(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.”