(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.
The state constitutional amendment that would exempt the surviving spouse of a fallen military service member from property taxes under certain circumstances looks to pass by an overwhelming margin, with 82 percent voting yes so far and 12 percent voting no.
Before results starting coming in, Arlington County Registrar Linda Lindberg predicted that just under 50 percent of Arlington County voters turned out at the polls today.
ARLnow.com talked to numerous voters, most of whom identified themselves as Democrats. Of those Democrats, however, many said they were casting a ballot for Vihstadt as a vote for change on the County Board.
“I’m coming out to vote for John Vihstadt because I think the County Board needs to have an independent voice,” said Sukari Pinnock-Fitts, an Arlington County human rights commissioner for Arlington County. “I’m really unhappy with some of the decisions that the Board seems to be just rubber-stamping. This whole streetcar debacle just feels like money in somebody’s pocket that’s not really going to be any added value to the citizens of Arlington.”
“I’m really concerned about the lack of attention to issues of diversity and inclusion in the county,” Pinnock-Fitts added. “There doesn’t seem to be any real attention or commitment to those issues at the Board level certainly, not in the county manager’s office, and I believe John can make a difference.”
The $333 million Columbia Pike streetcar was one of the central issues in the race between Vihstadt and Howze, and is viewed by many as the pivotal issue in the race; Vihstadt is against the streetcar and favors an enhanced bus service, while Howze is pro-streetcar, but advocated a voter referendum on the issue.
ACDC President Kip Malinosky said the “Democratic and progressive values” still resonated with Arlington voters, as evidenced by the local results for Warner, Beyer, the bond issues and School Board elections. However, that doesn’t mean that Democrats will be patting themselves on the back.
“On the County Board, we’ve got a lot to think about,” Malinosky said. “I don’t know what all the answers are. I intend to find out, we’re going to do some soul-searching, we’re going to do some thinking. We came up quite a bit short, so we’ve got a lot of thinking to do.”
A few minor problems were reported at the polls in Arlington. Two people fainted, one person became ill and some touch-screen voting machines required recalibration, Lindberg said.