Once a week, we provide additional insight into local news stories for ARLnow Press Club members with our Reporter’s Notepad feature. Here’s one we published earlier this week.
I had a long chat with Arlington GOP Communications Director and former ARLnow opinion columnist Matthew Hurtt about Tuesday‘s election results and what the slight shift to the right here (which went 17% for Donald Trump in 2020 and 22.8% for Glenn Youngkin on Tuesday) means for the future of the local Republican party.
Hurtt attributed Youngkin’s victory to the governor-elect taking up education as a major campaign focus in a year when many parents were frustrated with school closures and masking policies, how schools talk about systemic racism, and policy decisions such as changing the admissions standards at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County or eliminating all advanced math classes before 11th grade.
He says the energy that brought those folks out — contributing to a higher level of Republican enthusiasm in Arlington than he had seen in years — can propel a greater county-level Republican presence in local offices.
But it’s a steep road to climb in Arlington: The last time a non-Democrat sat on the County Board, for example, was when John Vihstadt won in 2014. The last non-Democrat on the Board before Vihstadt was 15 years prior.
And even though qualified Republican candidates are out there, Hurtt says, they have public-facing jobs and tend to view the (R) by their name as a liability in a county that went 80% for President Joe Biden.
The non-establishment types who do mount campaigns run as independents, providing occasional counterpoint to establishment Democrats but never building enough of a coalition to win an election. This year, incumbent Democrat Takis Karantonis claimed 60% of votes and beat out his three independent opponents.
Hurtt said he appreciated every independent’s qualifications: as a perennial candidate, Audrey Clement knows the history of important issues; Mike Cantwell got his start with a Yorktown parents group and the Yorktown Civic Association; and Adam Theo had experience in organizing the local Libertarian party.
“How do we make a mega-candidate out of those people? You’re not going to win in Arlington without Democrat votes, so he or she needs appeal,” he said. “It needs to be somebody who can speak to Republicans and Democrats.”
The hypothetical Theo-Cantwell-Clement super candidate chipped away roughly 40% of the vote. But unfortunately, Hurtt said, the reality in Arlington is that they didn’t stand a chance, as Democrats “are a Tammany Hall machine” (referencing a group of Democratic political bosses who, for 200 years, controlled New York City politics).
“They’ve professionalized their activism,” he said. “I give them kudos for doing it: it prevents anyone — even within Democrat ranks — from dissenting.”
Nowhere was that more apparent, he observed, than when Miranda Turner ran against Mary Kadera during Arlington County Democratic Committee’s School Board caucus, which endorsed Kadera to replace Monique O’Grady.
Turner’s candidacy, tailored to the issues of reopening schools, represented the body of parents who were dissatisfied with how the School Board and Arlington Public Schools handled school closures — one reason Hurtt said education-issues voters went for Youngkin — but whose political views were diverse. (One caveat is that while the group members are bipartisan, at least in the case of the neighboring Fairfax group, funding seems to come from right and center-right people and groups.)
That could be why the anti-Trump messaging from Terry McAuliffe’s campaign, coming from McAuliffe and President Joe Biden during their joint events in Arlington, wasn’t enough to secure his victory. There was a cohort of voters for whom that label didn’t ring true.
We know that this election brought out the suburban Republicans who didn’t support Trump in 2020, per the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. We also know that Youngkin kept some distance between himself and Trump, except when he discussed election integrity and audits of voting machines.
“It didn’t appear as though Youngkin did engage with Trump,” Hurtt said. “I didn’t hear much about Trump in Arlington. The voters were more interested in what he was going to do as governor, and they were not particularly interested in who was president last year.”
Unfortunately, he says, local GOPers are often too focused on federal politics. To get that “mega-candidate” he spoke of in 2022 or 2023, he said Arlington GOP’s game plan is to hammer home the importance of getting involved in civic associations — the bedrock of local engagement in the county.
“That’s our next move,” Hurtt said. “We want Republicans to be part of their civic associations, the local machinations that are largely non-partisan, the Arlington Committee of 100, the Columbia Pike Partnership [formerly the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization], the Rosslyn Business Improvement District… We want them to show up and show people that Republicans are engaged in the community.”
Good Friday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 17124 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…
A march against drugs drew a large crowd of parents and community members to Wakefield High School, where a student died this week.
Arlington County police responded to an unusual incident on Route 50 this afternoon. It happened around 1 p.m. at the intersection with Park Drive, near the Arlington Forest Shopping Center…
Building a new home should be a rewarding and memorable experience. That’s why a custom-built home requires personalized service! Here’s your chance to learn everything you need to know about…
The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.
Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.
About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.
The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village