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Voting Kicks Off Quietly Around Arlington

(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Starting at 6 a.m. today, voters began showing up at their polling places across Arlington as voting in the Democratic primary kicked off.

At Randolph Elementary School in Douglas Park, St. Agnes Catholic Church in Cherrydale, and Madison Community Center in Old Glebe, lines were short and skies were clear.

“It’s been slow, but steady. There’s been 83 people so far, or 2.7 percent turnout. It’s pretty normal,” said Bill Harkins, election officer at St. Agnes.

At Randolph Elementary around 41 people had cast their ballots by 7:41 a.m., according to election officer Harry Dunbar, and another 13 voters arrived in the next half hour. Dunbar said there are 3,000 people who live in the precinct.

“Half of that is normal for a busy general election,” Dunbar said, noting that primary election turnout is usually much lower.

By mid-morning, Arlington’s elections office reported that turnout was somewhat light, but higher in precincts in Arlington’s northwest. Voters in residential northwest Arlington tend to be a bit more conservative, at least relative to the rest of the county.

The only hiccup noticed so far was a ballot that wouldn’t scan at Randolph Elementary. At around 8 a.m., officials had identified the likely culprit: blocks that printed too faintly along the border of the document.

Today’s primary marks the end of several hotly contested races between the Democrats on the ballot — namely the race for commonwealth’s attorney and the state Senate seat in the 31st District. With most races still lacking a non-Democratic candidate, the primary could also decide the Nov. 5 general election.

At Randolph, the race on most people’s minds was the one for commonwealth’s attorney between incumbent Theo Stamos and challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti who have clashed in debates since kicking off their campaigns last winter.

Evelyn Luis, a long-time Douglas Park resident, said she doesn’t usually vote in the primaries but showed up today to support Stamos.

“Even though she’s running as a Democrat and I am not a Democrat I know I have to make a choice between the two candidates.” Luis said.

Luis wore a shirt from the 1990s-era Crime Prevention Council of Arlington County, on which she was a board member. She said she disagreed with Tafti’s platform and PAC funding.

Another voter, Aaron Willis, who has lived in the area for a decade, said he’s voted in every primary since moving to the D.C. region. He feels part of the “nerve center” of politics after coming from Ohio where he sometimes felt disconnected.

Willis said he supported Tafti in today’s election, citing her record of pushing for reproductive rights and restoring voting rights to felons.

The interest in the prosecutor’s race also ran high at St. Agnes.

“The important race to me was the commonwealth’s attorney,” said St. Agnes voter Chris Guest. “I think it’s always good to have options, but I wanted to vote against outside money, especially when that’s heavily for one candidate.”

“All of the races are important. Arlington is a great place to live and we have good candidates,” said St. Agnes voter Sarah Devoe this morning. “I’ve been surprised with the commonwealth’s attorney race; it’s not really a race I think of as being competitive. There’s been a lot of TV and print ads. There are two strong candidates.”

Stamos’ record in office and Tafti’s proposed criminal justice reforms have split support among local attorneys and sparked conversations about police brutality and the county’s discovery policy in criminal cases.

The two have also raised almost a $1 million in contributions and funded an aggressive online ad campaign.

On Monday, Stamos and Tafti each wrote essays on why they deserve Arlington’s vote to become the county’s top prosecutor. You can read Stamos’ essay here, and Tafti’s essay here.

Another incumbent facing a tough challenge is state Senator Barbara Favola (D-31st), who’s running against civic activist Nicole Merlene to keep her seat in Richmond. Merlene has criticized the senator for previously accepting campaign cash from Advanced Towing after allegedly helping to loosen towing regulations.

Favola has since stopped accepting money from the company, but she has faced more scrutiny on her work as a lobbyist and consultant while serving in Richmond. Debates between the candidate have flared on Twitter.

“For this race, I didn’t like that Favola took a lot of money from people — not just towing, but developers,” said St. Agnes voter Jim Tuomey. “I don’t like the pay to play political system.”

Merlene was seen earlier this morning casting her vote at St. Agnes Catholic Church.

Merlene shared her reasons for why she deserves your vote with ARLnow here, and Favola shared her reasons here.

Also on the ballot is Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th), who’s facing a challenge from retired Marine, Julius D. “JD” Spain, Sr. The two have both racked up several endorsements as Spain has said he wanted to “sharply draw a contrast” between his and Lopez’s stances on housing affordability and the achievement gap.

Lopez has defended his record in Richmond, passing bills targeting those areas and out-raising his fellow local delegates.

Lopez wrote about why voters should support him here, and Spain penned his candidate essay here.

Ten other elected officials will also be on the ballot, running for re-election with no challengers from the Democratic Party:

  • Dels. Mark Levine, Rip Sullivan, and Patrick Hope
  • State Senators Adam Ebbin and Janet Howell
  • Sheriff Beth Arthur
  • Treasurer Carla de la Pava
  • Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy
  • County Board Chair Christian Dorsey and member Katie Cristol

Unlike most other Democratic candidates, Dorsey and Cristol face a pair of challengers this fall. Audrey Clement and Arron O’Dell are both running as independent candidates for the County Board and will face off against Dorsey and Cristol in the general election on Nov. 5.

Polls will remain open until 7 p.m. tonight (Tuesday) and anyone in line by 7 p.m. will be able to vote. Any voter unsure of where they need to go to vote can check their polling place online. Absentee voting closed on Saturday, June 8.

The deadline to register to vote for the November election is Monday, Oct. 14.

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