Press Club
Former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam answers reporters’ questions at Amazon announcement in Pentagon City in 2018 (file photo)

Proposed legislation from Del. Alfonso Lopez that would support local journalism has withered away without bipartisan support.

HB 1217 would have provided up to $5 million annually in income tax credits to eligible news outlets that employ local journalists and up to $10 million annually in income tax credits to businesses that advertise with these outlets.

The newspaper industry has seen a slow decline over the last two decades — as documented on CBS’s 60 Minutes this past Sunday.

The decay of local newspapers is driven in large part by a loss in advertising revenue as classifieds have moved to services like Craigslist and other ads have migrated online to Facebook, Google and other large platforms. In recent years, hedge funds and private equity firms have further squeezed local news by acquiring hundreds of newspapers and slashing costs — which has boosted profitability but led to additional layoffs.

In the past year, however, there’s been a push to enact federal policy to stop this trend, and the activity at the federal level has sparked state-level bills.

Lopez’s bill died this legislative session during a finance subcommittee meeting, with six Republicans voting against it and three Democrats voting for it. While the Arlington Democrat said the objections didn’t seem related to spending, he didn’t offer further theories about why it failed.

Lopez said he intends to keep applying pressure until this measure is adopted.

“I think we need local journalists to keep our constituents informed of what’s happening at the local level,” he tells ARLnow. “I’m going to bring this bill back every year until it becomes a law in the Commonwealth.”

The bill makes business sense because it would encourage ad revenue, which pays the salaries of local journalists, according to Lopez. It’s also good for democracy, he said, as areas without local coverage tend to have more government and small business corruption and see lower local election turnout.

Virginia Press Association Executive Director Betsy Edwards says it’s unfortunate the bill was killed.

“VPA supported this bill because it would have helped local newspapers through income tax credits,” she said. “While we did not work with Delegate Lopez in drafting this bill — we support what he was trying to do to help local news.”

Lopez modeled his bill on the federal Local Journalism Sustainability Act (LJSA), included in President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which effectively died when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) withdrew his support.

The LJSA was the fruit of advocacy by the Rebuild Local News coalition, coordinated by Steve Waldman, the founder of Report for America, a nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms.

“It became clear to me that, in addition to improved business models and greater philanthropy, the crisis is so severe, and the threat to democracy so urgent, that we needed better public policy,” he tells ARLnow.

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Advanced Towing truck (file photo)

A proposed bill, inspired by the former Virginia Attorney General’s lawsuit and case against Advanced Towing, would allow residents and localities better ability to protect themselves against bad acting towing companies.

“The Virginia code as it relates to towing is a mess. It’s all over the place,” says Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49), who introduced the bill last week (Jan. 18). “My hope is to improve the towing statute and get more relief for customers harmed by the towing industry.”

Basically, HB 1218 amends the law to allow individuals and localities to pursue alleged illegal towing practices under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. As the law currently stands, the violations are solely enforceable and civil penalties can only be sought by the AG’s office.

What’s more, the law currently allows for a maximum fine for each violation of only $150, which is how Advanced Towing ended up with only a $750 fine for five violations.

By moving portions of the code to be enforced under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, it would allow for fines to be at least $500 or $1,000 per violation.

Additionally, it makes the code enforceable across the entire Commonwealth as opposed to limiting enforcement to only tows that happen in Planning District 8, which covers Northern Virginia.

Lopez, who represents a large swath of South Arlington, says he hears from constituents “regularly” about alleged predatory towing practices taking place in Arlington and across the region.

“This clarifies [the code], makes it cleaner, much more readable,” says Lopez. “There would be meaningful civil penalties that are not limited to Northern Virginia. More importantly, there could finally be individual enforcement rather than solely enforcement through the AG’s office.”

This isn’t the first time in recent years that lawmakers have attempted to help residents when it comes to towing ordinances.

This is a similar situation to the bill that Lopez introduced last year and eventually became law that allows localities to have greater say over the granting of liquor licenses.

In October, then-Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring took Arlington-based Advanced Towing to trial over alleged “predatory,” illegal, and unsafe towing practices.

A month later, a decision was handed down that lent merit to some of the AG’s office claims against Advanced Towing but not all of them. The court denied a request for a permanent injunction while issuing a fine of $750.

Advanced Towing owner John O’Neill told ARLnow in December that the decision “vindicated” his company and called the AG’s case “blackmail” and a “witch hunt.”

However, the case still has at least one more hearing since the court didn’t rule on the payment of attorney’s fees with both sides believing they are owed additional money. That hearing is currently set for March 25.

But with a new attorney general now in charge, it’s possible that the case will not be pursued any further.

O’Neill claimed to ARLnow late last year that he had spoken with the newly elected AG Jason Miyares about the case, who allegedly told the towing company owner the case was “overbearing” and would not be sought.

O’Neill’s attorney Chap Petersen (a Virginia state senator, himself) told ARLnow in an email last week that he has no intention of conceding his attorney fees since he believes the case was over-charged by the AG.

But he doesn’t believe a new AG “changes the dynamics of our case, as Judge Newman had already ruled.”

ARLnow has reached out to AG Miyares’s office multiple times to see if there’s still intent to pursue the case, if an office representative will be at the March hearing, and to confirm O’Neill’s alleged conversation with Miyares, but have yet to hear back as of publication.

Lopez tells ARLnow he thought the trial was going to have a different outcome, but is holding out hope the current AG’s office continues the case.

“I hope Attorney General Miyares would care enough about addressing this issue and take an active role in empowering individuals to use the Virginia Consumer Protection Act,” he says.

Lopez expects his bill to be referred to committee soon and is hopeful it can get bipartisan support.

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Del. Alfonso Lopez in 2019 (file photo)

A half-dozen bills are set to hit the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates in January that were inspired by the poor conditions at the Serrano Apartments and other Virginia affordable housing properties.

After residents exposed poor living conditions at the Columbia Pike apartment complex, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49) tells ARLnow he began drafting bills to strengthen tenant rights and improve living conditions in affordable housing properties across the Commonwealth.

“I believe no one should have to go through what the folks at the Serrano went through,” said Lopez, whose district includes the Serrano, owned by affordable housing developer AHC Inc., as well a dozen other properties owned by AHC and other local developers.

Since residents and advocates came forward in an ARLnow article published in May, AHC has committed to making changes under the eye of the Arlington County Board, undertaking repairs, installing new leadership, adding communication channels and establishing a claims process for damaged belongings.

Lopez is proposing the following bills to protect tenants with livability grievances against their landlords:

  1. Include “bare minimum livable standards” in the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code
  2. Extend the period of time eligible for rent reimbursement for condemned properties
  3. Strengthen the prohibition against retaliatory evictions by landlords
  4. Institute a “warranty of habitability” clause that tenants can enforce against landlords whose properties don’t meet living basic standards

These are also four changes that former ARLnow opinion columnist Nicole Merlene called for after the conditions at the Serrano garnered widespread attention.

“I’m appreciative that Del. Lopez has been working with local stakeholders to ensure that tenants living in aging buildings will have enhanced rights moving forward,” Merlene, who co-chairs Arlington’s Tenant-Landlord Commission, tells ARLnow.

Lopez has pre-filed these and two bills unrelated to the Serrano. After they’re drafted by attorneys with the Virginia Division of Legislative Services, he’ll introduce them to the House of Delegates during the upcoming two-month General Assembly session, which begins in mid-January.

The first bill would make it easier and cheaper for residents to substantiate in court that their dwelling is unlivable. With “bare minimum” livable standards only found in the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, tenants must hire professional experts to testify on their behalf, Lopez says.

“If these basic standards were in the code, a county inspector would be able to file an abatement order and write a letter of attestation for use in court,” he said.

Advocates say the current court process, with the lawyers and experts required, dissuades tenants from asserting themselves.

The second would entitle residents to three months of rent if their residence is condemned and they have to vacate, since Lopez says the conditions wouldn’t have worsened “overnight.” Currently, tenants are only entitled to one month’s rent and their security deposit.

The third bill would protect tenants from being evicted six months after they bring problems to their property management or sue. Lopez said states with similar laws presume eviction is retaliatory if it happens within a six-month period.

“The reason that’s helpful is so that tenants aren’t scared to bring forward issues,” Merlene said.

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Arlington County Civic Federation candidates forum, Sept 14, 2021 (Photo via Facebook/ Arlington County Civic Federation)

Local Virginia House of Delegates candidates had similar things to say on hot topics facing the Commonwealth, during a forum hosted by the Arlington County Civic Federation.

While not all candidates were present, those who were in attendance, regardless of political affiliation, voiced support for rail transit and criminal justice reform while decrying the influence of corporate money in state politics.

Arlington County encompasses parts of four Virginia House districts. Democrats currently occupy all of those seats and have a majority in the General Assembly. That could change this year, since every one of the 100 seats is up for grabs. Early voting starts on Friday (Sept. 17) and voting culminates with Election Day, Nov. 2.

Incumbents are running in three of the districts and are being challenged by Republicans in all of them, as well as an independent in the 49th District.

On Gov. Ralph Northam’s plans for rail transit, incumbent Delegate Rip Sullivan (D) of the 48th District said he “wholeheartedly” agrees it should be prioritized.

“I think future plans and, frankly, what’s already underway with respect to rail transit, is important to both quality of life, for our environment, and the economy,” he said.

His challenger, Edward Monroe (R), echoed that support.

“Everybody knows there are too many cars on the road,” he said. “So, any measures we can take that are effective in reducing the amount of traffic, I think, is a great idea.”

Over in the 45th district, Justin “J.D.” Maddox (R) even complimented opponent Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D) for her work to improve transit. Bennett-Parker, the Vice Mayor of Alexandria, defeated incumbent Mark Levine (D) in the June primary for the district, which covers Alexandria and parts of Arlington.

Bennett-Parker, who had a conflicting Alexandria City Council Legislation meeting, submitted a video. Maddox went after her on Alexandria’s crime rates, connecting them to an incident last year in which one of her aides was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly assaulting a police officer while at a protest.

“I’ve also seen my opponent actually defund the police in the Alexandria City Public Schools,” Maddox said. “And that’s happening at a moment [when] Alexandria is experiencing a 20% increase in violent crime.”

That statistic isn’t completely accurate. So-called “part 1 crimes,” which include violent crimes but also burglary, larceny and auto theft, were up nearly 20% last year. Overall, violent crimes in Alexandria were up 3.3% in 2020.

On criminal justice, incumbents Patrick Hope (D-47) and Alfonso Lopez (D-49) said if elected again they both plan on addressing mandatory minimum criminal sentencing.

Hope emphasized speeding up legal marijuana sales, which remain illegal until 2024 even though the state legalized marijuana possession earlier this summer.

“There are some people that are incarcerated because of marijuana,” said Hope, whose district spans from East Falls Church to Courthouse, to Barcroft and part of Columbia Pike. “I want to look at some of the sentencing for those types of crimes that people are sitting in jail for.”

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It looks like the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is not going to consider a Metro line through Columbia Pike any time soon.

For the last year and a half, there were some signs that such an expansion — which was part of initial Metro planning in the 1960s but was never built — was an actual possibility.

In December 2019, Metro mulled the idea for a Silver Line extension down Columbia Pike and up Route 7, connecting with the West Falls Church Station, as one of a handful of ways to address congestion in the Rosslyn Metro tunnel, system reliability and future ridership growth. News of President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which coincided with WMATA’s deliberations, further crystallized those hopes.

A new study posted this week, however, indicates this extension — which nearly 70% of ARLnow readers supported in an April poll — has been ruled out. That follows a cost-benefit analysis by planners, which favored four other routes — each starting with a second Metro station in Rosslyn and adding an underground Metro station in Georgetown — as well as two options that don’t involve new construction.

WMATA is looking for the next way to expand Metro on a scale similar to the Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport, as it seeks to alleviate traffic and congestion in the Rosslyn tunnel and along the the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. In early 2019, it launched the Blue/Orange/Silver Capacity & Reliability Study (BOS Study) to identify a line that would do so.

Metro planners outlined the four finalists, absent the Pike, in an update to the BOS Study that Metro posted this week. The four options use a second Rosslyn station to alleviate congestion at the existing station, and establish a long-discussed underground station in Georgetown, which has never had a Metro connection.

The possible projects, which would cost billions of dollars to build, include a Blue Line loop to National Harbor — which planners think would add the most new riders and revenue to the Metro system — as well as a Blue Line extension to Greenbelt, a Silver Line express tunnel option through Arlington, and a Silver Line to New Carrollton.

The express option “would create a separate tunnel and tracks for the Silver Line, starting at West Falls Church Station,” according to WMATA. A diagram suggests it would skip all Arlington stations except the second Rosslyn station and perhaps a second Ballston station.

“From WFC to a new second Rosslyn station, the new tunnel could support express service, local service or a mix of express and local service,” WMATA said. “From the second Rosslyn station, the Silver Line would travel through Georgetown…. to Greenbelt.”

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Morning Notes

APS Working With Nonprofit on ‘Cultural Competence’ — “This week, RISE, a national nonprofit that educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, began facilitating interactive workshops with Arlington Public Schools Student-Athlete Advisory Council members and coaches. This is the first in a series of interactive cultural competence workshops that APS and RISE will be providing to athletes and coaches as part of a new partnership.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Northam to Sign Bill at Marymount — “This coming Monday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam will be visiting Marymount University to hold a ceremonial bill signing for House Bill 2123 and Senate Bill 1387. The legislation will make Virginia students eligible for state financial aid if they are eligible for in-state tuition in the fall of 2022, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.” [Press Release]

GOP Candidate Running Against Del. Hope — A Republican challenger has emerged to contest the re-election campaign of Del. Patrick Hope. Laura Hall said she filed paperwork last week. Hall said she would share more publicly when she hears back from the state regarding her filing. A Democratic primary for the delegate’s district did not occur, after the state Board of Elections determined challenger Matt Rogers did not meet a filing deadline. [Twitter]

Metro Changes On the Way — “Rail service will be extended to midnight, seven days a week, in July, and other bus and rail service improvements and fare changes will start being implemented in the Fall, beginning Labor Day weekend, as many in the region prepare to go back to work and school.” [WMATA, DCist]

Domino’s Is Offering a Signing Bonus — The Domino’s Pizza location on Columbia Pike has signs advertising a $500 hiring bonus for new employees, amid a national labor shortage that is hitting restaurants particularly hard. [Twitter]

Video Shows Wrong-Way Driver on I-66Updated at 8:20 a.m. — “Scary video footage shows a driver speeding the wrong way on Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia on Thursday morning.  Virginia State Police say the driver headed the wrong way on the Capital Beltway and I-66, hit at least one car and set off a wave of 911 calls… The driver finally pulled over in the Rosslyn area because of a flat tire. No information on an arrest or charges was immediately released.” [NBC 4]

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County Board members Takis Karantonis (left) and Matt de Ferranti (right) at the Madison Community Center polling place on June 8, 2021 (photo via Takis Karantonis/Twitter)

Primary day was a good day to be an establishment Democrat in Arlington, though not necessarily so for every incumbent.

A primary challenge to incumbent County Board member Takis Karantonis was soundly rejected by voters, who gave Karantonis just over two-thirds of the vote. He defeats Chanda Choun, who ran on a platform of responsive government, technological advancement, and lower taxes, among other things.

Karantonis, who was first elected in a special election and is running for his first full term, will now face a trio of independent candidates in the fall: Audrey ClementMike Cantwell and Adam Theo. He thanked his volunteers and Choun for “a positive, well-fought campaign.”

In the 49th House of Delegates district, which runs along Columbia Pike, voters said yes to one of the most liberal state lawmakers in the Commonwealth and said no to a candidate running to his left. Del. Alfonso Lopez, who was first elected in 2012, cruised to another Democratic nomination over Karishma Mehta, by a vote of around 70% to 30%.

Mehta, a Pentagon City resident, was endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, the Sunrise Movement and local activist group Our Revolution Arlington. She was openly critical of her new corporate neighbor, Amazon, which is building its HQ2 within the district and will eventually be Arlington’s second largest employer — second only to the Department of Defense.

Lopez thanked voters tonight for their “resounding support.”

The other contested local primary was in the 45th House of Delegates district, which includes portions of South Arlington, Alexandria and southern Fairfax County. In it, incumbent Del. Mark Levine simultaneously lost his reelection bid in the 45th district while also falling short in his run for lieutenant governor.

Emerging victorious is Alexandria Vice-Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, who is garnering nearly 60% of the vote district-wide to 40% for Levine. The margin in Arlington was closer — 53% to 47% — but nonetheless a defeat for Levine, who loaned his campaign nearly $1 million in his unsuccessful statewide run.

Bennett-Parker was endorsed by state Sen. Adam Ebbin, Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti, and County Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol, among others. In declaring victory via social media, she also thanked her campaign volunteers.

In statewide races, Arlington voted the same way as Virginia as a whole.

Former Governor Terry McAuliffe is again the Democratic nominee for governor, with 60% of the vote in Arlington and 62% statewide.

Hala Ayala is the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee, despite a last-minute controversy over a political donation from Dominion, with 35% of the vote in Arlington and 36% statewide.

Incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring, meanwhile, is also advancing to the November general election after garnering 68.5% of the vote in Arlington and 56% statewide in his race against Jay Jones, who was endorsed by Gov. Ralph Northam.

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(Updated 5:40 p.m.) Arlington has seen significantly higher early voting turnout than usual, ahead of the Democratic primary tomorrow.

Neighborhood polling places will be open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. for those who have not voted early or absentee. Voters will see a full slate of Democratic candidates for local and state elections. Primary winners will face non-Democratic candidates in November.

Arlingtonians have been taking advantage of early voting opportunities since April 23. According to the Arlington County elections office, 2,803 people voted early and in-person before that option closed last week — a 140% increase over the last Virginia gubernatorial election cycle in 2017.

Meanwhile, more than 3,900 mail ballots for the Democratic primary were distributed before the May 28 deadline to request a ballot, the office said in a tweet. These can still be returned by mail but must be postmarked by tomorrow (June 8) and received by the local voter registration office by noon on Friday.

On the ballot in Arlington are three statewide elections, two contested House of Delegates elections, and the Democratic race for County Board.

Democrats have a number of potential replacements for Gov. Ralph Northam, including former governor Terry McAuliffe and Jennifer Carroll Foy — both of whom visited Arlington last week — as well as Jennifer McClellan, Lee Carter and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

The winner of the gubernatorial primary will face off Glenn Youngkin, who beat out a half-dozen other Republican candidates to win the GOP nomination.

Meanwhile, seven Democrats are competing for Fairfax’s current role as Lieutenant Governor. They are Del. Hala Ayala, Del. Sam Rasoul, Norfolk Council Member Andria McClellan, Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman, Del. Mark Levine and Arlington businessman Xavier Warren.

Voters can also choose between incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring or his Democratic challenger Jay Jones.

Challenging Del. Alfonso Lopez for the 49th District is Karishma Mehta, while Alexandria City Vice-Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker is going up against Levine (who is also running for Lieutenant Governor) in the 45th District.

The 47th and 48th districts are not facing primary challenges on the ballot this year. Incumbent Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48th) faces no challenger and Matt Rogers, who launched a bid to unseat incumbent Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), is not on the ballot due to a paperwork snafu. He contested a decision by the State Board of Elections not to grant him and two other candidates a filing deadline.

Meanwhile, locals can choose to keep incumbent Democrat Takis Karantonis in his County Board seat or select his opponent, Chanda Choun. In November, the winner will face off a trio of independents: Audrey Clement, Mike Cantwell and now, Adam Theo.

Theo describes himself as a patriotic Libertarian Buddhist. He is the chair of the Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia, which operates in the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church as well as Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

Tomorrow also is the deadline for candidates to file the forms needed to have their names printed on the ballot in the November general election.

There is no Republican primary, as “the Republican party did not call for any primary elections in Arlington,” the county elections office noted. Any voter can cast a ballot in the Democratic primary, regardless of party affiliation, as Virginia is an open primary state.

Registered voters can find their polling place on the Virginia Department of Elections website. A pocket guide from the department includes a list of acceptable IDs that voters can use to prove their identity when they arrive at the polls.

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Less than a week before the primary, gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, Del. Alfonso Lopez, and Virginia Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn paid a visit to Acme Pie Company on Columbia Pike.

All three Democrats are running for office in the upcoming primary, set for Tuesday, June 8 — with early voting happening now. (Filler-Corn is unopposed in the primary.)

Around slices of blueberry and lemon curd pie, joined by Acme’s owner Sol Schott, they discussed small businesses, economic recovery, and their love of pie.

“The best pie in America,” Lopez said about Acme’s offerings. A few moments later, McAuliffe bought a whole pie.

“I got five kids,” the McLean resident and former governor said as his reasoning.

The campaign stop was intended to highlight the plight and hoped-for recovery for Virginia’s small businesses.

“Almost 41% of Black and Brown [owned] businesses have closed. How do you rebuild? How do you bring small businesses back?,” McAuliffe asked. “We do microloans, access to capital, and working on the regulatory structure.”

While Acme Pie has found ways to survive over the last year, it’s been rough going with the shop losing a large slice of its wholesale business.

The business did get a Paycheck Protection Program loan and Schott said that one of the most frustrating aspects was dealing with paperwork and navigating the legalese.

“I would like to see some more hands-on help with paperwork,” Schott told ARLnow. “I did get help from Alfonso personally on that.”

Lopez, who is facing an intra-party challenger in his run for re-election in the 49th District, agrees that the paperwork and amount of work that small business owners need do to gain access to loans and capital can be a barrier.

“What we need to be doing is dealing with procurement reform… and changing the definition of what a small business is,” Lopez said in an interview with ARLnow. “There’s so much more we could do to help these folks who are literally putting everything into their dream of a small business and be able to take care of their family.”

McAuliffe, who is seen as the front-runner for the competitive Democratic gubernatorial nomination, told ARLnow in an interview that the Commonwealth needs to be directly involved in providing access to capital to small businesses.

“We as a state should stand up our own, basically, investment bank structure to help small businesses, to get them off their feet, and work with them,” he said. “The state being involved in micro-financing and other lending opportunities, I think is very important for us.”

The four spoke about other issues impacting residents in Arlington and across Virginia, including education and affordable housing.

“We’ve got to invest in education… You’ve got to have the best education system if you’re going to recruit businesses in the 21st century,” McAuliffe said. “Today, [Virginia] is 50 out of 50 states in average teacher pay. That’s disgraceful… so, raising pay above the national average.”

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It could be a competitive Democratic primary in Virginia’s 49th House District between long-time delegate Alfonso Lopez and newcomer Karishma Mehta.

Since announcing her candidacy in October, Mehta has received several notable progressive endorsements including from Democratic Socialists of America, Sunrise Virginia, and Our Revolution Arlington. She’s also raised a considerable amount of money, with her campaign saying they’ve so far raised five times more than previous 49th District challengers.

In the first quarter of 2021 the campaign raised about $51,000, for a total haul of $78,000.

Mehta has been running an active campaign, sending her supporters more than a dozen emails since mid-March. The emails have asked for donations, announced endorsements, and demanded that corporations like Dominion Energy and Amazon — which is building its HQ2 within the 49th District — “are immediately reigned in.”

Lopez, meanwhile, has racked up endorsements from a proverbial who’s who list of Arlington and Virginia lawmakers, officials, and organizations. That includes U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia Secretary of Education Arif Qarni, the Arlington firefighters union, and even his primary challenger in 2019, JD Spain, president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP.

The campaign says it has raised more than $80,000 in the first quarter of 2021 and $160,000 overall.

The 49th District runs from Seven Corners to Pentagon City, including much of Arlington’s diverse Columbia Pike corridor.

The primary is set for June 8, with early voting starting tomorrow (April 23). The race pits an established Arlington lawmaker against a first-time candidate .

Mehta is a 29-year-old preschool teacher, the daughter of Indian-American parents who immigrated to the U.S. seeking a better life. But they struggled, she tells ARLnow, to pay rent, get affordable health care, and pay down debt. While she originally hails from Tennessee and Pennsylvania, she moved to Arlington about a decade ago to teach.

Mehta says she is “proud to help represent the wave of progressive insurgents across the country working to put people first, not corporations.”

“I’ve seen a cyclical pattern and the lack of accountability not just in our elected officials, but in the way we’ve created society,” she says. “My goal is to help be part of a new generation of legislators that help break that cycle of inequity, to help build new systems that uplift all of our people.”

“We represent the future of the Democratic Party, whereas the moderates like Delegate Lopez represent the past,” she adds.

Lopez was first elected as a Delegate in 2011. Since then, he’s become the Majority Whip in the Virginia House of Delegates and has sponsored a slew of notable bills, including one earlier this year that gave localities greater say over which businesses get liquor licenses.

This past General Assembly session his entire legislative agenda was signed into law, including bills related to gun control, providing more access to financial aid to students no matter immigration status, and funding to improve water treatment plants and prevent Chesapeake Bay pollution.

Lopez tells ARLnow that he believes his experience getting legislation passed is why he continues to be the best candidate for the job.

“What I do is bring Arlington progressive values to Richmond and work to get as much I can done, to move the policy needle as far as I can while also being successful and effective in getting legislation passed,” he says.

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Morning Notes

County Board Approves Several Projects — “The Arlington County Board took action at its April meeting on a number of projects designed to invest in community development and improve infrastructure throughout the County. ‘The Board’s actions today invest in Arlington’s future through a flexible space for the arts, additional flexibility to allow for additional affordable housing, four neighborhood conservation projects, and infrastructure that improves our core utilities and provides essential services for our residents,’ County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said.” [Arlington County]

Local Group’s Statement on Chauvin Verdict — Black Parents of Arlington issued a statement last night about the verdict in George Floyd’s murder: “This ‘justice’ system, while today handed down a verdict that provides accountability, cannot, and will not, ever restore justice. Justice is when a Black photographer can visit a client without being harassed by both neighbors and law enforcement. Justice is when a pregnant Black woman can deliver her baby with dignity, and not in the captivity of an Arlington County jail.” [Press Release]

More Students Taken Off In-Person Waitlists — “In response to the CDC’s 3-foot distancing update, schools have continued to accommodate more students in person, and nearly half of all APS schools have cleared their waitlists. So far in April, nearly 1,000 students have been added for in-person instruction, and we are working through the remaining students as capacity allows. Additionally, more classes at the elementary level have now transitioned into one classroom, versus the previous split classes.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Candidates Want More APS Transparency — “The two candidates for the Democratic endorsement for School Board say there’s one tangible thing the county school system can do immediately in an effort to address seemingly intractable achievement disparities. Let the sunshine in. The way to address achievement gaps ‘is to know that they’re there – bring them out into the light.'” [Sun Gazette]

Fundraising Advantage for Incumbents — “Two Arlington legislators facing intra-party challenges from their left are maintaining healthy cash-on-hand totals headed toward June 8 primary showdowns. Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) ended the first quarter with $120,853 in his campaign account, while challenger Matt Rogers had $13,180, according to filings with the Virginia Department of Elections… In the 49th District, Del. Alfonso Lopez ended the quarter with $131,117 on hand compared to $30,990 for educator Karishma Mehta.” [Sun Gazette]

County Board Recognizes ‘Notable’ Trees — “Arlington has more than 750,400 trees of at least 122 species that provide $1 million in environmental benefits to the County annually in the form of pollution removal, carbon storage, energy savings, and avoided stormwater runoff, and are valued at $1.41 billion total. On Tuesday, April 20, 32 of these trees will be designated as Notable Trees by the Arlington County Board.” [Arlington County]

Local Park Volunteers Honored — “The Arlington County Board will recognize two winners of the Bill Thomas Park Volunteer Award at its Board meeting on Tuesday, April 20. Elaine Mills and Glenn Tobin will be recognized for their dedication and support of Arlington County natural resources and public open spaces. Mills is the winner for 2019 and Tobin is the winner for 2020.” [Arlington County]

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