Arlingtonians could have an update on the results of the Arlington County Board Democratic primary as soon as this afternoon, according to the local elections office.
“We will be accepting about 500 mail and provisional ballots today and results will be uploaded throughout the afternoon,” says spokeswoman Tania Griffin. “We’ll also have an update regarding the [ranked-choice voting] tabulation later this afternoon as well.”
For the first time, Arlington voters used a ranked-choice system to pick their top candidates for the County Board, which has two open seats this year. The outcome will come down to who voters ranked second and third place.
It is a squeaker so far for Susan Cunningham, Natalie Roy, Maureen Coffey and Julius “J.D.” Spain, whose tally of first-choice votes are within a range of only 5 percentage points from most to least.
“This race is still wide open,” said Liz White, the executive director of UpVote Virginia, which has been educating residents about ranked-choice voting ahead of the primary.
“Four out of the six candidates could very well secure a win once subsequent rounds are tabulated,” she said in an email. “Round-by-round tabulation will occur as soon as all provisional and mail ballots are processed. Once all votes are processed, the tabulation is instantaneous.”
No candidate crossed the threshold for early victory: 33.3% of the first-choice votes, plus one vote. The next step will be eliminating the lowest vote getters, in order. Who people picked after first ranking Jonathan Dromgoole and Tony Weaver could get any of the four other candidates past the finish line.
Cunningham, who took the lead in the first round of votes, tells ARLnow she has made peace with whatever happens next. Coffey, who currently sits in third place, says she is “on pins and needles” waiting for the results.
Political consultant Ben Tribbett is placing his bets that those who ranked Dromgoole first likely ranked Coffey or Spain next.
“When you get to the actual ranking of candidates, I think the third and fourth-place candidates are going to go on to win the election,” Tribbett said. “I would expect in that first round, that Maureen is going to win. There’s a chance Susan Cunningham could hold off J.D. in the second round.”
On Tuesday, County Board member Takis Karantonis — who endorsed Coffey and Spain — said Coffey performed well on a per campaign dollar spent basis. Meanwhile Spain, who had racked up several endorsements and raised substantial funds, underperformed, which he called a “sobering result.”
Looking precinct by precinct, it is clear that each of the candidates had a base. The more urban places with younger voters went for Coffey, while single-family home enclaves went for Cunningham and Roy, who were most critical of the zoning changes known as Missing Middle.
Spain told ARLnow on Tuesday night that he enjoyed strong support in his neighborhood, Penrose, while noting more confrontations with upset voters above Langston Blvd.
“We won the most diverse precincts in Arlington,” he said. “[I’m] proud of that.”
Tribbett was more blunt about what he saw as the electoral dynamic, citing the geographic distribution of votes in the Commonwealth’s Attorney race in particular.
“It’s the Karens versus the non-Karens,” he said. “Clearly, there’s a divide in the community that jumps out at you.”
After taking the helm for longtime Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur, who retired at the end of 2022, Acting Sheriff Jose Quiroz is one step closer to taking charge permanently.
Quiroz — backed by four of five County Board members and several elected officials — won the Democratic primary Tuesday night. Following his victory, over former sheriff deputy Wanda Younger and Arlington County police corporal James Herring, Quiroz advances to the November general election.
As of last night, the acting sheriff had nearly 40% of the vote, or 10,733 ballots. Younger was close behind him, with 1,600 fewer votes (~34%). Herring came in third, picking up nearly 7,200 votes.
Looking forward, the acting sheriff says he will focus on mental health, substance use and programming for jail inmates. Running the local jail is the primary responsibility of the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, along with providing court security and some law enforcement and civil process duties beyond the justice complex in Courthouse.
“I think the biggest thing is mental health. We all have that and all go through it, but some people need a little more care, attention, resources and services,” Quiroz told ARLnow. “I think the county has some work to do in that area.”
He stressed that he can only control treatment of inmates, not change the waves of people with mental illnesses and addictions coming to the jail. To that end, he says new biometric sensors — which inmates will wear so issues like withdrawal symptoms can be spotted before more inmates die — are close to go-time.
Meanwhile, he intends to maintain existing programs, including a series that teaches men how to connect with and be fathers to their kids.
“That’s how you break the cycle of the next generation,” he said. “It’s important to me as a father.”
He says he is thinking “outside the box” about support, stepping up pet therapy and possibly adding a pickleball court for staff and inmates.
In their concessions, Herring and Younger both said they campaigned on bringing to light problems in the jail.
“My campaign was about highlighting the issues and showing people the number of solutions we have available to us if we stop relying on the trope of ‘that’s the way it has always been done,’ or ‘it costs too much,'” Herring said. “Other Sheriff’s Offices in Virginia have implemented much of what I was talking about, often with smaller budgets. The problems facing our Sheriff’s Office are not financially driven, but an issue of priority.”
Next week, Herring will once more be patrolling the streets. He said he would run again if the problems he stressed in his campaign remain four years from now.
On social media, Younger said she is “proud to have raised the bar of the Sheriff’s Office with our ideas & solution-sets and to have brought light to the prevalent issues of the Arlington Sheriff’s Office which inhibit [its] growth and greatness.”
She also thanked voters for their confidence in her ability to carry out her platform.
“The Wanda for Sheriff team will continue to advance the rights and voice of the detainees, Sheriff’s Office staff and our Arlington community in the future as community advocates and caretakers, and we are honored to have earned your trust,” she said.
(Updated at 9:25 p.m.) Commonwealth’s Attorney incumbent Parisa Dehghani-Tafti has defeated challenger Josh Katcher in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Dehghani-Tafti has 56% of the vote to 44% for Katcher, her former deputy, in the heated race for the top prosecutor of Arlington and Falls Church. That’s as of 8:40 p.m., with all but a few hundred provisional and late-arriving mailed ballots counted in Arlington. Polls closed at 7 p.m.
Katcher, standing outside of his watch party at Lost Dog Cafe in Westover, called Dehghani-Tafti shortly before 8:50 p.m. to concede the race.
The contentious — and expensive — contest has been seen as something of a referendum on the incumbent’s brand of vocal justice reform advocacy. Katcher, while billing himself as also in favor of justice reform, put a spotlight on Dehghani-Tafti’s leadership, which he linked to departures of deputy prosecutors amid a reported rise in crime.
“Right now we’re going to celebrate what we were able to accomplish with this campaign and thank the volunteers,” Katcher told ARLnow before heading back into his event.
“Over the course of the last six months, we’ve had an important debate in our community over the future of criminal justice reform,” he said in a subsequent written statement. “Our team left it all on the field, as we sought to have a debate about what real reform and real justice could mean for our community… I stand ready to continue my commitment to this community, to its safety and to the goal of ensuring that we are balancing the need for both justice and compassion.”
Dehghani-Tafti also thanked her supporters. Gesturing to the crowd gathered at her event at Fire Works Pizza in Courthouse (held with County Board candidate JD Spain) she said those present reflect a tiny fraction of the people who donated, volunteered, “held my hand,” and knocked on doors.
“A campaign based on love, dignity and respect prevailed,” she said. “I’m grateful for the trust everybody has placed in me.”
In the other two closely watched local races, for County Board and Sheriff, leads were slim.
The three-way county sheriff race has Jose Quiroz with a widening lead compared to earlier in the night, with 40% to 34% for former deputy sheriff Wanda Younger and 27% for Arlington police corporal James Herring.
Quiroz was appointed Acting Sheriff after the departure of long-time Sheriff Beth Arthur earlier this year. The position is primarily responsible for running the county jail in Courthouse, with the Sheriff’s Office also handling court security, civil process serving, and some law and traffic enforcement responsibilities.
The Arlington County Board primary, meanwhile, is being conducted for the first time using ranked choice voting, which means final tabulation will not take place until Friday at the earliest. Results of “first choice” votes are being posted, however, showing Susan Cunningham with 25%, Natalie Roy with 24%, Maureen Coffey with 22%, and JD Spain with 20%.
Just under 10% of voters have cast ballots in today’s Democratic primary as of 9 a.m.
That includes 7% who voted early or by mail and 2% voting at the polls Tuesday morning, according to Arlington County election officials.
Today’s primary, for the first time in Arlington, features the use of ranked choice voting, for the six-way race for the two open Arlington County Board seats. Voters are asked to fill in the bubble for up to three candidates, in order of priority — one each for first, second and third choice.
The County Board race has seen a wide range of endorsements and one particularly divisive issue dividing candidate factions: the recently-passed Missing Middle housing ordinance allowing smaller-scale multifamily homes in neighborhoods previously zoned only for single-family detached houses.
The other closely watched race today is that for Arlington and Falls Church’s top prosecutor, between incumbent Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and her former deputy, Josh Katcher.
The incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney has continued to campaign — and raise significant campaign funding — on her national profile as a justice reformer. Katcher says he supports a more practical and effective implementation of justice reform, and has picked up an endorsement from the local police union amid a rise in crime, according to recent police statistics.
Additional races include a three-way race for county Sheriff, a two-way race for State Senate (40th District), and a race for House of Delegates (2nd District) featuring one active candidate, Adele McClure, and Kevin Saucedo-Broach, who withdrew but remains on ballots.
Though turnout today is light compared to years in which federal races are on the primary ballot, it is in line with the last four-year cycle, in 2019, when Dehghani-Tafti defeated incumbent Theo Stamos for Commonwealth’s Attorney. Total voter turnout in that race was just under 17%.
Polls opened today at 6 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m.
While the results of most races should be known within a few hours, the final tally for County Board will take a few days — potentially extending into the weekend — due to how ranked choice votes are tabulated, including the need to wait until all legal mailed-in ballots are received
— Arlington Elections (@ArlingtonVotes) June 20, 2023
ARLnow previously asked candidates to write essays describing why Arlington voters should support them. Links to those posts are below.
Commonwealth’s Attorney: Josh Katcher and Parisa Dehghani-Tafti. County Board: Tony Weaver, Jonathan Dromgoole, JD Spain, Maureen Coffey, Susan Cunningham, and Natalie Roy. Sheriff: Jose Quiroz, James Herring, and Wanda Younger. State Senate: Barbara Favola.
Update at 1:50 p.m. — Primary day turnout is up to about 5%, bringing total turnout to 12%, according to the county elections office.
— Arlington Elections (@ArlingtonVotes) June 20, 2023
It's Election Day! Polls for the Democratic Primary Election are open from 6am-7pm. Verify your polling place location here: https://t.co/hDjQbBXALQ#ArlingtonVotes #Election2023 #RCVinArlington pic.twitter.com/7CXxq7OxKq
— Arlington Elections (@ArlingtonVotes) June 20, 2023
Just a few days remain to vote in the Arlington County Democratic primary.
Voters can cast their ballots early and in-person today (Friday) and tomorrow — or they can hit the polls on Tuesday.
This year, for the first time, residents are using ranked-choice voting to determine which Arlington County Board candidates will run with a (D) next to their names in the November general election. The format for every other primary contest is unchanged.
This article explains how to vote, how your vote is counted and why full results may come next weekend. At the minimum, this is what you should know:
- Anyone registered to vote, regardless of party, can participate in the primary.
- You can rank up to three of the six County Board candidates. You can only rank one or two if you want.
- Only two candidates will get the nomination.
- Only mark one oval per column and ask for assistance if you need help.
Filling out your ballot
Need a visual? This Arlington County flier provides step-by-step instructions:
The scanner will reject ballots that look as follows.
“Voters have the option to mark a new ballot or cast their ballot with the errors,” Arlington Dept. of Elections Director Gretchen Reinemeyer says. “A vast majority choose to spoil their original ballot and mark a new ballot.”
If you mailed in a ballot with errors, it will be reviewed.
“Their ballots are scanned after they are separated from the voter’s name to preserve voter privacy,” Reinemeyer says. “These ballots are held until election day and will be adjudicated by teams of election officers to determine voter intent.”
The rate of spoiled ballots so far this primary season is a little higher than normal, but still small, she noted. Final stats on spoiled ballots will be published after the election.
How are the winners picked?
Liz White, the executive director of UpVote Virginia, tells ARLnow she used this analogy to explain tabulation when her organization educated Arlingtonians on ranked-choice voting.
You have $1 to spend to elect someone. Everyone pays their first pick $1 and whoever gets the least amount of money is eliminated.
A candidate who wins by a large margin does not need the full $1 — just, for instance, 70 cents. Your second pick gets 30 cents.
If your first-place candidate is eliminated, your second-place pick gets your full $1. Everyone has a whole vote: for some, it is split among two and for others, it supports the second-place pick.
Armed with this knowledge, White says do not get too strategic.
“One of the nice things is that voters don’t have to be pundits,” she said. “They can truly say, ‘If I don’t have this one candidate, I want to have this one.'”
Acting Sheriff Jose Quiroz, who is one of three vying for the support of local Democrats in the primary this coming Tuesday, said that one amenity he would like to add to the jail is a pickleball court.
In an interview by Arlington Independent Media (AIM), he said the court is “something different” — in addition to the existing basketball court and weight-lifting area in the jail — that deputies and inmates could use. He sees the additional court as a way to improve deputy wellness.
He also intends to add a relaxation room in the jail for deputies and to have wellness conversations with staff, facilitated by local nonprofit Center for Youth and Family Advocacy.
Those two measures are intended to stop the office from bleeding burned-out staff, a pattern in Arlington reflected nationally that sources say appears to be worsening within the Sheriff’s Office, with some deputies actively planning their departures. Already, the vacancy rate stands around 7%, up from a little greater than 3% in 2019, according to the 2024 approved budget.
“Our staffing all around is low,” Quiroz said in the interview. “We have a lot of vacancies.”
He is running against Arlington County police officer James Herring and retired sheriff deputy Wanda Younger. Early voting ends tomorrow (Saturday), while polls open for the Democratic primary on Tuesday. Quiroz’s opponents say they also have ideas for addressing what they say are morale and retention issues in the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO).
Herring says the issue stems from deputies being forced to work overtime. They will leave Arlington for jurisdictions with better schedules.
If elected, he intends to advocate for better pay and benefits and, with input from deputies, create more balanced schedules that provide career growth opportunities and mentorship.
“If you can’t hire people faster than people leave your agency, it doesn’t matter how good your recruiting is,” Herring told ARLnow. “Losing a veteran deputy means more than just losing a filled position. It means that you’re losing their years of experience, their ability to mentor younger deputies, and their established connections with those in custody and in the community.”
(Herring’s AIM interview was just posted online this morning.)
He recently picked up endorsements from Abby Raphael, a former Arlington School Board member who also served as an assistant prosecutor, and former independent County Board member John Vihstadt. Both praised his plans for also improving inmate wellbeing.
Younger suggests ending the Sheriff’s unilateral ability to hire and fire deputies without cause. She also suggests relying more on auxiliary deputies — trained civilian volunteers, certified by the state, who sometimes have military or law enforcement experience.
“Hiring is definitely an issue. Retention is a main problem as well,” Younger said in her conversation with AIM. “In order to ensure they remain, we have to increase morale. That’s one area I would focus on.”
Quiroz has the endorsement of several other current and former local and state elected officials, as well as his predecessor, Beth Arthur, who stepped down in January and appointed Quiroz as acting sheriff.
ACSO has tried to tackle the staffing crunch by appointing a sergeant to assist with recruiting — which resulted in more applications processed and a slightly faster hiring window — and budgeting $20,000 in the 2024 budget for recruiting.
The sheriff’s office serves warrants, runs the county jail and provides security at the courthouse, in addition to some other local law and traffic enforcement responsibilities. One impact of the shortages has been fewer deputies providing security in courtrooms and more civilian court security supervisors filling in.
In the race to pick the next Democratic candidate for Arlington and Falls Church’s top prosecutor, incumbent Parisa Dehghani-Tafti has topped her opponent, Josh Katcher, in fundraising.
A campaign financing report released yesterday (Monday) says she netted $356,220 in cash donations for her re-election bid from April 1-June 8. She raced ahead after falling behind Katcher in the last filing period. The Democratic primary is on June 20 and early voting started last month.
Most of the cash Dehghani-Tafti received — $295,000 — came from one progressive political action committee (PAC) founded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros. She also received nearly $75,000 in in-kind donations from a handful of other liberal groups, including $45,992 from New Virginia Majority and $23,435 from Justice and Public Safety PAC.
Katcher’s largest donation this round, $15,000, comes from the Arlington Coalition of Police. He still bests his opponent when it comes to number of donors above and below $100. He also has loaned himself $30,000, whereas Dehghani-Tafti reported no loans during this period.
Fundraising has yet to reach the nearly $1 million seen ahead of the June 2019 primary, when Dehghani-Tafti bested incumbent Theo Stamos and in one filing period received $515,492 in cash and in-kind donations from a Soros-funded group.
In a statement this morning, the campaign to elect Dehghani-Tafti celebrated these donations and went after Katcher for trying to discredit them.
There are those, like our opponent, who will seek to sow distrust in these upstanding organizations, who have already aimed to diminish their right to bring together the voices of those who are normally disenfranchised, and support both democracy and Democratic values; those who utilize Republican scare tactics, demonizing the hard work of members of these American institutions.
We do not agree with our opponent. We embrace not only the right these groups have to support our campaign, but we celebrate this support, accepting these contributions of time, money, and labor by hard-working Americans who are invested that ALL people in Arlington be treated equally under the law, that ALL people can expect justice under the law, and that ALL people here can expect a safe community for their families to grow, love, and prosper.
Katcher’s campaign lambasted his opponent today for omitting the $295,000 in what it says is “dark PAC money.” His campaign manager, Ben Jones, said the following:
Over the past month, our campaign has pointed to a clear pattern of behavior by Parisa Dehghani-Tafti where she refuses to tell the truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth to our community, even on the most elementary matters. Whether it is relating to information on crime statistics, how many vacancies are open in her office, how her office operates or even just an hour ago when talking about her campaign contributions, she has shown over and over again that she is incapable of transparency or even fidelity to the truth.
Jones argued that Katcher has more broad support from Democrats than his opponent, with 1,151 individual contributions in the past six months compared to the 822 contributions to Dehghani-Tafti over the last two years.
Echoes of the fundraising rhetoric can be heard in the ads for the two candidates. Some highlight their experience and high-profile endorsements while others demonstrate their Democrat bona fides and undermine those of their opponent.
This spring, Arlington County began buying up properties in the Waverly Hills area to combat flooding.
Already, despite some concerns about how the program would work, three residents have agreed to sell their homes. The county will tear them down and replant the land so water has a place to flow during large rain storms.
All seven Arlington County Board candidates — six of whom are vying for the support of the local Democratic party this primary — say the county needs to change its land-use policies and get more people on board with adding stormwater infrastructure in their backyards, in order to make neighborhoods more resilient to a predicted increase in flooding.
“The July 2018 and 2019 floods in particular really drove this home for us — we had some real life-safety issues pertaining to flooding,” Susan Cunningham said in a forum hosted by nonprofit advocacy group EcoAction Arlington last week.
“[It] highlighted that, not only because of climate change but really because of lack of long-range planning, we have very outdated stormwater management systems that we don’t have a budget to improve,” she continued. “We do have a lot of catch up to do.”
Since the floods, Arlington County has taken steps to manage stormwater beyond buying homes for flood relief.
Starting next year, Arlington will fund its stormwater management plan with a stormwater utility fee. The county will charge property owners a rate based on how much of their property is covered in hard surfaces, like roofs and driveways. (Currently, it is funded by a tax based on property assessments.)
Developers of single-family homes report higher construction costs due to retention regulations. Bonds and the new stormwater utility fee, meanwhile, could spell higher taxes for residents.
So, in this race, some candidates say the county should examine how its own policies encourage flooding before requiring more of residents.
“This is something that we should’ve done 10 years ago and definitely something we should have done before approving the misguided [Missing Middle] plan,” Roy said.
Perennial independent candidate Audrey Clement said she would call for the repeal of Missing Middle, linking the new policy to tree loss and thus, increased flooding.
She said she would also end a practice among developers to subdivide lots to circumvent state environmental ordinances preventing construction near protected land along Arlington streams called “resource protection areas,” or RPAs.
“It was by this sleight of hand that the county permitted a tear-down McMansion in a North Arlington RPA in 2018 but also the destruction of a 100-foot state champion redwood on the same lot,” she said.
(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) Arlington’s police union is endorsing challenger Josh Katcher in the race for Commonwealth’s Attorney.
Dehghani-Tafti campaigned on criminal justice reform and won her first term in 2019, after beating Theo Stamos, for whom Katcher previously worked (he also worked for Dehghani-Tafti before leaving the office).
The incumbent has focused her re-election campaign on the reforms she has made, such as ending cash bail, a requirement that defense attorneys hand copy all the prosecutor’s files about their criminal case, and prosecution for marijuana possession. She has endorsements of several current and former state legislators and members of the Arlington County Board and School Board and the Washington Post.
Katcher has focused on allegations of rising crime, staffing issues within the top prosecutor’s office and crime victims who say they were not respected. He picked up the endorsement from Arlington Coalition of Police (ACOP) because, the organization says, the current relationship between local police and the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney is crumbling.
“ACOP has spent the last 7 months attempting to stay out of the Commonwealth Attorney’s race,” it said in a press release. “We understood that whoever won, officers would still need to have a working relationship with the winner. Although that current working relationship is extremely poor, we worried that any statement would make the relationship even worse.”
The organization says it was reluctant to speak up until now — with less than a month before the primary on June 20 — but wants to correct the record about statements Dehghani-Tafti has made on the campaign trail.
In a recent Arlington County Civic Federation debate, the current Commonwealth’s Attorney said her office has a “healthy” relationship with officers and that prosecution rates are down because police are apprehending fewer people.
ACOP says this “could not be any further from the truth” and it “cannot sit by idly while she intentionally misleads the public.”
It listed some of the issues officers say they have with how the top prosecutor’s office currently runs:
On almost a daily basis, members of ACOP email their union representatives with complaints about Ms. Tafti’s office. The most common recurring complaints are about a lack of preparation from the prosecutors, subpoenas not being issued in a timely manner (sometimes never being issued at all), a case getting dismissed without ever contacting the arresting officer, DUIs being plead down to reckless driving with no explanation, subsequent DUIs being plead down to first offenses, and a general lack of communication about cases and outcomes.
Citing felony arrest and indictment data, it countered a claim she made in the debate that police are apprehending fewer people. ACOP says the number of arrests is “the highest it has been for at least six years,” if marijuana possession arrests are removed.
“Felony arrests in Arlington County have remained relatively consistent with the exception of 2020 during Covid,” the release said. “What has not remained consistent is the percentage of felonies that were indicted by the Commonwealth Attorney.”
In the 2019 fiscal year — the year before Dehghani-Tafti took office — approximately 41% of felony arrests were indicted to Arlington County Circuit Court, compared to 15% in 2022, ACOP says, citing recent budget materials.
Dehghani-Tafti provided data the state collected from Arlington indicating a steady decline in arrests made since 2012. while a sharp uptick in simple assaults — from 721 in 2018 to 1,146 in 2021 — may explain an uptick in offenses.
Meanwhile, a sharp uptick in simple assaults — from 721 in 2018 to 1,146 in 2021 — may explain an uptick in offenses.
As for indictments, Dehghani-Tafti told ARLnow these are lower because her office is not hitting defendants with several charges related to one criminal incident, a tactic she says prosecutors can employ to force defendants to plead guilty and not go to trial.
“It’s our policy to not stack charges and over charge,” she recently told ARLnow. “We’re not afraid to go to trial and check our evidence with fair and reasonable charges. When we go to trial, we win more than the prior administration.”
Between 2020 and 2022, prosecutors in her office obtained guilty verdicts on cases with one or more charges 75% of the time compared to 64% under Stamos, she said. Guilty verdict for the most serious charges brought forward, across all misdemeanors and felonies tried, was 72% between 2020-22, up from 57% from 2015 to 2019.
(The chart, also provided by ACOP, does not include data for 2017 or 2018. ACOP said it could not find publicly available data for those years. ARLnow also could not immediately find data from those years in budget documents.)
ACOP said it has worked with Katcher for the last decade and see him as “experienced and competent.”
“Josh will be able to lead the office through his experience and mold the attorneys in the office into skilled litigators,” the organization said. “Most importantly, we know Josh will get the relationship between ACPD and the CWA office back on track to where prosecutions are a collaborative effort between the two departments.”
Following a three-day caucus process, Turner has captured the Democratic endorsement for Arlington School Board, with 1,004 votes to 332 for Angelo Cocchiaro. Turner will face at least one independent candidate in the November general election: James “Vell” Rives, who is also running for the second time.
Cocchiaro appeared to be considering dropping out of the race in April, but ultimately stayed in and picked up some key endorsements, including from outgoing School Board Chair Reid Goldstein. Cocchiaro’s promise to be “a prizefighter for our teachers and school staff” also helped to win him the endorsement of the political action committee of the local teachers union.
Following the release of the caucus results, the 22-year-old youth organizer said in a statement that “Arlington Democrats have made their voices heard, and I am proud to give my full-throated and unequivocal endorsement to Miranda Turner.”
“It is critical that Arlingtonians elect a candidate this November who will uphold, defend, and advance the progress achieved by this School Board, and who will advocate for every student,” he continued. “Miranda Turner is that candidate.”
Turner notably advocated for a swifter return to in-person school at Arlington Public Schools in the fall of 2020, at a time when concerns about the health impacts of such a move were heightened. Her campaign this year has focused on classroom instruction and support for teachers and students.
“The need for high-quality instruction, appropriate intervention, and the use of data to support our students is more urgent than ever,” her website says. “If elected, I will ensure a laser focus on instruction and providing an excellent education for all students.”
Turner is a Brown- and UVA-educated attorney, focused on insurance litigation, and a partner at a prominent D.C. law firm. On her website, she highlights her pro bono work and representation of Planned Parenthood.
Turner’s website notes, additionally, that she has been an APS parent since 2015 and has been active in her elementary school’s PTA and in the Green Valley Civic Association.
More on the caucus results, below, from an Arlington County Democratic Committee press release.
Two months ago, the County Board allowed the by-right construction of 2-6 unit buildings on lots previously zoned for single-family homes.
Prior to voting for the changes, Board Chair Christian Dorsey and member Katie Cristol announced that they would not be seeking reelection. Those vying to replace them vary widely in their stances on Missing Middle, though a forum last week hosted by Arlington County Democratic Committee revealed areas of common ground.
Some Democrat hopefuls opined about how the process leading up to the zoning changes divided the community and revealed how renters are underrepresented in civic life. Mostly, the candidates suggested that they are focused on life after Missing Middle and supporting other policies to help people afford to live in Arlington.
“We don’t get a do-over. There is no do-over, there is only a do-next,” said policy analyst Maureen Coffey. “We need to learn from this process, what went wrong — never repeat that ever again — and move forward, bringing everyone to the table to talk about how this is going to play out and what we need to solve our housing and larger issues.”
All of the candidates agreed the county will need to analyze data before deciding on next steps.
“Monitoring closely is going to be really important — especially monitoring on elements of diversity and affordability,” said Susan Cunningham, who has run for County Board before as an independent and criticized the zoning changes.
Cunningham suggested modifying rules for accessory dwelling units and for lot coverage, which could curb the development of large homes oft-derided as “McMansions.”
“My biggest problem with Missing Middle was not just the process but the fact that we did not do a comprehensive look at housing,” Cunningham said. “Housing is complicated and housing this whole community in its diversity and amazingness is also complicated, and we oversimplified that in my opinion.”
To that end, another candidate opposed to the changes, real estate agent Natalie Roy, detailed her views on housing in a three-part plan. It includes implementing a proposal from the Arlington branch of the NAACP to prevent the displacement of low-income residents.
Roy said the county should provide a public dashboard showing where and what kind of permits are issued, as well as the selling price for completed units. Arlington County has already committed to publishing this data once it becomes available.
Missing Middle supporter Jonathan Dromgoole said he too is watching where the units are built. Next, he said, the county should focus on shoring up the dwindling supply of relatively inexpensive, market-rate units. This is something Arlington County is already looking at as these units are continuously lost to redevelopment and rehabilitation.
Former NAACP Arlington Branch president Julius “J.D.” Spain, Sr. said he is thinking farther outside the box.