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UPDATED: Coffey, Cunningham win County Board primary

(Updated at 9:40 a.m. on 6/26/23) The ballots have all been counted and the results are finalized: Maureen Coffey and Susan Cunningham are the Democratic nominees for the Arlington County Board.

The results, released at 3:15 p.m. today (Saturday), culminated Arlington’s trial run of ranked-choice voting method. Eyes across the state were reportedly on Arlington, which the state legislature allowed to use the process for County Board elections one year before extending the right to the rest of the Commonwealth.

At noon today, Arlington election officials adjudicated the remaining 135 provisional ballots and began tabulating them around 1 p.m. These ballots were not expected to change the outcome of the tabulation yesterday (Friday), when officials processed ballots from early voting, primary day voting, and mail-in ballots.

On Tuesday’s primary day, no candidate in the six-way race crossed the threshold with only the first round of votes counted. Arlington waited until all the ballots were in, save provisional ballots, before eliminating lower vote-getters and tallying second- and third-place rankings.

Coffey, a researcher for the think tank American Progress, appears to have captured votes from many millennial renters like herself, receiving 10,786 votes.

Cunningham, who ran an unsuccessful bid for Arlington County Board as an independent in 2020, received 14,208 votes, initially carried by several precincts north of Langston Blvd.

Arlington County Board Democratic Primary Round 1 votes by precinct (by Jo DeVoe)

Coffey emerged victorious in the fourth round, after Jonathan Dromgoole, Tony Weaver and Julius “JD” Spain were eliminated, in that order. Cunningham crossed the victory threshold in round six, after Natalie Roy was eliminated.

How the ranking rounds played out for Arlington County Board (via Virginia Dept. of Elections)

Tabulation yesterday and today at county government headquarters was open to the public as was the certification of the results.

Both Coffey and Cunningham were both present on Friday. Coffey observed the vibe in the tabulation room was upbeat, complimenting Director of Elections Gretchen Reinemeyer for walking through every step, even though it seemed boring and technical.

“But as we waited for each step to happen, people were joking and laughing and being silly with it,” she said. “I think it’s reflective, Arlington County has some really good people.”

After the preliminary results were finalized on Friday, Coffey seemed stunned.

“This is so surreal,” she said. “This is wild.”

Cunningham was similarly upbeat.

“I am just excited at the prospect of serving our community next January,” Cunningham told ARLnow shortly after the tabulation. “I’m ready to take a true deep breath and I’m really proud of our candidates and the community for having a good and clean race.”

Spain, the former head of the Arlington NAACP who was seen by many insiders as a likely nominee, conceded the race around 6:30 p.m. on Friday.

“A short time ago, I spoke with both [Coffey] and [Cunningham] via a three-way phone call to congratulate them for winning the Democratic nomination for Arlington County Board,” he said via Twitter. “I wish them the best of success in preparing for the November general election and taking up the responsibilities of public office. This is their moment to reflect and rejoice. ”

Recent zoning changes took center stage during the campaign. Spain and Coffey expressed support for the Missing Middle housing initiative, while Roy and Cunningham were generally opposed.

There was some overlap, however, for the two victors. Cunningham said Missing Middle was an example of how the county needed to take more time to get housing right. Coffey criticized the county for not demonstrating how Missing Middle, which she admitted was not a silver bullet, fits into its broader plans to make housing attainable to residents.

As the Democratic nominees, Coffey and Cunningham will face at least one opponent in the November general election. Perennial independent candidate Audrey Clement has qualified for the County Board ballot, while a Republican, Juan Carlos Fierro, has his ballot qualification “in process,” according to the Arlington County election website.

Clement expressed vocal opposition to Missing Middle in her unsuccessful bid for County Board last year.

Coffey says she will be knocking on more doors heading into November.

“There are places that turned out to support me and that’s wonderful and there are places that turned out for other candidates,” she said. “I want to make sure I have a conversation with them and hear about their concerns and what’s on their minds. This is about being on the County Board for all of Arlington not just the places that supported me.”

Jo DeVoe and Jay Westcott contributed to this report

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