(Updated at 10:25 p.m.) Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey has won the Democratic County Board nomination, despite a tough challenge from within the party.
With all precincts reporting, Garvey had 55 percent of the vote to 45 percent over challenger Erik Gutshall. The final vote tally was 8,362 to 6,878.
Today’s County Board primary featured typically low turnout for a local race — 11 percent of registered voters — although it was notably higher than last year’s primary turnout of 8 percent.
Voters who spoke to ARLnow.com outside the polls today said they admired Garvey’s willingness to go against “establishment” Democratic orthodoxy. It was Garvey’s fight against the Columbia Pike streetcar project and her endorsement of independent John Vihstadt over a Democratic candidate in the 2014 County Board race that was perhaps the biggest impetus for a primary challenge.
During the race, Gutshall — a small business owner and member of the Arlington Planning Commission member — criticized Garvey’s leadership, Democratic bonafides and her supposed lack of effective long-term planning.
Gutshall amassed a long list of endorsements from current and former Democratic elected officials, including state Sen. Adam Ebbin, Dels. Alfonso Lopez and Rip Sullivan, County Board member Jay Fisette and former Board members Mary Hynes, Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman.
Fisette was among those who stopped by Garvey’s victory party at a Columbia Pike restaurant Tuesday night.
“It’s a really high bar to run against an incumbent,” Fisette told ARLnow.com, citing Garvey’s name recognition from nearly two decades as an elected official. “I couldn’t be prouder of [Erik] as a candidate. I have great respect for him and I think he ran a great campaign.”
Fisette said he expects the Board to continue to work well together. In a press release, Arlington Democrats were quick to unify, with Gutshall endorsing Garvey.
“Tonight I endorse Libby Garvey for County Board and look forward to voting for her in November,” said Gutshall. “Now that the primary is over, it’s important that we come together as Democrats to ensure we keep Arlington blue, from the White House to the School House.”
“Libby Garvey is already a consensus building Chair of the County Board and we are honored to have her as our nominee,” said Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) Chair Kip Malinosky.
Among those in attendance at Garvey’s victory party were Vihstadt, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, Arlington Treasurer Carla de la Pava, former School Board member Abby Raphael and former ACDC Chair Peter Rousselot.
Going precinct-by-precinct, Gutshall’s strongest support was along the Columbia Pike corridor and the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
All precincts in- Garvey (winner) precincts in green, Gutshall precincts in blue: pic.twitter.com/2QpdkjeERG
— (((Ben Tribbett))) (@notlarrysabato) June 15, 2016
“I worked the entire county [but] there’s only so much I could do,” Garvey said of the Columbia Pike vote. “I’m going to continue to serve the entire county and in four years I hope to have everyone’s vote.”
“This is about all of us… diversity is our strength,” she said. In a statement, Garvey said she looks forward to continuing her work on the Board as a Democrat.
“I am proud to go on to November to represent you as the Democratic nominee for County Board. I have based my campaign, as I have my service, on my idea that Arlington is a great community, but we have the potential to be even better. It means working together to support each other in friendship, knowing that together we can achieve so much.”
Garvey will face independent candidate Audrey Clement in November’s general election.