Arlington County Board incumbents fought to hold their ground against independents over Amazon incentives and housing topics at a debate Monday evening.
At the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s candidate forum at U.Group in Crystal City (2231 Crystal Drive), Democratic incumbents Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol faced off against independent challengers Audrey Clement and Arron O’Dell.
One of the moments of back-and-forth criticism among the candidates came over the redevelopment of a number of market-rate affordable housing complexes in the Westover neighborhood. Clement has frequently criticized the County Board for what she said was the “preventable demolition” of the Westover garden apartments.
The redevelopment was by-right, meaning the developer did not need County Board approval. But Clement said the County Board could have designated the apartments part of a historic district and preserved the homes.
Overall, Clement argued that development drives up costs to build housing and that even dedicated affordable housing units come at a steep cost.
“The average cost of a new [Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing] unit is in excess of $400,000,” Clement said. “Most of the units are not affordable. Because the units are not affordable, the income-qualified people who move in, 30 percent of them have to have rent subsidies to pay the nominal amount of rent that they do pay. The taxpayers are hit twice, they have to pay their own rent and their own mortgage and they have to pay someone else’s because the cost of building that unit was astronomical.”
Dorsey fired back that rather than use the historic district designation, the County Board is working to change the regulations to protect affordable communities from redevelopment.
“In the Westover reference that Ms. Clement talked about, while she thinks the Board has done nothing, what we did do was take a courageous stand… and stopped the perverse incentive that led people to take affordable communities and turn them into by-right townhouses,” Dorsey said. “We paused that option and put it into the special exemption process so that we created options to preserve that housing.”
“We’re studying ways that can be better purposed to provide long term, market-based affordable housing,” Dorsey added. So you have to figure out where you’re doing harm and stop doing harm to create new options to preserve affordability both through direct subsidies and through the market.”
O’Dell, meanwhile, said the County should do more to accommodate for “tiny apartments” aimed at people moving to Arlington immediately after college, who may need an affordable place to live but not a lot of space.
“When you talk about housing affordability, you need to have a variety of types of units,” O’Dell said. “We should look at the lower incomes that fall into the 60 percent bracket and give them opportunities to possibly move in and look at places to live.”
Cristol said the County should work to open the door to other types of housing, pointing to the recent legalization of detached accessory dwelling units as an example and noting the large amount of land in Arlington zoned for only single-family housing.
“One of the most important things we can do is legalizing alternative forms,” said Cristol. “There are so many housing forms that could offer folks not only an opportunity to rent but [also to] buy and it’s literally illegal to build them in huge swaths of the county… There’s room for creative ideas, this is an area where we need partnership in the private sector, particularly for those who develop housing.”
The independent challengers for Arlington County Board confronted the two Democratic incumbents on local hot button issues at last night’s Arlington County Civic Federation debate.
Democrats Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey faced off against perennial candidate Audrey Clement and newcomer Arron O’Dell at the Civic Federation’s annual candidate, which serves as the unofficial kickoff of the fall campaign season.
Clement’s main attacks centered around a perception of unchecked increases in development and density, destruction of native vegetation, and a lack of county government transparency. Specifically, Clement claimed the County Board’s decision to move forward with the Rosslyn boathouse project came with little public community input. Clement said the new boathouse will take away from one of the last green places in the Rosslyn area, a forested plot of land near Roosevelt Island.
“How can you have a public process when the County Board unanimously approved [the boathouse],” she said. “It’s not for or against the boathouse, it’s for or against double speak.”
Cristol fired back that the boathouse had been in the works for decades and has been subject to extensive public discussion. At some point, she said, projects need to move forward.
“The idea of the boathouse was the result of a public process a couple of decades ago,” Cristol said. “There needs to be a standard of finality. “
Cristol and Dorsey also defended repeated attacks from Clement, and to a lesser extent O’Dell, that Arlington’s ever-increasing density was fundamentally transforming the County.
“Development is synonymous with housing,” Cristol said. “So do I think there needs to be more housing? Yes, but we have to plan for the infrastructure to support that and plan for the student population [growth]. But I believe we can welcome more neighbors and still maintain our quality of life.”
Cristol argued later that the law of supply and demand applies to Arlington, as it does elsewhere — that adding more housing will keep housing costs lower. Clement disagreed, citing recent studies that showed rental rates were more closely tied with amenities than with the supply of housing.
Dorsey also disagreed with Clement’s characterization of “growth on steriods” in Arlington.
“We’ve seen 1.4 percent growth [per year] on average,” said Dorsey. “That’s moderate. In the ’40s, ’50s and ‘6os we grew far faster. Managing growth is what we do well. The idea of us closing up shop is not something that can happen.”
O’Dell, who said he did not have a strong opinion about the boathouse and some other topics of discussion during the debate, did express strong feelings on Amazon’s arrival into Arlington. The county is leaning too heavily on the tech giant for economic growth, he said, something that could backfire should Amazon’s plans change — much like over reliance on federal tenants led to high office vacancy rates following the implementation of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closing Act.
“It’s replacing the federal government with another entity,” he said. “We’re creating another potential vacuum. The key to success will be getting small businesses to follow Amazon.”
Clement also criticized the Board for overselling the positive impacts Amazon would bring and offering the company millions in incentives.
Dorsey recognized the concerns about Amazon’s arrival and said he sympathizes with many of them.
“One of the challenges [will be] the impact on housing,” Dorsey said. “It’s also going to require the Board to work in conjunction with Alexandria for inclusive growth for all as we create concrete arrangements with our neighbors.”
Overall, Dorsey said the company’s arrival will help reduce the strain on local taxpayers and open up new opportunities for the Pentagon City-Crystal City area.
Arlington’s one-time Congressional candidate Gwendolyn Beck reportedly flew on notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s private jets, and was photographed partying with him and Prince Andrew.
Two British newspapers reported on the revelations last week, focusing on the prince’s association but also mentioning Beck. The 2014 independent candidate for Virginia’s 8th Congressional district told ARLnow today that her name is being “dragged into this” despite not doing anything wrong.
The Guardian reported last week that new flight logs indicate that Andrew flew on Epstein’s private jet with Beck in 1999, around the time Beck has said she managed about $65 million of the billionaire’s investment funds for Morgan Stanley. Beck flew with Epstein on his jet multiple times in the late nineties, logs show, including with former Treasury secretary and Harvard president Larry Summers.
Women have accused Epstein of using his Boeing 727 — nicknamed the “Lolita Express” — to traffic underage girls in New York, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Investigators recently subpoenaed his personal pilots to in connection to the accusations.
Logs have shown passengers over the years included word leaders like President Trump and Bill Clinton, but have not indicated passengers took part in the crimes Epstein with which was charged. Epstein died in a Manhattan jail cell last month; his death was ruled a suicide.
Beck was also captured in a photo from 2000 shared by the Daily Mirror, which was taken at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida; it shows Beck smiling standing in a circle with Epstein, Andrew, and now-First Lady Melania Trump (then Melania Knauss).
Beck reiterated the prince’s public denials of wrongdoing in Epstein’s company.
“Prince Andrew has a delightful personality and is a total gentleman,” she told ARLnow in a brief phone interview Tuesday morning. “I firmly agree with the statements he has made publicly.”
Beck was listed in Epstein’s “black book” under a “Massage — Florida” heading, as reported by The Smoking Gun in 2015. The book also contained the contact information for wealthy businessmen and underage victims who said they were forced to provide naked massages for Epstein and his friends.
Beck told the Smoking Gun at the time that she had received “a couple of massages” at Epstein’s home from a masseuse, but had never given any herself or spotted underage girls.
“I’m just sorry that I got dragged into all this,” Beck told ARLnow today of her association with Epstein, adding that she was “at a lack of words.”
In addition to being a VIP at his home and on his private jet, Beck was also the first candidate to accept political contributions from Epstein — as reported by ARLnow in 2015 — after he was forced to register as a sex offender in 2008 for soliciting sex from a minor.
Epstein donated a total of $12,600 to help Beck’s 2014 campaign. The money made up about half of her eventual warchest against incumbent Rep. Don Beyer who won the November general election that year with 63% of the vote compared to Beck’s 2.7% of the vote.
“I thought that Jeffrey was healed, I don’t know,” Beck told ARLnow today.
Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, said in a joint statement that the Virginia and the U.S. economies are at risk as Trump raises tariffs and tweets invective.
….better off without them. The vast amounts of money made and stolen by China from the United States, year after year, for decades, will and must STOP. Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019
….all deliveries of Fentanyl from China (or anywhere else!). Fentanyl kills 100,000 Americans a year. President Xi said this would stop – it didn’t. Our Economy, because of our gains in the last 2 1/2 years, is MUCH larger than that of China. We will keep it that way!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019
The senators’ offices released the following press release Friday afternoon.
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after China announced that it will instate additional retaliatory tariffs starting September 1 in response to President Trump’s plans to impose additional levies on Chinese goods:
“Time and time again, we have warned President Trump against escalating a trade war with China. Trade wars yield no winners and hurt consumers and producers all over the Commonwealth, especially the farmers and small business owners who count on Chinese demand for products grown in Virginia. We’re even seeing devastating second-order effects of this trade war, with the possibility that fires in the Amazon are being deliberately set to clear land for soybean exports to China. While the U.S. must absolutely crack down on China for its illegal trade practices, we can’t afford to do so in an incoherent and erratic way. Today’s announcement shows once again that the Trump Administration’s bizarre trade policies destabilize the economy, put the livelihoods of many Americans at risk, undermine global stability, and fundamentally fail to hold China accountable for its unfair practices.”
According to an announcement by the Chinese finance ministry, China’s tariffs will range from five to ten percent on items such as agricultural products, apparel, chemicals, and textiles, in addition to a 25 percent tariff on automobiles and a five percent tariff on automobile parts. These levies are scheduled to take effect on September 1 and December 15, matching the dates of the President’s most recent tariffs.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have continuously warned the Trump Administration about how its haphazard approach on trade hurts Virginia’s families, businesses, and economy. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), China is the Commonwealth’s number-one agricultural export market for soybeans. In 2018, Virginia exported more than $58 million soybean products to China – an 83 percent decrease from 2017.
Update at 5:15 p.m. — New tweets from the president further escalate the trade war with higher tariffs.
….Sadly, past Administrations have allowed China to get so far ahead of Fair and Balanced Trade that it has become a great burden to the American Taxpayer. As President, I can no longer allow this to happen! In the spirit of achieving Fair Trade, we must Balance this very….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019
…Additionally, the remaining 300 BILLION DOLLARS of goods and products from China, that was being taxed from September 1st at 10%, will now be taxed at 15%. Thank you for your attention to this matter!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019
This election season, incumbent Arlington County Board candidates will be facing not one, but two independent challengers.
Perennial candidate Audrey Clement is joined in the race for County Board by first-timer Arron O’Dell, a payroll associate with the American Correctional Association who threw his hat into the ring on a platform of affordable housing, more efficient transportation, and representing marginalized communities. The two candidates will face off against incumbent Board Chair Christian Dorsey and Board member Katie Cristol.
Clement is returning to the ring running a campaign centered on greater support for county services like schools, libraries, and affordable housing, as well as promoting green energy and preserving open space.
O’Dell is a D.C. native who’s also lived in Alexandria and Falls Church before moving abroad to Costa Rica and Thailand to teach English. In Thailand, he had a daughter who is now eight years old and lives with him, he said.
“She was born in Thailand and is the single biggest motivator for moving back to Arlington,” he said. “I wanted her to receive a high quality education and live in a place where women are treated more equally.”
Affordable Housing and Transportation
Both candidates are zeroing in on the county’s persistent affordable housing shortage.
“I know many in Arlington consider density a dirty word but we need a solid smart growth plan to add density at all price levels to meet the needs of the future,” said O’Dell, who noted he does not own his home. “I would love to see a plan where longer term residents that could not afford to buy in the current market were given an opportunity to build equity in the places they call home.”
Clement, meanwhile, is proposing the county reorganize all housing programs under a central housing agency in order to help, “negotiate construction costs down, providing taxpayers with more bang for their buck.”
O’Dell is also campaigning on increased public transit options for the county, citing how much easier it is for him to commute by car to his job in Alexandria currently because of infrequent buses and Metro’s current summer shutdown.
“An effective transportation system needs to be high frequency, high volume and a good value,” he said. “As Arlington evolves we should be looking at walkability and transportation and designing around that.”
O’Dell believes his time living abroad, and his experience as a single parent, make him uniquely qualified to represent some underserved communities in Arlington. He told ARLnow he has “deep empathy for the migrant communities in Arlington County, because of my experiences abroad I empathize with people living in a foreign land and trying to get by.”
“I understand just how daunting a new language and culture can be,” he added. “My desire is to be a voice for these lower-income, politicly quieter residents of the county.”
One of Clement’s campaign promises is to “provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers” but she’s also positioned herself as a watchdog of the County Board through a decade of campaigning and speaking at Board meetings.
In an email to ARLnow she criticized the Board’s recent raise as “excessive,” echoing comments from her website where she accused members of paying themselves more regardless of “whether their actual workload justifies the salary increase.”
A rally for airline workers rights drew hundreds to Reagan National Airport, including a number of Democratic presidential hopefuls.
Labor union UNITE HERE helped organize the rally in support of airport catering workers, who are planning a large-scale strike if their demands for better wages and benefits are not met. Presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio were among those on hand to support the workers, along with other labor unions and local officials.
“No one should have to choose between healthcare and paying the rent,” Warren called out amid cheers.
The Massachusetts senator’s speech on Tuesday echoed her support for more corporate regulations.
“Giant corporations believe if they just push hard enough the unions will just go away,” she said. Since entering the race in February, Warren has since risen in recent polls to second among the crowded field.
Tuesday’s crowd was equally loud for two-time presidential candidate Sanders, who was ushered to the podium among chants of “We Love Bernie!”
“At a time when corporate profits are a record-breaking level, our demands are simple,” said the senator, who rose to popularity for his stance on economic inequality. “Pay your workers a living wage and provide… affordable healthcare for your workers,” Sanders said.
Sanders noted workers in the D.C. area “cannot live on $10 hour” wages due to the rising costs of living and housing.
Presidential hopeful Bill de Blasio also received a warm welcome and led the crowd in chanting of “working people first!”
“I hear they made $15 billion in profits last year,” de Blasio said of recent airline earning reports. “Are are they sharing that?”
The catering workforce authorized the strike earlier in June, but airline workers must gain approval from the federal National Mediation Board for large-scale strikes due to the potential impact on travelers. Workers are seeking to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the private companies who contract them to assemble the food for airlines: LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet.
The companies have said they cannot meet the demands for increased wages and benefits, telling the Huffington Post that could “more than double” their costs.
About a thousand union members in red shirts with slogans like “One Job Should Be Enough” gathered in Terminal A to hear the speakers. But it’s not the first time DCA has seen labor unrest. In 2016, service workers nearly went on strike for a $15 minimum wage.
“We’re going to fight like hell,” UNITE HERE president D. Taylor told the cheering crowd Tuesday night. “We’re going to kick the hell out of American [Airlines].”
Workers at several other airports nationwide are also asking for permission to strike, according to a map shared by the union.
Catering employees Tenai Stover and Eric Brightley, who said they prepare the food and beverages served on DCA and Dulles flights as part of their work at LSG Sky Chefs, each described to ARLnow difficulty making ends meet given the meager pay.
(Updated on 07/12/19) A new independent candidate has thrown his hat in the ring to challenge Del. Alfonso Lopez’s bid for re-election this year.
Terry Modglin is former non-profit organization executive who also served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam for four years. He’s now running against the Democratic incumbent to represent parts of Arlington and Fairfax County in the Virginia House of Delegates. This is the second candidate to run against Lopez, who recently defeated Democratic challenger Julius “JD” Spain, Sr. in the primary election.
Modglin’s campaign platform is centered around green energy, public transportation, and opposing expanded access to abortion.
Modglin said he supports the Independent Green message of “More trains, less traffic.” He’s also calling for new Orange or Silver Metrorail stations at Seven Corners and Skyline, advocating for more walkable and bikeable communities, and tax incentives for solar and wind power.
Modglin has run before with the Independent Green Party of Virginia in 2015 for the Virginia state Senate and as a Green Party candidate for the House of Delegates in 2013. He clarified that this time around he is running as an independent.
Modglin told ARLnow one of the main reasons he decided to run was because of Lopez’s support for House Bill 2491, also known as the Repeal Act.
The bill would remove Virginia’s requirement that women undergo an ultrasound before they’re allowed to undergo an abortion and would make it easier for women to obtain a third-trimester abortion if their doctor found the women’s life was in danger. President Donald Trump criticized the bill in a rally earlier this year, focusing on the regulations around third-trimester abortions, which he and others have called “late-term abortions.”
The Repeal Act was tabled during the most recent legislative session.
When asked whether his anti-abortion stance could hurt his chances among Arlington voters, Modglin acknowledged the majority vote progressive but said he was convinced “voters in the 49th District do not favor late-term abortions. Mr. Lopez and I have a difference there.”
One area both candidates agree on is the need for greater gun control in Virginia. Modglin said he supports the ream of reforms from Gov. Ralph Northam, which include universal background checks, protective orders, and bans on bump stocks and large-capacity magazines.
(The GOP-led state Senate adjourned yesterday before votes could be taken on gun control bills during a special legislative session called by Northam.)
Modglin said he has a personal connection to calls for gun reform. When he was serving in Vietnam, his 13-year-old brother accidentally shot himself in the face with a friend’s gun.
“He would have died from choking on his own blood except for the tracheotomy given him by the EMTs,” said Modglin. “I asked him a few years later what happened with that gun. He said the young owner a few years later pulled over to the side of the road and shot himself through the head.”
Lopez has served in Richmond since 2012 and has racked up several endorsements from labor groups for his bid for reelection. He’s also raised a sizable war chest from green energy proponents after dropping campaign contributions from Dominion Energy.
Earlier, Lopez told ARLnow that his biggest accomplishments this year were increasing funding for affordable housing, ending a driver license suspension policy some say punished poor people, and mandating the state notify veterans whose military identification information was stolen. He’s since pledged to continue increasing affordable housing funding and countering “far right legislation” such as bills restricting access to reproductive health care.
Modglin will face off against Lopez in the general election on Nov. 5. Virginia residents can check their voter registration status here.
Image 1 via Facebook
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was in Arlington last night, speaking at a private fundraiser.
The mayor of South Bend, Indiana fielded questions from donors in the backyard of a supporter’s home in the Waverly Hills neighborhood, near the Lee Heights Shopping Center.
We’re told Buttigieg confidently answered questions ranging from labor relations to how he would campaign against President Trump to “whether the American Dream was still alive.” Former Energy Secretary and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was also in attendance, we’re told.
An average of recent national polls places Buttigieg fourth among current Democratic contenders.
Photo courtesy Bill Colton
(Updated at 4 p.m.) Last night, commonwealth’s attorney candidate Parisa Dehghani-Tafti defeated incumbent prosecutor Theo Stamos in a surprise victory that shocked many in the the county, and left some wondering about the future.
One person who wasn’t shocked was political strategist Ben Tribbett — also known as @notlarrysabato — of the Fairfax-based campaign consulting firm TRR Group.
“I think Parisa basically brought two very large groups together,” he told ARLnow today. “One are people newer to the county who really care about criminal justice reforms. The second was a coalition of people mad about internal Arlington politics.”
Tribbett said the first group is important because, “transient voters tend to get their info from national outlets.” He said the Washington Post’s endorsement of Tafti and the The Appeal’s critical look at Stamos’ handling of some juvenile cases could have helped sway those voters. The campaign even attracted an endorsement from multi-talented star John Legend.
Today is a big day for prosecutorial races taking place throughout Virginia. Your vote in local elections matters! Good luck, @parisa4justice!
— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 11, 2019
A map of yesterday’s voting shows the densest support for Tafti was located along the county’s more dense and Metro-accessible areas — places where young transient voters often live. Tribbett pointed out state Senate candidate Nicole Merlene, who lost her race against incumbent Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st), performed well in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor but struggled in the leafier, single-family-home neighborhoods to the north.
Arlington/Falls Church Prosecutor Theo Stamos lost re-nomination in the Democratic primary to more reform-minded Parisa Dehghani-Tafti. Major focuses of Tafti have been reducing incarceration, not seeking the death penalty, and not prosecuting minor pot crimes #VaPrimary2019 pic.twitter.com/dqG0NVLmcR
— Matthew Isbell (@mcimaps) June 12, 2019
Tribbett said Tafti’s other supporters, long-time residents fed up with Arlington politics, are part of the fallout from the election of John Vihstadt, who won the race for County Board in 2014 as an independent. Progressives are continuing a “decade-long war” against Democratic candidates like Stamos who supported Vihstadt over a fellow Democrat, Tribbett said, and could target County Board member Libby Garvey in the future.
But he said infighting costs the party influence at the state level, which comes at a time when Democrats across Virginia are striving to flip Richmond blue.
“What should have been a temporary rift has become a permanent rift,” Tribbett said. “It’s not good for the Democratic Party.”
Another perspective on the race comes from Paul Ferguson, current Clerk of the Circuit Court and former Arlington County Board member, who spoke to ARLnow in his personal capacity on Tuesday afternoon before polls closed.
Ferguson said Tafti has six months to settle in and choose which (if any) of Stamos’ assistant prosecutors she plans to keep on staff. (Stamos said last night she hopes her challenger will retain at least some of them.) Tafti will then be able to roll out policy changes, like her pledge to not prosecute low-level pot convictions, but Ferguson said it’s difficult to anticipate the impact because her victory is unprecedented.
“It’s reasonable to say in modern history, the last 40-50 years, the new prosecutor has always come from within the office, leaving very little policy transition,” he said. Nonetheless, he thinks it’s likely that there could be fewer misdemeanor cases cases in District Court, and perhaps fewer cases in Circuit Court, as a result of her changes.
(Updated at 10:25 p.m.) The top prosecutor in Arlington and Falls Church has lost her bid for re-election.
In the most closely watched local race in today’s Democratic primary, incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos has been defeated by challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who ran a campaign centered on criminal justice reform. Tafti has 52% of the vote compared to 48% for Stamos, with all 59 precincts in Arlington and Falls Church reporting, though the results are unofficial until certified.
The total unofficial margin of victory was 1,128 votes.
“I knew it could happen!” one supporter shouted at Tafti’s victory party at Fire Works Pizza in Courthouse as the final votes were tallied.
“Change can come here to Arlington,” said a campaign volunteer, Arlington resident Symone Walker, who said she’s mailed postcards and held meet and greets for Tafti because of her belief the challenger could reform the county’s justice system.
Tafti herself was breathless and wide-eyed as she passed through the group and gave hugs to her supporters. When Stamos called to concede around 8:15 p.m., Tafti thanked her and offered to meet with the incumbent later this week.
In a speech a few minutes before 9 p.m., Tafti thanked a crowd of her supporters, saying “it would have been easy for you to be silent.”
“I feel humbled and grateful and excited but with no illusions about the work ahead,” she told ARLnow afterward.
1/x I am humbled and honored at the trust the voters of Arlington and the City of Falls Church have placed in our campaign. This election wasn’t about me but about the community’s recognition that criminal justice reform is one of the civil rights issues of our time.
— Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (@parisa4justice) June 12, 2019
3/3 Arlington and Falls Church stand ready to show the Commonwealth and the country what it means to put justice back in the criminal justice system.
— Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (@parisa4justice) June 12, 2019
“I always thought she could win and should win, but it’s never an easy battle against an incumbent,” said state Sen. Adam Ebbin, who supported Tafti’s campaign and stood next to her as she addressed the crowd.
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe cheered during the event, later telling ARLnow that he supported Tafti’s campaign because he was “looking for new leadership” after Stamos opposed his legislation to restore voting rights to felons in 2017.
“I think a lot of people wondered why I did it,” he said of wading into a local prosecutor race. “But it was the right thing to do.”
As of 1 p.m. the Arlington elections office reported an estimated 10 percent turnout. That points to what may be upwards of 15 percent turnout by the time polls close at 7 p.m., according to Arlington County Registrar Linda Lindberg.
“It’s been a slow day” in Crystal City, Columbia Pike, Fairlington and other south Arlington neighborhoods, Lindberg said, “but we’re doing some pretty brisk business up in the northwest,” where commonwealth’s attorney candidates Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and Theo Stamos live.
Fifteen percent turnout may be low compared to a presidential election year, but it would be 50 percent higher than the last equivalent election cycle. In 2011, with multiple candidates running in the Democratic primary for commonwealth’s attorney, the 31st state Senate district and the 49th House of Delegates district — just like this year — 10 percent of voters cast ballots, Lindberg recounted.
Following a broader trend of higher absentee voting, in the 2011 primary some 1,500 voters cast absentee ballots, while this year more than 2,000 have cast in-person absentee ballots alone; mailed absentee ballots have not yet been counted for today’s primary.
No problems have been reported at the polls so far, and Lindberg noted that one thing is going particularly well this year: new electronic poll books — tablet computers with ID scanners, used to check voters in at polling stations — are in use in Arlington for the first time and so far have been working flawlessly.
“We’re very pleased,” said Lindberg, Arlington’s long-time election chief who is retiring this summer.