Arlington, VA

(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Starting at 6 a.m. today, voters began showing up at their polling places across Arlington as voting in the Democratic primary kicked off.

At Randolph Elementary School in Douglas Park, St. Agnes Catholic Church in Cherrydale, and Madison Community Center in Old Glebe, lines were short and skies were clear.

“It’s been slow, but steady. There’s been 83 people so far, or 2.7 percent turnout. It’s pretty normal,” said Bill Harkins, election officer at St. Agnes.

At Randolph Elementary around 41 people had cast their ballots by 7:41 a.m., according to election officer Harry Dunbar, and another 13 voters arrived in the next half hour. Dunbar said there are 3,000 people who live in the precinct.

“Half of that is normal for a busy general election,” Dunbar said, noting that primary election turnout is usually much lower.

By mid-morning, Arlington’s elections office reported that turnout was somewhat light, but higher in precincts in Arlington’s northwest. Voters in residential northwest Arlington tend to be a bit more conservative, at least relative to the rest of the county.

The only hiccup noticed so far was a ballot that wouldn’t scan at Randolph Elementary. At around 8 a.m., officials had identified the likely culprit: blocks that printed too faintly along the border of the document.

Today’s primary marks the end of several hotly contested races between the Democrats on the ballot — namely the race for commonwealth’s attorney and the state Senate seat in the 31st District. With most races still lacking a non-Democratic candidate, the primary could also decide the Nov. 5 general election.

At Randolph, the race on most people’s minds was the one for commonwealth’s attorney between incumbent Theo Stamos and challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti who have clashed in debates since kicking off their campaigns last winter.

Evelyn Luis, a long-time Douglas Park resident, said she doesn’t usually vote in the primaries but showed up today to support Stamos.

“Even though she’s running as a Democrat and I am not a Democrat I know I have to make a choice between the two candidates.” Luis said.

Luis wore a shirt from the 1990s-era Crime Prevention Council of Arlington County, on which she was a board member. She said she disagreed with Tafti’s platform and PAC funding.

Another voter, Aaron Willis, who has lived in the area for a decade, said he’s voted in every primary since moving to the D.C. region. He feels part of the “nerve center” of politics after coming from Ohio where he sometimes felt disconnected.

Willis said he supported Tafti in today’s election, citing her record of pushing for reproductive rights and restoring voting rights to felons.

The interest in the prosecutor’s race also ran high at St. Agnes.

“The important race to me was the commonwealth’s attorney,” said St. Agnes voter Chris Guest. “I think it’s always good to have options, but I wanted to vote against outside money, especially when that’s heavily for one candidate.”

“All of the races are important. Arlington is a great place to live and we have good candidates,” said St. Agnes voter Sarah Devoe this morning. “I’ve been surprised with the commonwealth’s attorney race; it’s not really a race I think of as being competitive. There’s been a lot of TV and print ads. There are two strong candidates.”

Stamos’ record in office and Tafti’s proposed criminal justice reforms have split support among local attorneys and sparked conversations about police brutality and the county’s discovery policy in criminal cases.

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Last week, we asked the two Democratic candidates in the State Senate race for the 31st District to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them in the June 11 primary.

Here is the unedited response from Barbara Favola:

Why you should vote for me.

It is a privilege to represent you in the Virginia State Senate. I am enthusiastically running for a third term to continue to fight for our Democratic values in Richmond. I am an effective lawmaker and recognized leader on progressive issues. My colleagues frequently refer to me as a pragmatic progressive.

My fourteen years of experience as an Arlington County Board member and a three-time chair of that body instilled in me the importance of governing in a pragmatic fashion while honoring the principles of equity and opportunity. Even though the General Assembly has been controlled by Republicans during my entire time in Richmond, I have passed over 40 bills that have improved the quality of life for Virginians.

My proudest accomplishment was requiring Virginia to participate in a Federal program to assist former foster youth between the ages of 18 and 21 continue with their education or job training. These youths were often left homeless and vulnerable to drug dealers and human trafficking. My legislation enables them to find a pathway forward that recognizes their talents and sets them up for success.

I have worked tirelessly to increase teacher pay, create smaller class sizes and reduce the number of SOLs. My efforts have resulted in fewer standardized tests, a more comprehensive approach to assessing academic progress and recognition of the contributions project-based learning provides. Going forward, I want to build on my record of passing anti-bullying legislation and bringing mental health services into the schools. I proudly carry the endorsement of the Virginia Education Association.

This past session, I introduced a bill that would provide debt-free community college for high-need workforce tracks. This idea garnered a lot of buy-in, but more discussions are needed to iron out the details. Our friends in organized Labor applauded the debt-free opportunity as a tool for helping families achieve the equity and opportunity that is often times missing in society. I am also a big supporter of increasing the minimum wage, preventing wage theft and requiring paid family leave. Once again, I enjoy the endorsement of all the organized Labor groups that are weighing-in on the 31st Senate primary race.

Gun Safety is an issue that must be addressed. However, real progress can only happen if the Democrats gain control of both Houses. I have repeatedly introduced or supported legislation that would require background checks wherever firearms are sold, ban high capacity magazines and stop the manufacture and sale of bump stocks in Virginia. Fortunately, I was able to pass a bill that requires an individual who violates a protective order to forfeit his firearms. The NoVA chapter of the Brady Group has endorsed me because of my tireless work on gun safety issues.

I am passionate about tackling climate change, including efforts to reduce carbon emissions and diversify our energy sources. Because of my work to facilitate the capture of solar energy and enable residences or businesses to sell excess solar back to the grid, I earned the Energy Freedom award from the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club in 2018. Much more progress is needed but rest assured, I will continue to fight for sensible environmental policies.

As chair of the Women’s Healthcare Caucus in the Senate, I will continue to work to codify Roe vs Wade in Virginia. It is incredibly important that women be allowed to exercise their constitutionally protected right to privacy when making reproductive healthcare decisions.

I believe Senator Kaine captured the essence of my public service in his statement endorsing me. “I know Senator Favola will serve with our shared values of fairness and justice in mind, I’m proud to endorse Senator Favola’s candidacy for a third term in the Virginia Senate.”

Given my experience, leadership and ability to work across the aisle, I am best positioned to provide a pathway forward for the change we want. I respectfully ask for your vote on June 11.

Sincerely,

Senator Barbara Favola (D 31)

Representing parts of Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun

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Morning Notes

Favola’s Consulting Questioned by Challenger — “Is two-term Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) a rising star, poised to become chairwoman of a Senate committee if Democrats seize control of the Senate? Or is she an opportunist capitalizing on insider influence for personal gain? That’s a question for voters this June in a primary that pits Favola against challenger Nicole Merlene.” [Arlington Connection]

Video: CCTV Sewer Inspections — Arlington County uses cameras inserted into manholes to inspect its sanitary and storm sewers for cracks and other problems. [YouTube]

Another Arlington Cybersecurity Firm Acquired — “Arlington-based endpoint cybersecurity firm Endgame is being acquired by Netherlands-based search and data management firm Elastic N.V. for $234 million in stock and debt repayment, according to an announcement by the two companies.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Cybersecurity Firm Unveiled — “[Arlington-based] Kfivefour today emerged from stealth and announced the immediate availability of its full spectrum Red Team assessments, training and penetration testing services. Kfivefour is a private sector focused cybersecurity affiliate of Millennium Corporation, a defense contractor and cybersecurity company.” [PR Newswire]

Local Startup Founder Arrested — “[Former Arlington resident] Andrew Powers, the founder and CEO of communications technology firm CommuniClique Inc. — sometimes known as Clique API — has been arrested by the FBI, which has charged him with a felony for what it described as part of ‘a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme.'” [Washington Business Journal]

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Morning Notes

County Board Roundup — As expected, the Arlington County Board on Saturday voted to approve a contract for Nauck Town Square, a purchase agreement to acquire Virginia Hospital Center-owned property, and a permit to convert former administrative offices next to Washington-Lee High School to classroom space for up to 600 students.

Adding Amazon Acquisitions in Arlington? — “Keep an eye on what companies Amazon.com Inc. buys next. It could be what fills HQ2. Acquisitions will likely determine what jobs and teams develop at the second headquarters in Arlington, said Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s head of worldwide economic development.” [Washington Business Journal]

Drivers Work to Inflate Prices at DCA — “Every night, several times a night, Uber and Lyft drivers at Reagan National Airport simultaneously turn off their ride share apps for a minute or two to trick the app into thinking there are no drivers available — creating a price surge. When the fare goes high enough, the drivers turn their apps back on and lock into the higher fare.” [WJLA]

Garvey Endorses Stamos — “I believe we could use a healthy debate about equity in Arlington and how our legal justice system works. However, a healthy debate means using facts about what is working and what is not… I hope you will join me in voting for Theo Stamos for Commonwealth’s Attorney on June 11.” [Libby Garvey]

Sun Gazette Endorses Favola, Lopez — “In its endorsements, the paper said neither Nicole Merlene (who is challenging Favola) nor Julius Spain (who is taking on Lopez) has reached the rather high bar set for an endorsement of challengers to sitting office-holders.” [InsideNova]

Merlene on Kojo — “On @kojoshow, @NicoleMerleneVA says a second bridge over the Potomac, perhaps in Loudoun County, is needed, especially in light of the recent Beltway closure. She also expresses support for marijuana decriminalization and medical marijuana in Va.” [Twitter]

Arlington Firms in Fortune 1000 — Four Arlington-based companies are in the new Fortune 1000 list: AES, CACI International, Graham Holdings, and AvalonBay Communities. Fairfax County, meanwhile, is home to ten Fortune 500 companies. [Fortune, Twitter]]

Man Sentenced for Threatening Ajit Pai — “Threatening to actually kill a federal official’s family because of a disagreement over policy is not only inexcusable, it is criminal. This prosecution shows not only that we take criminal threats seriously, but also that online threats of violence have real world consequences.” [Twitter, USDOJ]

Another Amazon-Adjacent Acquisition — “Amazon’s planned second headquarters continues to attract the interest of major investors to the National Landing area.  Newmark Knight Frank announced Friday it brokered the sale of Presidential Tower at 2511 Jefferson Davis Highway on behalf of the seller, Beacon Capital Partners. The building sold for $123M, according to CoStar information.” [Bisnow]

Photo courtesy @zachzsnapz/Instagram.

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Candidates running for the Virginia State Senate this year have raised hundreds of thousands along the campaign trail — but not from Arlington’s Advanced Towing.

None of the four candidates running for Richmond accepted money from the controversial towing company, according to the most recent campaign finance filings detailing fundraising between January 1 and March 31 as shared by the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP).

Incumbent candidate Barbara Favola was recently criticized by challenger Nicole Merlene for allegedly helping to loosen state towing regulations after accepting combined contributions of $7,250 over previous years from Advanced Towing, with an additional $2,500 coming from company owner John O’Neill.

The April finance reports indicate that the incumbent did not accept contributions from Advanced Towing or O’Neill during this fundraising period.

All of Arlington’s candidates are scheduled to release another set of campaign finance reports on June 3.

Residents will head to the polls on June 11 to cast their vote in the primaries. Because all Senate candidates announced so far are Democrats, the primary vote will likely choose the winner of the November 5 general election as well.

Virginians must register to vote at least 30 days before the primaries to vote, and can check in advance which polling location they should use.

Read below for more details about each candidate’s most recent campaign finances.

Sen. Adam Ebbin 

Ebbin has worked in Richmond for the past 15 years — the last seven as a state senator and eight years before that as a state delegate. He told ARLnow that this year his biggest wins in the capitol include legislation on green energy programs and helping colleges offer technical and dual-enrollment options.

Ebbin is running for re-election unopposed in the Democratic primary and currently faces no challengers from any other party.

He started with $101,534 in campaign funds on January 1, according to VPAP’s campaign finance reports. After fundraising $26,190 and spending $12,522, Ebbin reportedly ended the first quarter with $115,201 in funds for the campaign trail.

Ebbin’s campaign accepted 70 contributions during the reported funding period, with the majority of them (37 donors) giving the campaign $100 or less.

His top donation came from Political Action Committee (PAC) Win Virginia ($5,000), which announced this year it was training and funding Democratic candidates to flip the statehouse blue.

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Morning Notes

Merlene Accuses Favola of Sexism — “Normally, Democratic debates in deep-blue Arlington are wonky, congenial, staid, even boring affairs, where the candidates at least pretend to be cordial to each other. And tonight’s 31st State Senate district Democratic debate, between incumbent Sen. Barbara Favola and challenger Nicole Merlene, largely held to that model for the entire debate… until the closing statements, when basically all hell broke loose.” [Blue Virginia, PDF]

Metro Closure This Weekend — “[On] May 4 and 5, Metro will be closed south of Reagan National Airport– six stations in all. Trains will be replaced by free shuttle buses at Braddock Road, King St-Old Town, Eisenhower Ave, Huntington, Van Dorn Street and Franconia-Springfield.” [WUSA 9]

Arlington and Amazon Emails Revealed — “Arlington County officials worked closely with Amazon.com Inc. to present a good public relations strategy in the weeks leading to their passage of the company’s $23 million incentive package, emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show. The emails indicate some county officials were trying to develop a cozy relationship and wanted to help Amazon navigate challenges and smooth over some criticism.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Man Donates Flag Tie to New U.S. Citizen — Arlington resident Marc Johnson was trying to sell a patriotic American flag tie on Ebay after cleaning out his closet, but ended up donating it to the would-be buyer when he learned that the buyer was planning to wear the tie to his swearing-in ceremony to become an American citizen. [Washington Post]

Arlington Sheriff’s Office Turning 150 — “The 150th anniversary of establishment of the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office will be commemorated on May 7 as part of National Correctional Employees Week. The Arlington Sheriff’s Office was established at a time when Arlington (then known as Alexandria County) was being separated from the town (now city) of Alexandria and into its own self-governing locality.” [InsideNova]

History of Harry W. Gray House — “On this day in Arlington history: May 1, 1881 Harry W. Gray and his family move into their house. He and his family took years to build it and it is the only one of its kind for miles… The house remains a sturdy structure, its longevity a testament to Gray’s workmanship.” [Facebook]

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(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) Nicole Merlene, a Democrat challenging state Senator Barbara Favola (D), has become embroiled in a war of words with a self-described political meme account on Twitter.

The incident started with Merlene’s introduction at an Arlington Young Democrats forum.

“As a renter, as someone who completely relies on public transportation because they can’t afford a car, as someone who had to pay out of state tuition for college, as someone who has a very small prospect of owning a home in Northern Virginia unless I get married,” Merlene said in her opening remarks, “when I think about the future, our environment comes to mind. Have we taken the action needed to put us on a sustainable path forward? Do we have leadership in Richmond willing to stand up to Dominion?”

Accusing Favola of conflicts of interest and calling to ban political contributions from Dominion Energy — which has contributed $9,500 to Favola’s campaigns — have been some of the more vocal talking points from Merlene’s campaign.

But an anonymous Twitter account called Virginia Political Memes attacked Merlene over the comments and derided the candidate’s financial status as a “poor personal decision.”

Merlene responded with a three-part video series laying out the candidate’s positions on transit, affordability in Arlington, and renters rights:

One of the most fundamental parts of being a Democrat is that no matter your socioeconomic status, your religion, your gender identity, your race — is that you’re provided an opportunity to succeed and you’re given a level playing field… To write off an entire segment of our population as “poor” because they have to rent or because they have to use public transportation is despicable.

Favola waded into the fight as well and said that Merlene “should take her own advice” when it comes to elevating the political discussion.

The argument escalated to threats of a physical confrontation from Merlene’s brother — a threat lampooned in the responses — for which Merlene took to Twitter to apologize.

Arlington’s primary election be held on June 11 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Disagreements over campaign contributions and criminal justice reform during a debate last night revealed fault lines between some of the Democrats running for the party’s nomination.

Six candidates running for Commonwealth’s Attorney, state Senator and Delegate who sparred during the Wednesday night debate agreed on green energy and defeating Republicans. But their disagreements on other topics showed that even in an all-Democratic playing field there are shades of blue.

One area of disagreement was campaign contributions.

Sen. Barbara Favola was asked by a moderator why she continued to accept contributions from the controversial Advanced Towing company in light of complaints about employees allegedly towing a vehicle with the owner’s pet still inside.

The state senator called the story “extraordinary unfortunate” but said that the solution was for people “to go back to the landowner and complain about the contract” they have with a company.

Her challenger, Nicole Merlene hit back by referring to the 2017 NBC 4 report that Advanced Towing gave Favola $1,500 in campaign contributions after she voted to loosen towing regulations and allegedly convinced then-Governor Terry McAuliffe to do the same.

Favola said she voted “with the county” and that “what Governor McAuliffe had decided to do is Governor McAuliffe’s prerogative.”

Both candidates spoke in strong support of increasing affordable housing and paying interns.

A flash point Wednesday night was the issue of criminal justice reform.

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Morning Notes

Tree Falls in Aurora Highlands — A large tree fell across 23rd Street S. in Aurora Highland, near Crystal City, yesterday evening around 5:15 p.m. It happened near the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic church, between S. Ives and Hayes streets, amid gusty winds that felled other trees and branches around Arlington. The tree reportedly fell on a passing car, but those inside the vehicle were not injured. [Twitter]

Challenger Presses Favola — “Affordable housing and ethical issues took center stage as Democratic contenders for the 31st state Senate seat last week squared off for the first time leading up to the June 11 primary. Facing an uphill battle to knock off a two-term incumbent, challenger Nicole Merlene pressed the case that state Sen. Barbara Favola is too beholden to special interests to effectively represent the district.” [InsideNova]

Overturned SUV Along I-395 — Around 6 p.m. Sunday, an SUV overturned on a ramp to I-395 near Washington Blvd. A photo sent by a tipster shows the SUV on its side near the guardrail. No serious injuries were reported. [Twitter]

Barcroft Principal Lauded — “Judy Apostolico-Buck, who has spent 32 years in the Arlington school system, has been named the county’s 2019 Principal of the Year.” She was also a finalist for Washington Post Principal of the Year. [InsideNova, Washington Post]

Small Explosion in Falls Church Condo — “At 11:10 a.m. today, a contractor working on a stove received minor injuries from a gas flash explosion in a unit at the Falls Chase Condominium, located at 1136 S Washington St. Arlington Fire and Fairfax Fire Departments responded to the scene.” [City of Falls Church, Twitter]

Nearby: Peeping Tom in Falls Church — “City of Falls Church police are looking for more information regarding a peeping tom seen outside of Saint James Catholic School.” [Tysons Reporter]

Photo courtesy Ray Villarreal

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Arlington’s representatives in the Virginia State Senate worked on legislation addressing issues like healthcare, green energy, and teacher’s pay this year.

Three Democrats represent the county in the state Senate — Janet Howell, Barbara Favola, and Adam Ebbin. All of the senators are running for re-election this year.

Virginia’s 2019 legislative session lasted from January 9 to February 24. Here’s what each state Senator said were their biggest legislative accomplishments during that time. (We asked the same of Arlington’s House of Delegates delegation earlier this week.)

Sen. Adam Ebbin

Ebbin has served in the state senate for seven years, following eight years in the House of Delegates. He currently faces no Democratic challengers to his campaign for re-election.

The senator told ARLnow through a spokesman Wednesday he was “pleased to make progress” on legislation about “renewable energy, criminal justice reform, as well as career and technical education” during this year’s session:

SB1779 will permit localities to establish renewable energy net-metering programs. Net-metering can help counties, cities, and towns grow their local economy. Municipalities will save taxpayers’ money through developing and using green energy, generating savings that can be invested in local priorities such as schools, public safety, and infrastructure. […]

SB1612, which I have worked on for several years with Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) would have ended the suspension of driver’s licenses for court costs and fees. Though this bill died in the House, Governor Northam introduced a budget amendment to reinstate 627,000 Virginians licenses during our one-day veto session on April 3rd. Unwarranted license suspension disproportionately impacts economically-disadvantaged Virginians without making our communities safer.[…]

I was also able to pass SB1575, which allows college professors to teach dual-enrollment career and technical education courses without additional licensure. This will make it easier for school divisions to offer para-professional career preparation in cybersecurity, EMT and pharmaceutical technician certification. High school students will no longer have to travel to off-campus sites to earn credit towards education in specialized fields.

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One of the country’s leading progressive activists and researchers is launching a new fundraising push for primary challengers to two Arlington lawmakers.

Sean McElwee, a co-founder of Data for Progress, announced yesterday (Wednesday) that his organization would be launching “The Progressive Virginia Project,” an effort to raise cash for four candidates in Virginia’s statehouse races this fall. Among the group set to benefit from the fundraising is Nicole Merlene, who is challenging state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) and J.D. Spain, who is looking to unseat Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District).

In a tweet describing the new program, McElwee wrote that his group is seeking to elect “progressives who are fighting for a Virginia where Dominion Energy doesn’t set the agenda.”

The utility company’s influence in Richmond has become an increasingly controversial issue for the state’s Democrats in recent years, with many (Lopez included) swearing off contributions from Dominion. The General Assembly helps regulate the company, convincing many lawmakers and activists that it’s inappropriate to then rely on Dominion’s largesse when election season rolls around.

https://twitter.com/SeanMcElwee/status/1103313125246414848

Any money taken in by the program will be divvied up among Merlene, Spain and two other candidates: Del. Lee Carter (D-50th District), the legislature’s lone Democratic socialist and a fierce Amazon opponent, and Yasmine Taeb, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35th District).

McElwee was previously a leading voice in supporting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s insurgent progressive candidacy in New York, and launched a similar initiative during the 2018 midterms to elect several other candidates in statehouse races across the country. In all, his group was able to raise more than $448,000 to support races in eight states.

Data for Progress wrote on the new fundraising page that it picked the four candidates not only for their opposition to Dominion, but their support for a “Green New Deal, universal healthcare and racial justice” in Virginia.

https://twitter.com/SeanMcElwee/status/1103315361582276608

Merlene, who up until recently held leadership positions with the Arlington County Civic Federation and the county’s Economic Development Commission, has framed her run against Favola as a chance for a new generation to take the reins in Richmond.

In addition to criticizing Favola’s acceptance of Dominion cash — she’s taken $9,500 from Dominion over the last eight years — Merlene has blasted her work as a lobbyist while also serving as a senator. Favola runs a lobbying and consulting firm representing influential local institutions like Virginia Hospital Center and Marymount University.

Spain has also sworn off corporate cash in his challenge to Lopez, but that doesn’t provide quite the same contrast between the candidates. Lopez has refused money from both Dominion and Amazon (though he has taken Dominion money in past years), and draws most of his campaign cash from progressive groups.

Spain, currently the president of Arlington’s NAACP, has focused his campaign thus far on providing fresh representation in Richmond, and beefing up support for affordable housing and schools in the South Arlington district. He has not, however, attacked Lopez over his much-discussed consulting work for an ICE contractor, which McElwee highlighted in his support for Spain. The activist has made calls to “Abolish ICE” a central part of his work, prompting a broader debate within the Democratic party about the agency’s role.

It remains to be seen, however, just how much traction either candidate has gained in their primary challenges thus far — statehouse candidates won’t report how much cash they’ve raised again until April 15. A June 11 primary will decide the intraparty contests.

Photo of Merlene, left, via Facebook

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