Last week we asked the three Arlington School Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in Tuesday’s election.
Here is the unedited response from Alison Dough:
A couple years ago, I had a serious issue with my son with special needs at his elementary school. It could not be resolved at the school and I did not hesitate to contact my elected school board officials and the superintendent and his staff. Not a soul from the school board responded. At that point, I realized as a parent, I did not have a voice when an issue arose that could not be resolved. The people I had voted for and elected were not my voice on the school board. I can write my congressmen at the state and federal level and receive responses within 3 days – silence was my response from the school board.
I believe the unresponsiveness stemmed from disengagement – members of the school board who even have children – their children have aged out or are aging out of the system. What is their reason to be engaged? Parents with children in the school system should have a voice – they need a voice. I have a vested interest with two elementary school children and one in diapers. I have a vested interest in the here & now of what is happening and what will happen in my children’s future.
My priorities are as follows:
- Inclusion. Arlington needs to catch-up with the rest of the state of Virginia and move towards an across the board inclusion policy. This issue is near and dear to my heart. Studies show students coming out of isolated programs cannot function in normal society and have trouble learning a vocation. Studies show inclusion benefits the special needs children and studies show inclusion benefits the general education students just as much teaching them communication skills, to accept others with special needs as peers, compassion, empathy, and prepares them to be better members of society. Including special needs children up to 80% of the time is a win-win for all involved. I would push for full inclusion (up to 80% of the day) to be implemented over a 2-4 year timeframe basing on best practices of other school systems in Virginia.
- With a county so rich in culture and language – why does Arlington only offer Spanish immersion? Why don’t we offer Mandarin, French, Arabic, Hindi or other languages? Children have so much more ability than adults to learn these languages. We know we have overcrowding in certain areas of Arlington. Why not give parents a reason to want to move schools instead of redistricting them and battling over boundaries? I would send my child across the county in a heartbeat if she could participate in a French immersion program.
- Increased recess. Recess time has disappeared after the “No Child Left Behind Act”. Lack of recess has shown to have a negative impact on classroom behavior, learning, health, and social development. Studies show that when kids and teens get more exercise, they are better focused and also have less anxiety.
- Year-round school. I think we need to take a look at the benefits of year-round school. Year-round school helps to keep the kids and teens engaged. Also, with several working families in Arlington, parents are burdened with the costs of expensive summer camps. I know, as a full-time working mother, I could more easily schedule time off intermittingly throughout the fall, winter, spring and summer than trying to take several weeks back-to-back off in the summer tp spend with my children.
- Parent teacher partnership. Parent involvement is imperative in our children’s education. So many parents don’t know what is going on and they want to know. There needs to be a partnership between parents and teachers and between parents and schools.
Parent involvement is a key to the success of our children. We need to be involved. We need to be running for the school board. This is our board and we need to take ownership of it. I hope that as a fulltime working mother with three young children, I inspire others to seek this office as well. To paraphrase JFK as parents: we should ask not what your school can do for you – ask what you can do for your school.
Give our children, parents with children, and parents with special needs children an engaged and vested voice on the Arlington County School Board. Vote Alison Priscilla Dough for Arlington County School Board.
With one weekend left until Election Day, candidates and parties of all stripes are looking to get their messages out.
The statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general continue to draw a lot of attention, and Arlington’s local Democratic and Republican parties will use this weekend for last-minute political activities.
Both will be out canvassing voters this weekend, both door-to-door and at the county’s farmers’ markets. The Arlington Young Democrats promised a “special” canvassing in south Arlington this weekend to support Del. Alfonso Lopez in his re-election bid against Republican Adam Roosevelt.
The Arlington County Democratic Committee has also made use of a social media campaign entitled, “#TURNOUT2017” to encourage its supporters to vote through Facebook and social media ads for candidate for governor Ralph Northam, lieutenant governor nominee Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring, who is running for re-election.
And Arlington County Republican Committee communications director Matthew Hurtt promised an “unprecedented” get-out-the-vote operation in an email to supporters to help elect governor nominee Ed Gillespie, lieutenant governor candidate Jill Vogel and attorney general nominee John Adams.
Arlington Young Democrats will host a get-out-the-vote rally of their own on Saturday at 5:30 p.m., headlined by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), while both parties will have poll watchers at voting stations across the county to monitor what happens on Election Day.
Earlier this week, the Arlington Democrats hosted a rally alongside Northam, Fairfax, Herring and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) as well as local elected officials.
And on October 29, Gillespie and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) dropped by for a rally to coincide with a viewing party for the Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys NFL game.
— Jim Presswood (@jjpresswood) October 30, 2017
And while the social media accounts and websites of the candidates for the local races of Arlington County Board and School Board, residents can expect to see them and their supporters out this weekend pushing for votes.
The Arlington County Republican Committee led a chorus of condemnation after state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) suggested Republicans are “evil” at a rally Tuesday night.
Speaking to more than 200 supporters at an Arlington County Democratic Committee rally alongside Democratic nominee for governor Ralph Northam, lieutenant governor candidate Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring — who is running for re-election — and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), among others, Favola said that if Republican nominee Ed Gillespie becomes governor, it will be “dangerous.”
“My colleagues didn’t tell you how dangerous it will be if the other sides wins,” Favola said in a speech. “They’re evil, we’re the good guys… Every one of you is an angel. You’re not only fighting for yourselves, you’re fighting for hundreds of thousands of people in Virginia.”
(ACDC posted a video of the entire rally on its Facebook page. Favola’s remarks begin just before the 31:00 mark.)
The use of the word “evil” brought swift condemnation from Arlington GOP chair Jim Presswood, who pushed back on Favola’s statement.
Senator Barbara Favola crossed the line when she said that Virginia Republicans are “evil.” This language goes well beyond the realm of civil debate and demeans the moral character of Republicans.
Senator Favola and other Arlington Democratic leaders often talk about “Arlington values.” There are indeed many values Arlingtonians across the political spectrum share, including cultural and ethnic diversity, good schools, a well-run public transit system, and the need for public parks. But Senator Favola apparently does not include ideological diversity in this list. The term “Arlington values” should not be code for Democratic values.
There are many Republicans who live in Arlington — about thirty-thousand people in the county voted for the Republican Congressional candidate last year. Senator Favola needs to remember, even during a heated political campaign, that we are her constituents too.
In a tweet, Gillespie also condemned the comment.
Now just saying out loud what their campaign has shown they think of millions of their fellow Virginians… https://t.co/BbU6g8C6Od
— Ed Gillespie (@EdWGillespie) November 2, 2017
Photo via Facebook video.
Like the three Arlington County Board candidates earlier this week, they then faced additional unanswered questions from the audience — due to time constraints — that ARLnow collated and emailed to them.
Two candidates’ unedited responses are below. (A third candidate, Mike Webb, did not respond.)
1. How do you plan to deal with the exploding student population in Arlington schools?
The simple and easiest answer would be to build more schools. If land is not available – build schools up. Ashlawn Elementary is an example of a school that recently and successfully built-up to address the increase in students.
I think that the school board needs to partner with the county board on this issue as it economically impacts both boards and together we should be able to work towards a possible solution that resolves the need for overcrowding in the schools and classrooms.
APS must get in front of its capacity crisis with better planning and a strategy on how to effectively provide seats for all of its students. As a member of the school board, I will work with my colleagues to plan with members of the county board to make best use of our limited dollars, limited space, and limited time. Through this collaborative effort we can reach decisions that will not only best serve our students, but also make efficient use of Arlington tax dollars.
2. Do you think a career teacher should be paid enough to afford to live in Arlington?
Perhaps we need to consider housing-vouchers for teachers that make a very good case for the need to live in Arlington County. I work for a non-profit in Arlington and I know many of my coworkers would rather not commute in from Fairfax, Alexandria, Loudoun, eastern Maryland, Baltimore – but they do because they cannot afford to live in Arlington.
Yes. Arlington should continue to find ways to support middle class residents who are at risk of being priced out of living in Arlington. This “missing middle,” as County Board candidate Erik Gutshall calls it, is an essential and invaluable component of our community and workforce. Teachers want to be able to live where they work. It fosters a closer connection between educators and their students as well as between educators and the larger community; this connection assists teachers with their work, making them even more effective in their jobs. Therefore, it makes sense to look for ways to attract the best and brightest teachers, including supporting policies that make it easier for our teachers to make Arlington home. This will help recruit and retain teachers – one of the current strategic plan goals.
3. Identify the area of waste you would like to eliminate if elected.
I propose looking at areas that do not directly impact the children. We should first take a look at administrative costs and other overhead.
As a new member of the school board I would welcome an emerging practice that gives APS the ability to consider three different plans for new school buildings. Plans will be offered that show a design using the minimum budget, a mid-range budget, and maximum budget. This policy would seek avenues to eliminate waste, yet not at the expense of essential, quality services.
I also welcome more collaboration between the school board and county board. I think collaborative planning will help eliminate wasted time, eliminate wasted dollars with consultants and contractors, and will lead to more efficient use of our tax dollars and limited county- and school-owned land.
4. If elected, would you support changing the name of Washington-Lee High School?
But after the audience went home and the microphones were turned off, that wasn’t the end of the candidates’ work.
Attendees submitted written questions to the candidates throughout the evening, but due to time constraints, they could not all be answered. So with Election Day just two weeks away, ARLnow collated the unanswered questions and emailed the three County Board candidates for their responses.
(A similar article with responses to follow-up questions for the three School Board candidates will follow in the near future.)
Candidates’ unedited responses are below.
1. What are the challenges you would tackle in the area of affordable housing?
The biggest challenge would be to convince my fellow Board Members to:
1) amend the tax code to create Housing Conservation Districts (HCDs) where landlords would be given incentives to rehab rather than tear down existing affordable housing; and
2) loosen accessory dwelling unit (ADU) regulations to allow renting space in private homes, while limiting the impacts of such rentals on residential neighborhoods.
While Arlington is a great place to live, it’s undeniably getting harder and harder to put down roots here and stay rooted if a smaller home is what you need as your family shrinks. Housing affordability is a critical component of the progressive values I espouse; it is also an essential component of a strong middle class in Arlington.
As a County Board Member, I will follow a multi-point plan that includes: (1) the creation of medium density “missing middle” housing along our major commercial corridors, (2) modernization of the our zoning ordinance to enable home sharing and facilitate aging-in-place, (3) tireless support for the 2015 Affordable Housing Master Plan, and (4) continued annual funding for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund and Housing grants. I will also continue the existing, strong partnerships with non-profit housing providers as well as others in the non-profit community who provide services to Arlington residents living in affordable housing.
As detailed in my “missing middle” housing proposal, Arlington cannot subsidize our way to mass affordability, instead we must unlock the potential of the market to deliver the housing we need. The good news is that there is ample opportunity in Arlington for us to create the neighborhood-scale housing and retail areas known as “missing middle.” The missing middle framework uses market forces to diversify our housing supply and responds to the needs of residents both young and old. These modestly scaled lofts, stacked flats, co-ops, and micro units are designed to preserve neighborhood character and can fit into the edges of single-family neighborhoods and along commercial corridors, with ground floor retail and restaurants to serve adjacent homes.
In the area of affordable housing, I would tackle these three main challenges:
Ensuring that developers pay their fair share:
- Increase the zoning fee for apartment developers who forego affordable units, as it is currently just 1/3 of the fee allowed under state law.
- Shift housing assistance funds to direct housing grants in order to support more residents earning less than 40% of the area median income.
Approaching certified and market rate housing with a multifaceted approach:
- Incentivize the development of multifamily structures designed to address senior mobility needs, as well as co-living spaces designed to meet the needs of young professionals.
- Ensure accessory dwellings become a viable option for housing while not contributing to parking and density concerns.
- Explore Housing Conservation Districts as a way to maintain larger-scale areas of market rate affordability with careful caution not to unintentionally make these areas into suburban ghettos.
Providing housing affordability programs to address the needs of low- and middle-income Arlingtonians:
- Develop new homeowner affordability programs to support community/developer partnership models like community land trusts and low-equity housing cooperatives.
- Bolster existing homeowner assistance programs that enable our teachers and first responders to live in the communities where they serve.
As a progressive, independent voice on the Arlington County Board, I have the ability to advocate for a variety of reasonable housing affordability solutions that “Put People First” instead of defaulting to developers’ demands.
Last week the Arlington Committee of 100 hosted a debate at Marymount University among those running for local office.
At the debate, the six candidates for County Board and School Board in the 2017 general election clashed on a range of issues, from how to engage more millennials in county government to closing the achievement gap in Arlington Public Schools.
A Democratic County Board member endorsing a Democratic County Board candidate is not usually noteworthy, but Garvey and Gutshall were engaged in a sometimes bitter primary battle last year. Gutshall later endorsed Garvey after she won the primary.
In today’s endorsement, Garvey said Gutshall — who handily won this year’s primary for retiring Board member Jay Fisette’s seat — will bring a breadth of local experience “to help guide the many difficult decisions that we have to make on behalf of our community.”
More from a Gutshall campaign press release:
Today Libby Garvey announced her endorsement of Erik Gutshall for Arlington County Board. The victor on Election Day this November 7th will fill a vacancy on the board left by retiring County Board Chair Jay Fisette. Gutshall is the Democratic nominee.
“Erik has seen Arlington from many different perspectives: resident, APS parent, small business owner, charity board member, commission chair, and more. He will bring that breadth of experience to the County Board table to help guide the many difficult decisions that we have to make on behalf of our community,” said Garvey in making her announcement. She also noted that, “Erik and I have a shared interest in making county government accessible for all Arlington residents. I look forward to working together with him to ensure that we listen to all residents and communicate effectively with them, and that we streamline public processes so it is easier to engage, and create new channels for residents to observe and participate in their government.”
In response to Ms. Garvey’s endorsement, Gutshall released this statement:
“I am honored and very grateful to have Libby’s endorsement; it means a lot to me. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work with Libby and the other board members to reboot civic engagement. I believe we reach the best decisions when we rely on accurate data, transparent and impartial analysis, and fair consideration of all viewpoints. The chief responsibility of the County Board is to create the environment for good decision-making by ensuring our county government conducts every transaction with our community in a totally honest, transparent, and open manner. Residents should never feel that an answer was already baked into the process. We both agree this is the essence of solving our problems as a community.”
Libby Garvey served 15 years on the Arlington County School Board, including five terms as chair, prior to being elected to serve on the Arlington County Board in 2012. After Garvey’s victory over Gutshall in the 2016 Democratic Primary, he proudly endorsed her for her successful re-election bid to a second term on the Arlington County Board.
With Election Day less than a month away, candidates for the Arlington County Board and School Board are honing in on their final pitches to voters.
And at a forum Wednesday night at Marymount University hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, the six candidates clashed on a range of issues, from how to engage more millennials in county government to closing the achievement gap in Arlington Public Schools.
The format varied from previous forums, as each candidate was able to ask a question of their opponents before taking further questions from the audience.
Erik Gutshall and Monique O’Grady, who were victorious in the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s caucus earlier this year for County Board and School Board, respectively, both touted their experience in county issues.
Both agreed that while Arlington is largely on the right course, it can do better. Gutshall, who is the current chair of the Planning Commission, said the county must not make too many concessions to developers on proposed site plans.
“If we don’t stick to our plans and our negotiations… and we don’t stick to our values, then we’ve lost,” he said.
Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement pointed to her regular attendance at the body’s monthly meetings as relevant experience.
And fellow independent Charles McCullough II said that beyond his involvement in the South Arlington Working Group among others, he would represent a fresh face with new ideas if elected to the County Board.
“We need to have other ideas, other experiences,” he said.
On the budget, Clement criticized the Board’s practice of spending closeout funds from higher tax revenue than anticipated. She said that the money should be paid forward to the following year to relieve the tax burden, rather than directed to “pet projects to satisfy its particularized constituencies.”
McCullough argued that developers in Arlington must pay their “fair share” to help make up budget shortfalls, while Gutshall said that rising property values must not be treated as a “blank check” for increased spending.
Among the School Board candidates, there were some sharp differences. O’Grady and fellow candidate Alison Dough agreed that the Arlington Career Center represents a “good opportunity” for a fourth comprehensive high school. But Mike Webb, running for School Board after an unsuccessful tilt at Rep. Don Beyer’s (D-Va.) seat in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, disagreed.
Instead, he said, School Board members should focus on ensuring instruction is as good as possible, and that no students are left behind.
“Before we build another high school, we have to think about the achievement gap that affects all our students,” Webb said.
And on the subject of the upcoming boundary changes in Arlington Public Schools, Dough said that more immersion schools where classes are taught in more than one language could help relieve the capacity pressures on other buildings.
Dough, who said her special needs child inspired her to run for School Board, suggested more language programs, like immersion in Chinese, French or Russian to help APS students embrace new cultures.
“Let’s look at the boundary issue differently and give our parents a reason to switch schools,” she said.
And with the nationwide opioid epidemic also touching Arlington, O’Grady said parents and students alike must be educated on the risks and solutions.
“It’s in our neighborhoods, it’s in our communities,” she said. “Let’s come together to learn how to deal with this.”
All six agreed on the need for elected officials to encourage more county residents to get involved, and help uphold the so-called “Arlington Way.”
“We need to be opening that door,” Webb said. “We have to build that pathway to leadership.”
The candidates will face off in another forum Sunday (October 15) hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street).
Civil rights activist Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. is scheduled to swing by Arlington’s Nauck neighborhood tonight as part of a bus tour ahead of Virginia’s gubernatorial election.
The tour is described as “a non-partisan, voter-registration drive across the commonwealth.”
Jackson and the bus tour are expected to arrive in Nauck around 6 p.m., in time to attend a Community Empowerment Rally at the Macedonia Baptist Church (3412 22nd Street S.) at 6:30 p.m.
A press release about the bus tour from Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition is below.
As Virginia prepares to hold its high stakes gubernatorial election – a contest widely seen as a bellwether of the crucial 2018 midterm elections – the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, the Virginia Conference of the NAACP, the New Virginia Majority and The Gary Flowers Show will add three days and 14 stops to a non-partisan, voter-registration drive across the commonwealth, from Monday, Sept. 18 through Wednesday, Sept. 20.
The “Healing and Rebuilding” tour kicked off with two days of rallies last Thursday and Friday, including stops at the University of Virginia and George Mason University. At the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on Thursday, dozens of students answered Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.’s call to register to vote on the spot.
“You must register to vote today,” Rev. Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, told the students. “We marched too much, bled too much and died too young” for any American eligible to vote to sit on the sidelines.
Virginia’s gubernatorial election is Nov. 7, 2017, and its results, according to The New York Times, will “inevitably to be read as a harbinger for the 2018 midterm elections and President Trump’s fate.”
During the expanded tour – starting in Roanoke in southwest Virginia and ending in Arlington in northern Virginia – Rev. Jackson will encourage Virginians to support Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) legislation, which was recently passed in Illinois and could add up 1.13 million new voters to the rolls in the Land of Lincoln. Nationally, AVR could increase the rolls by 50 million new voters.
“Everything we’ve fought for the last 50 years is under attack – voting rights, LGBTQ rights, worker’s right, women’s rights, children’s rights, environmental protections,” Rev. Jackson, a two-time presidential candidate, said. “But if we, the people, register and vote our interests and vote our numbers, we have the power to change the course of the country and history.”
The additional tour stops include voter registration and voter empowerment rallies at colleges, churches and community halls across the state.
As Rev. Jackson puts it, “The stakes are sky high.”
Photo via Twitter
Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) and Republican challenger Adam Roosevelt clashed on whether Virginia should expand Medicaid, but found agreement on immigration, during a candidate forum on Tuesday night (September 5).
Lopez, who has represented the 49th District for three terms in the Virginia House of Delegates and serves as the Minority Whip, said expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act should be done for moral and economic reasons. That plan has been unsuccessful both through the General Assembly and executive action.
“There are working families without health insurance in Virginia,” Lopez said. “It’s immoral not to expand Medicaid.”
But Roosevelt, who is challenging Lopez in the district that includes neighborhoods along Columbia Pike, around Pentagon City and west to Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners in Fairfax County, said it is unaffordable and will cost Virginians more in tax dollars.
“That is what they will not tell you: your taxes will increase, and we have enough taxes as it is,” Roosevelt said. The debate, at Virginia Hospital Center, was attended by about 100 people.
The rivals appeared to be in broad agreement on immigration and the status of illegal immigrants, the same day as President Donald Trump announced he would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. To start, they agreed that illegal immigrants who commit crimes in this country should be deported.
Both also pledged to protect legal migrants and undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children and have otherwise not committed crimes. Lopez said decisions about immigration must come from the federal level, not the state.
“What we have is a fundamentally broken immigration system at the federal level,” he said.
At times, there were frosty moments between the two as they sparred over issues like climate change, a woman’s right to choose and redistricting reform. After Lopez outlined his record on the environment, including co-founding the Virginia Environment & Renewable Energy caucus to advocate for issues in Richmond and across the state, Roosevelt cut in.
“I’ll remind my opponent we’re talking about the 49th District here,” Roosevelt said, arguing that the discussion should be focused more on local issues than statewide topics.
Later, the two disagreed on how boundaries should be redrawn for Virginia’s Congressional and General Assembly. Boundaries will be redrawn after the next census in 2020, but that could come sooner depending on a case making its way through the courts.
Lopez called for a non-partisan commission to draw new boundaries separate from General Assembly leadership, but Roosevelt said he had not done enough in Richmond to bring about such changes.
“My opponent has quite a voice tonight and quite a position to stand in to effect these changes,” he said.
And the pair differed on their belief in a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. Roosevelt said the life of both the woman and a fetus must be protected and said the issue should not be politicized, but Lopez did not equivocate in his view and criticized others in the General Assembly who have tried to take the right to choose away.
“How many times do we have to get up on the floor of the House of Delegates and fight people who want to take away a woman’s right to choose?” he asked.
Lopez and Roosevelt are on the ballot on November 7, while Arlington’s three other delegates are all unopposed.
The three candidates for Arlington County Board agreed on the need for more affordable housing at a forum Tuesday night, but offered differing methods on how to achieve it.
Speaking at a forum hosted by the Arlington County Civic Federation at Virginia Hospital Center, the traditional kick-off for the fall campaign season, Audrey Clement, Erik Gutshall and Charles McCullough all argued more can be done.
McCullough, an independent endorsed by the Arlington Green Party, said the county must expand its use of rental assistance programs, especially for the likes of teachers and public safety workers like firefighters and police officers.
Democratic nominee Gutshall argued that the county should use its existing Affordable Housing Master Plan to create what he described as “missing middle housing” like apartments and townhouses for middle-income residents near Metro stations and along major thoroughfares.
“It’s a great formula to redefine our development paradigm and creates housing for the middle class,” he said.
To help prevent continued losses of such housing, Clement said the county should designate more areas as Local Historic Districts to capture architectural heritage and be tougher on developers.
McCullough agreed that developers should be held to a higher standard and compelled to provide more affordable housing and other amenities.
“For too long, development has meant displacement,” McCullough said. “That should not be the way, but unfortunately that has become the Arlington Way.”
Talk of the so-called “Arlington Way” of engaging with residents and gathering extensive community feedback came up when the candidates discussed how to get more people involved in local issues.
Clement argued that the Democrat-dominated County Board deters participation, as does a sense that controversial agenda items are left to the end of monthly meetings.
“It is really an endurance contest and that is really what discourages public participation,” Clement said.
Another emphasis of Gutshall: helping more small businesses open and operate more easily in Arlington. That follows reports of businesses having difficulty navigating the county’s permitting and inspection bureaucracy.
Earlier in the forum, Gutshall argued that he would go beyond party politics, and that the county’s progress has been not down to Democratic values, but “Arlington values.”
Gutshall emphasized that he was not a “hand-picked choice” of his party, after Democrats’ use of a caucus to pick their nominee was criticized as undemocratic by Clement. Both independents argued they would be unencumbered by any need to play “party politics” if elected to the Board.
“I tend to believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and that’s where the voters are,” Clement said, noting that she previously was a member of the Greens but became “disillusioned” after it veered too far left.
“We need to be able to have an unencumbered voice for the issues we have right now,” McCullough added.
In a position he describes as the “greatest honor of my life,” three-term Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) said he finds it most rewarding to help his constituents with issues they may be having.
Lopez said he likes to help his constituents in the 49th District with issues like wanting a new stop sign, or help with filing their taxes. And he and his staff run events such as health insurance enrollment fairs and stream cleanups.
“I do it because I love it,” Lopez said. “I love giving back, I love the opportunity to help people that I’ve never met before. To literally help change people’s lives that I don’t even know but who need help. I’m proud of the fact that with things I’ve accomplished I think I’ve done that. And I want to keep doing that.”
But the three-term delegate, whose district includes neighborhoods along Columbia Pike, around Pentagon City and west to Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners in Fairfax County, said he has plenty to be proud of.
He said that desire to protect those people is rooted in his family history. Lopez’s father came to the United States in the 1950s from Venezuela and overstayed his tourist visa. He then worked, learned English, became a citizen and graduated from Northern Virginia Community College. His mother was a guidance counselor at Washington-Lee High School and helped more than 1,000 students get to college.
Lopez said them and a shared desire to live the American Dream are a reminder each day of the importance of helping immigrants.
“[E]very time I see a DREAMer kid, I see my father,” Lopez said. “Every time I look in the eyes of some young student trying to make a better life for themselves here, I see my dad.”
It may appear overshadowed by this year’s statewide races and political strife nationally, but the three Arlington County Board candidates are hard at work preparing for the fall campaign season.
Things get into high gear as the Arlington County Civic Federation hosts its first candidate forum, the traditional curtain-raiser on the final few months before Election Day. The forum will be held on Tuesday, September 5 in Virginia Hospital Center’s Hazel Auditorium ( ive).
And the candidates — Democratic nominee Erik Gutshall, and independents Audrey Clement and Charles McCullough II — said they are looking forward to getting into the campaign’s final stages and winning over more voters in upcoming debates.
“It’s also education of people, because I think there can be misconceptions about what I stand for and where I come from and those that don’t know me real well… might believe things about me that are flatly untrue, demonstrably untrue,” Gutshall said. “People getting a chance to see who I really am and what I stand for, I think could happen from those forums to the extent I’m able to reach people who didn’t participate in the Democratic caucus process.”
First-time candidate McCullough said he welcomed the opportunity to keep putting his progressive message forward and introducing his policy ideas to more and more people.
“What’s nice about getting in front of folks, just like I’ve been doing this entire time, what’s good is to be able to present that inclusive vision of Arlington and what it means to have a putting people-first attitude of policymaking,” he said. “[When] I’m able to forward that vision, the momentum is going to grow.”
Clement, a perennial candidate, said she is hopeful of picking up more votes as the statewide races come into the spotlight more and more. In last year’s election against Libby Garvey and on the same ballot as the Presidential race, Clement received just over 27,000 votes, something she put down to the high-profile nature of that race.
She said after the violence in Charlottesville at a white supremacist rally, Virginia’s elections take on added significance and that could help her.
“Last year, even though basically Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly took the county, I got a very sizable number of votes because the turnout was so high,” Clement said. “That’s not going to happen this year, but the Charlottesville incident has probably increased interest in the Governor’s race and that should help me. Insurgents always benefit from increased turnout.”
The Democrats running for Arlington County Board and the Virginia House of Delegates say they are united with the Board in its desire to rename Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway.
Arlington County Board candidate Erik Gutshall and incumbent House of Delegates candidates Mark Levine, Patrick Hope, Richard “Rip” Sullivan and Alfonso Lopez praised the County Board’s stand. In a statement, an excerpt of which is below, all five applauded what they described as “a powerful statement from the Arlington County Board rejecting racism and bigotry.”
The county will need to first obtain the legal authority to rename both stretches of state highway within its borders, an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled General Assembly. But the incumbents pledged to try to do so, so the county can choose “who in our history we want to honor and celebrate.”
Erik Gutshall, Democratic nominee for Arlington County Board, said “I am proud to live in a community that has long shared the values of diversity and inclusion. I fully embrace the County Board’s determination to garner local control of the names of our roadways, as I know Arlington’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly do.”
“It’s long past time for us to rename highways that were labeled to send a hateful and divisive message to people of color in our community,” said Delegate Alfonso Lopez (49th District), House Democratic Whip. “I look forward to working with the Arlington County Board to make sure they have the necessary authority from the General Assembly to make these important changes.”
Delegate Patrick Hope (47th District) said, “I have long-supported the renaming of Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway in Arlington and commend the Arlington County Board for this bold statement of leadership. I look forward to supporting legislation to grant Arlington and all localities the freedom to rename buildings, roads, and to remove monuments that do not reflect our values.”
“Giving localities the authority to rename highways — like Jefferson Davis Highway — is long overdue,” said Delegate Rip Sullivan (48th District), “This is not about erasing or trying to change history — indeed, we must never forget the evil that led to our Civil War. Rather, this is about a community choosing who in our history we want to honor and celebrate. Arlington County should have that choice. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ This matters, and I applaud the County Board for choosing not to be silent on this important issue.”
“I’m very pleased that the Arlington County Board is committed to renaming the Jefferson Davis Highway, ” said Delegate Mark Levine (45th District). “Changing those street signs will no longer honor the Mississippi traitor (with little or no connection to Arlington) who was President of a rebellious group of states that seceded from the union to enforce and protect their cruel and odious institution of slavery. Street signs bearing the current name of this highway do a gross injustice to Arlingtonians who are loyal to their nation and who abhor slavery. I know the vast majority of us are looking forward to seeing these signs no more.”
(Updated 3:45 p.m.) Three of Arlington’s four members of the Virginia House of Delegates are without an opponent this fall.
Given the lack of locally competitive races in November, when the House’s entire 100 seats are up for grabs, the lawmakers are looking at opportunities to help fellow Democrats to pick up seats elsewhere.
Democratic Dels. Mark Levine and Rip Sullivan — who are unopposed, as is Del. Patrick Hope — say they have their eyes on the statewide races, and have thrown their support behind Democratic nominees Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring, who are running for Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General, respectively. Additionally, in the House, local elected officials see real opportunities to make gains.
So instead of having to purely campaign to defend their own seats, they have looked further afield to try and cut into Republicans’ advantage, particularly through fundraising for candidates.
Democrats now have 88 candidates for the House, including incumbents running for re-election. That list includes more women running than men, four LGBT candidates as well as African-Americans and Asian-Americans.
Sullivan, who is the House Democratic Caucus’ campaign chair, launched Project Blue Dominion, a Political Action Committee to help recruit, train and fund candidates across Virginia.
He has sent out regular emails entitled “Flip-a-District Fridays” profiling the new candidates, and the PAC reported to the Virginia Department of Elections that it received $4,296 in contributions through the end of the last filing period on June 30.
“We are very excited about our current position,” Sullivan said. “We have a remarkably diverse group of candidates, some very accomplished candidates. It is the largest group of candidates we’ve had in a long, long time… We are running in parts of the state we haven’t run in in a long time.”