

            I too voted for Spector when I lived in PA and Schwartz when I lived in DC.

            If Republicans would get out of bed with the Religious Right and stick with fiscal issues, the political landscape would be vastly different.

        • Whitney Wilson

          I believe that by law at least two members of the DC Council have to be members of the non-majority party (i.e. non-Democrats), which is how two Republicans were elected. The trend now is for Democrats who don’t/can’t win a Democratic primary to run as Independents for those two seats. I don’t think there is any chance right now that a Republican could win a citywide election in DC.

          • drax

            Not quite. Two of five at-large DC council members must be independents. Nothing about being in the minority party.

          • Whitney Wilson


            I think you were closer to correct than I was, but you were not 100% right either. The DC Home Rule Charter, Section 401(d)(3) states:

            “Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, at no time shall there be more than three members (including the Chairman) serving at large on the Council who are affiliated with the same political party.”


            Since there are 5 At-Large Council Members (including the Chairman), at least two of the At-Large Members can’t be Democrats (assuming that there are 3 At-Large Democratic Members). However, they do not have to be Independents. I think the DC Statehood Party has run people in the past, as have the Republicans, as well as Independents.

    • Zoning Victim

      That’s a really silly post. Not only is it extremely childish, but can you please explain to me how a group of people with absolutely no representation can possibly obstruct anything or even participate in a meaningful way?

    • bc

      Exactly. Next time choose someone who’s not on the fringe of your base and I will give him a very serious consideration. Graduated from Regent?? Worked for Heritage Foundation?? I don’t want anyone like that involved in county leadership.

  • Lauren

    I hope Mark Kelly runs again. He’s a good man, hard worker, and Arlington needs a Republican to throw some new ideas in the one sided discussion. I hope he’ll run once more.

    • Josh S

      But are new ideas necessarily good ideas?

  • Wilburg

    Gotta say – I am happy. Arlington has done good. And if this is the same old same old – great schools, great parks, great bike commuting, fighting for smart growth, great development in the subway corridors – then sign me up. Arlington is a great place to live. I have lived here for decades. Garvey is part of what has made Arlco a great place.

    Good for her and good for Arlington.

  • Car-Free Diet

    How many times does Kelly need to be the sacrificial lamb for Arlington County Republicans? If he runs again does that prove he is a glutton for punishment, or simply a masochist? Maybe he just needs to build up his positive name recognition a little bit more? After this hugely successful campaign, he needs only a few thousand more votes to take him over the hump.

    What I am confused by is the massive defeat for the Green Party candidate in earth-loving Arlington. Did it have anything to do with the candidate’s sunny disposition?

    • Flip Flop Brah

      I’m an independent, and I could not bring myself to vote for Kelly. His tea party leanings really turn me off. And actually, the CB does address hot button issues like immigration, etc., so his far-right views on social issues do matter.

      Clement was just . . . not to be taken seriously. And I say that as someone who has voted Green in other jurisdictions.

      The Republicans in Arlington need to nominate a better candidate than Kelly. He’s proven twice that he’s not a winner. I firmly believe that a truly moderate Republican would do just fine here in Arlington. Certainly, plenty of those kind of Republicans live here.

      • Harry

        +1, All Clement really did this election was split the liberal vote. Ironically a vote for the Green candidate just helped the Republican.

      • Patrick

        -1 The current CB view on immigration is ridiculous. Trying to opt out of secure communities? They are more concerned with offending an illegal immigrant then they are with following the laws of this nation.

        • Josh S

          I don’t think it’s a concern about “offending” anyone. It has to do with surveillance, a police state, lack of due process, etc. But as long as we’re on the subject of being offended, I am offended by the name – “secure communities” – as if native-born people aren’t just as capable of committing crime, causing mayhem, etc.

          • Zoning Victim

            Huh? Secure Communities has nothing to do with any of that. From ICE’s Secure Communities site:

            Secure Communities imposes no new or additional requirements on state and local law enforcement, and the federal government, not the state or local law enforcement agency, determines what immigration enforcement action, if any, is appropriate.

            Only federal DHS officers make immigration enforcement decisions, and they do so only after an individual is arrested for a criminal violation of state law, separate and apart from any violations of immigration law.

            Unfortunately, we can’t deport all criminals because nobody wants them, but we can deport the ones who are here illegally in the first place or violate the terms of their visas by running afoul of the law. If removing criminals from out community doesn’t make us more secure, I don’t know what does. I’d love to know how it is you’ve come to believe that ICE doesn’t give an immigrant due process before deporting them. Do you actually know of anybody who was deported illegally?

          • Josh S

            I apologize for the earlier hyperbole. Sometimes you get carried away in this internet commenting process.

            In any case, I think the program is flawed for a couple of reasons. A) it seems to require mandatory sharing of local arrest information with the federal government (ICE). This happens based on the arrest, not the conviction. So you potentially have innocent people whose information is being shared among other law enforcement organizations. Yes, I know that if you are arrested, you are already checked against the FBI’s database. I think that sharing with ICE is qualitatively different than sharing with the FBI. B) I can see why Arlington police (and other police organizations, for that matter) would be concerned about the perception existing that they are associated with enforcing immigration law. The risk is that certain individuals (including those who are legally here) would be reluctant to share information with the police that could otherwise lead to the arrest of a dangerous criminal. C) Especially given recent stories about quotas among Arlington police, there would be the risk that certain groups of Arlington residents would be profiled and subject to greater levels of scrutiny and arrest if there was the possibility of “scoring” hits on the ICE database.

          • drax

            A) You answered your own question. Anyone who is arrested who is not guilty has their information subject to law enforcement scrutiny, obviously.

            B) As for fear of sharing information, that’s true with all law enforcement. People who are wanted for violation of any law are going to want to avoid the police and avoid talking to them.

            C) But what do Arlington police get out of scoring hits with ICE? Nothing. There’s no quota for ICE hits – Arlington police don’t care about that, and an arrest would already satisfy any desire that would lead to a quota. So there’s no concern of targeting Latinos. In fact, it’s equally likely (i.e. not much) that police would avoid Latinos for fear of getting them deported.

            I just don’t see how this is any different from any other enforcement of the law.

      • MC

        +1 The Democrats should be very worried that so many people voted for a Pat Robertson Republican in Arlington. Think what would happen if the Republicans fielded a candidate that wasn’t so ideological, the kind of Republican that runs and gets elected in New York City. The the Republicans would simply put forward a candidate who wasn’t socially backward, they would win easily, because people are so feed up with the Dems “we need more welfare, and you can afford to pay more for it” attitude. Imagine if a Gay Republican ran (yes they exist) – the Democrats would be clobbered.

    • Josh S

      Yes, exactly about Clement. She was not much more than a naysayer. The few ideas that she supported were not likely to happen in the form that she supports. People aren’t attracted to that in a local election.

      • Voted Tuesday

        +1. I wanted to vote for her, but she was a talentless clown.

  • Hal J

    Now may they get out there and take down those silly signs that litter many roads.

  • wondering

    The streetcar is a hot-button County-wide issue… but note the election results in 22202. This is where the most intense development in the County is underway and citizens feel we are given no meaningful opportunity for input to shape it or protect our neighborhoods. Residents here laugh out loud and put “the Arlington Way” in air quotes when they discuss it. Personally, I am a life-long yellow dog Democrat, and I expect and hope for better from my representatives. I voted for Libby and like her very much and have high hopes that she can do something to effect real change in the way this Board and their staff operates… but I’m also a realist and understand that if she can’t do that, then as the Board’s vision of a new Arlington begins so likely will Alrlingtonians’ vision of a new Board…

  • Gwen

    I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t vote for Libby Garvey after watching her dismal handling of the Williamsburg Middle School mess. If she doesn’t have enough backbone to be independent from the superintendent, she will never have enough backbone to function independently on the county board.

    • Nancy

      +1 Please, please, someone run against Libby that isn’t from the Tea Party.

  • KalashniKEV


    • jackson

      Darn American system of government with its free elections everyone can take part in (or in this case, skip entirely).

      • KalashniKEV

        I’m with the whole process, I just find it disgusting that Garvey could be elected with multiple other candidates on the ballot that easily surpass her, and are far more qualified.

        • drax

          The GOP blew it. They could have nominated a moderate, but instead they tossed in a Tea Partier.

          • Tabs

            Exactly what I thought reading the Post this morning. Mark Kelly said people will vote for Republicans with the right ideas, and I thought–yes, but that ain’t you.

          • dk


            Lesson #1 if anyone is listening: Please don’t acccept large donations from anti-women organizations and expect to get my vote.

        • awh hells bells


  • South Walter Reed

    Worth noting that Frank O’Leary’s predictions proved to be completely useless – much like his tenure as Treasurer.

    • The only thing O’Leary predicted was very low turnout, which proved to be true.

      • Arlington Democrat

        No, O’Leary predicted that Democrats could not win a special election if total turnout was less than 18,000. Total B.S.

  • Off the sb

    Well it looks,like the woman who’s been trying for six years and loosing multiple contests finally found another elected position she could win. Thank god she’ finally off the sb and on the cb. At least there Zimmerman, Mary and jay can counteract her uselessness. You can count on more self promotion and useless leadership out of her, though

    • Patrick

      The great trio of Zimmerman, Mary and Jay who brought us the artisphere, and are now attempting to put a year round homeless shelter in the middle of courthouse. Can’t ask for better stewards of county funds then these three.

  • Kelly did 7% better in one precinct than he did county-wide and that’s your evidence for an anti-streetcar tidal wave? Pretty weak. A handful more Dem votes & the precinct would’ve reflected the county-wide total just as it did in 2010.

  • TMP

    Woo hoo! Continued one party rule!

  • Jackson

    Garvey:1 Arlington:0

  • T.G.E.0.A….

    That neck scarf rivals Hynes wizard outfit.

  • Brad

    WHAT!? A DEMOCRAT WON? Shocking.

  • Bluemontsince1961

    Hmmm. In other shocking news, the sun rose in the east, water is wet, and fish swim.

    • awh hells bells

      The ebb and flood of the tide feel left out of your remark.

  • OldTimer

    Great pic of the trash can with coffee cup in the foreground of that dismal-looking voting location. Must not be Clarendon because there is a trash can.

    • drax

      That pic wasn’t taken in Arlington, it was in Donaldson Run.

  • cahill22201

    Just out of curiosity, how many of you all voted? With this close of a race, seems to me that perhaps voting may have been more effective than whining. Moreover, if you don’t like any of the candidates, how about throwing your own hats in the ring for the next election?

    • wondering

      I voted, and my candidate won, and I can still whine if I’m unhappy… just because government is not my chosen career does not mean I don’t have the right to meaningful representation from those that have chosen it…

    • Tabs

      I did, at 6:55 pm.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      I voted yesterday morning at 6:15.

    • John K.

      6:10am yesterday morning.

    • Suburban Not Urban


    • South Awwwlington

      I did, for Kelly. Registered Democrat.

    • Zoning Victim

      I voted and will run in the next election if you can find me $60-70K in donations from individuals.

      • Josh S

        Maybe we should start an Americans Elect for Arlington.

    • FrenchyB

      Voted at 6:30 pm.

    • Unbeeweebable


  • novasteve

    Well, I suppose this is sort of a sign that a non democrat could have a chance eventually. He got 43% of the vote. Much higher than I thought. It would be so easy for republicans to win here, all they have to do is get a little dirty and just point out how insane and irresponsible financially democrats are.

    • dk

      You’ve got your finger on the pulse, as usual.

    • Zoning Victim

      This is a joke, right?

  • SArlingtonResident

    Analysis of the vote shows that:

    1) Two hot button issues – the Columbia Pike Trolley and the building purchase (including a potential homeless shelter) in Courthouse – had an effect that probably does not herald a long term partisan change in either the Pike or Courthouse precincts.

    2) The upper northwest part of the county remains the Republicans’ natural heartland.

    3) Crystal City represents a real challenge for Democrats. Republicans have been gaining there and practically swept the area this time. While perhaps a reaction to specific issues, that is part of an ongoing trend (see the 2010 and 2011 election totals) that Democrats need to notice.

    • Zoning Victim

      “While perhaps a reaction to specific issues, that is part of an ongoing trend (see the 2010 and 2011 election totals) that Democrats need to notice.”

      Nah, all they need to do is keep at large elections and it won’t matter.

  • PikerGirl

    I did not get to vote- stayed at work too late. But I would have voted for Garvey.

  • PHD

    I voted, for “noneoftheabove.” I haven’t quite figured out yet who that helped. I realize this doesn’t make a ton of sense, but I’m (i) very disappointed Garvey won, while also (ii) glad that neither Kelly nor Clement won. Hence my vote.
    Libby Garvey should’ve stepped down from the school board once she started running for every other available seat out there. Her tenure on the SB coincided with the complete mismanagement of the capacity and crowding issue and now she’s leaving, and, leaving behind a huge mess that will take years to fix. The only good news here is that this is short-term and hopefully some of the candidates that got knocked out in the primary will consider jumping back in. I’m not against another Democrat on the CB, per se; I liked both Terron Sims and Peter Fallon in the caucus and hope at least one goes for it again.

  • jim

    The street car isn’t going anywhere. Costs are already going out of sight. It is just political posturing by Zimmerman and the CPRO.

  • New Barcrofter

    I’m a new Arlingtonian, and resident of Barcroft, so perhaps I shouldn’t weigh in here, but just generally speaking about elections, I think it is fair to say that a special election for a single county board member isn’t likely to have high voter turnout in any jurisdiction. So, I don’t understand how low voter turnout in this election is indicative of any overall mood or viewpoint in the county. I really have no opinion on the streetcar (yet!!) and honestly didn’t hear from Garvey or Kelly asking for my vote.


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