Audrey Clement isn’t going anywhere. This year, Clement is running for Arlington County Board for the sixth time.
Since 2011, Clement has aimed to break through the County Board’s Democratic majority to win a seat as either an independent or Green Party candidate. Since 2011, Clement has always lost. In 2014, she also ran for a position on the Arlington County School Board but lost by 18,327 votes to Barbara Kanninen.
So why does Clement keep coming back?
Clement said she is returning again because she cares. She’s been in the D.C. area since 1989 and has a Ph.D from Temple University in Political Science. Since 2005, Clement has been an environmental activist in Arlington County. She runs under a platform that calls for immediate environmental, housing and tax reforms.
Clement also refuses to give up on her goal of undoing the local Democratic Party’s traditional dominance of the County Board, with challenges from local Republicans fleeting at best. Current Board member John Vihstadt (I) was the most recent to break local Democrats’ dominance when he won in 2014, the first non-Democrat to win a County Board seat in a general election since 1983.
“I think that the two-party system is not serving the vast majority of the Arlington people. I have to make the case that there is the alternative and I have to make this case to the public,” Clement said in an interview this week. She said breaking through the system was what motivated her to run in 2011, and continues to motivate her each year.
If elected, Clement said she wants to redirect the Affordable Housing Investment Fund from its current system of apartment subsidies to a system that provides rental assistance for those who need it.
“I’m concerned with the affordable housing investment fund because the county has been putting its year-end surpluses into that fund,” she said. “I do not believe that the current affordable housing program is economical and sustainable, I would start cutting there. They’re spending way too much on each new unit of so-called affordable housing that they construct. They need to evaluate that program.”
In addition, Clement is determined to resolve what she sees as an impending budget crisis in Arlington.
“The biggest crisis is the anticipated budget cuts coming down from the Trump administration that will impact county residents,” Clement said. “It could be as many as 15,000 people get laid off and this will impact the county tax revenue. If I’m elected I will take a proactive position with regards to retaining businesses and trying to counteract the impact of the anticipated Trump administration budget cuts.”
As to why she hasn’t won a seat after six years of running, Clement blames the limits that come with a small campaign budget.
“Some of my opponents have spent in the range of $100,000 apiece in their elections,” she said. “They weren’t incumbents, so they came into the election with that as their handicap. In that regard, they overcame their handicap by spending a ton of money. I have rarely been able to muster more than $10,000 a race.”
To combat her lack of funding, Clement uses social media. She currently runs a Facebook page with 393 likes and 373 followers. She also runs Facebook advertisements for anyone who does not follow her page to see.
For anyone unfamiliar with Clement, she wants the one thing people to know most about her to be her credentials.
“I have a lot of untraditional political experience,” said Clement. She spent a year as a Congressional Fellow and is currently a government contractor. She also hopes that her time spent as an environmental activist will set her apart from her opponents as she approaches her seventh campaign for a seat on the County Board.
After all of these years, she still remains determined.
“Most political commentators would say, if you haven’t made it the first or second time then quit,” said Clement. “I’m not going to quit.”