Arlington, VA

There’s a silver lining for Caren Merrick, the one-time Republican candidate for state Senate who was soundly defeated by Democratic Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) has appointed Merrick, a successful businesswoman, to the board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. If the appointment survives a potential legal challenge, Merrick will be one of 17 members of the MWAA board.

The Authority has been facing scrutiny recently amid accusations of mismanagement, according to the Washington Post.

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Update at 6:30 p.m.Merrick’s survey has been released.

A group of gun control advocates is calling on Republican state Senate candidate Caren Merrick to make good on her pledge to release the survey that earned her an ‘A-‘ rating from the National Rifle Association.

Merrick made the pledge at a candidates forum in Cherrydale last month, after being pressed on gun control issues by two residents. One of the residents was Omar Samaha, whose sister was killed in the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. Samaha is part of a group called Virginians for Responsible Gun Laws, which seeks to further restrict gun sales and ownership in Virginia.

“These candidates are all interviewing for a job to represent us,” Samaha said in a statement today. “We believe the candidates owe it to their future constituents to make a full and complete disclosure of where they stand on these issues that will affect our safety.”

Merrick promised on Oct. 19 to release the survey before voters head to the polls on Election Day. Her campaign said this afternoon that copies of the survey will be made available for pickup from the campaign office at 5:00 tonight.

Merrick’s Democratic opponent, Barbara Favola, earned an ‘F’ rating from the NRA because, she said, she declined to fill out the survey the group mails to candidates.

Favola has made gun control a key campaign issue, while Merrick has shrugged off the significance of her NRA rating, noting that Democratic U.S. senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb both have received ‘A’ ratings.

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(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) Absentee voting for Tuesday’s election has been higher than expected, and is on pace to exceed the numbers from previous off-year elections.

So far, 1,227 votes have been counted, with 1,186 of those being from domestic absentee voters. At this same time in 2007, only 913 domestic absentee ballots had been cast. Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary predicts that by election day, 1,827 absentee ballots will have been cast. That would be a record number, and would likely mean a record number of overall voters.

O’Leary says absentee votes have been disproportionately high from voters in the 31st Senate District, with the heated race between Democrat Barbara Favola and Republican Caren Merrick. It has provided more than 64% of the absentee votes so far.

In-person absentee voting continues through tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. at the Arlington County administrative building in Courthouse (2100 Clarendon Blvd., Suite 320).

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Candidate Essay: Caren Merrick

This week we asked the two candidates for the 31st District state Senate seat to write a sub-750 word essay on why the district’s residents should vote for them on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Caren Merrick’s campaign says they did not receive our request (emailed to the campaign manager), and thus were late in responding.

Here is the unedited response from Caren Merrick (R):

I’m running for the Virginia State Senate because I believe that in these uncertain economic times we need a State Senator who understands how to create jobs, help grow our economy, and make wise investments that will help individuals, families, seniors, and veterans succeed in education, work, and life.

As a candidate, I’ve listened to thousands of voters. I can tell you firsthand the top concern is jobs and the economy.

The region’s unemployment rate is nearly double what it has been. Our #1 employer is the Federal Government and the 2nd largest employer group is the contracting community that serves it. Major contractors are already feeling the pain of Federal spending cuts. Is our region ready for the cuts to come? Absolutely not.

We must diversify our economy and unleash Northern Virginia’s entrepreneurial capacity. I understand the challenges of starting and growing a business and creating jobs. I cofounded a software company in my basement, went without a paycheck for a year so we could pay employees, overcame many obstacles and grew our company to more than 1,100 employees. My plan to grow our economy addresses business tax and regulation reform, transportation, and education as we need to improve all three areas to advance a growing economy and a brighter future.

To spur the growth of new and existing businesses, I propose comprehensive tax and regulation reform, including a pay-as-you-go regulatory environment. For every new regulation we add, we need to remove an outdated one of equal cost from the books. We also need to reform Virginia’s tax code to make it simpler, fairer and more conducive to competition and economic growth.

Another key to growth is enacting a stronger R & D tax credit to promote innovation and job creation across our region and boosting industry sponsored research and collaboration with Virginia’s universities.

Transportation – we must prioritize spending based on congestion relief. This sounds obvious, but a bill to do just that was blocked in the last session of the General Assembly. We need a dedicated source of revenue and I support revenue from offshore oil leases as studies show it can be done safely and it is estimated that it would produce 15,000 jobs and $3.2 billion to our Commonwealth – and it has received strong bipartisan support from Senators Warner and Webb, Governor McDonnell, and candidates for U.S. Senate Tim Kaine and George Allen.

Education – I have proposed cost effective ways to introduce science, technology, engineering, and math at earlier grades to ensure that our kids are prepared for jobs of the future. And we need to increase the college graduation rate across the Commonwealth.

I served on the Governor’s bipartisan Economic Development and Jobs Creation Commission where 92% of our jobs and opportunity agenda passed with strong bipartisan support.

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Republican state Senate candidate Caren Merrick is running on jobs, jobs, jobs. But questions from the audience at last night’s candidate forum in Cherrydale focused on abortion, guns and more guns.

Merrick started out the night with a stump speech that focused on her background as a successful businesswoman and on her desire “streamline regulation and taxation so we can unleash the entrepreneurial spirit.” During the speech Merrick, a McLean resident, tried to strike a bipartisan tone.

“I am not running as a partisan, I’m running to represent every one in this district,” she said. “I am not running on social issues.”

Alas, social issues quickly entered the conversation as questions from the audience focused on more divisive subjects.

“How will you stand up for my daughter’s right to choose?” one man asked.

“There are millions of good people on both sides of this issue,” Merrick replied. “I am pro-life and I am pro-woman.”

Merrick’s Democratic opponent, Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola, then answered and drew loud applause as she declared herself “100 percent pro-choice.” She went on to argue that if Merrick was elected, Republicans in the Virginia legislature would have a better shot at passing laws that restrict abortion rights and the rights of immigrants.

“I am very troubled by this social agenda,” she said of state Republicans.

Later, Merrick was asked about the A- rating she received from the National Rifle Association. The man asking about it was Omar Samaha, a three-year Cherrydale resident whose sister was killed in the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. Samaha asked if the candidates supported background checks on private gun sales.

“I’ve been around guns all my life, but in a safe way… a responsible way,” said Merrick, whose father was a Marine. Pressed on whether she thinks background checks should be required for all gun sales, Merrick said yes.

“I do think we should have a background check,” she said.

Favola was again unequivocal, saying she was proud of the ‘F’ she received from the NRA

“I feel very strongly that we have too many gun sales in this country, to people who are not mentally stable and should not be having access to guns,” Favola said. She went on to question why guns are allowed in Virginia’s bars and why localities like Arlington don’t have more power to regulate guns.

Another resident asked Favola and Merrick whether they’d release their answers to the survey the NRA sends to candidates. Favola said she, in fact, did not respond to the survey. Merrick said she would release the survey before the election, and then commented on the question itself.

“I have to say, these questions tonight have not been representative of what I’ve been asked as I’ve knocked on doors around the district,” she said.

“I am running on jobs and the economy,” said Merrick. “We need to diversify our economy. That is the most important issue.”

In her closing remarks, Favola said there’s “a definite choice” between herself and Merrick, adding that Merrick was listed on a Northern Virginia Tea Party website. Merrick, who earlier criticized the “rancor” on Capitol Hill, took the bait. She responded by saying that Favola “knows nothing about” bipartisanship.

“I’m not a member of the Tea Party, I don’t know how my picture got up there,” she said tersely. “Barbara Favola is not looking to solve problems, she’s looking to start a fight.”

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Democratic state Senate candidate Barbara Favola has scored two notable newspaper endorsements.

The Washington Post and the Arlington Sun Gazette both endorsed Favola yesterday, passing over her opponent, Republican Caren Merrick.

“Our inclination at the beginning of the race was to favor Merrick,” wrote the Sun Gazette. “But as the campaign progressed, we’ve been left wondering exactly what her core political philosophy is, and how she will put it into action, if elected, in Richmond.”

“Democrat Barbara Favola, a knowledgeable veteran of the Arlington County Board, would be effective in the Senate from Day 1 representing this district,” wrote the Washington Post. “Ms. Merrick, despite her valuable business experience, has offered no plausible alternative for tackling [traffic] gridlock.”

Merrick holds a substantial cash advantage over Favola, however. As of Sept. 30, Merrick had $140,076 in the bank, compared to Favola’s $62,612.

Favola and Merrick are scheduled to debate tonight at the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department (3900 Lee Highway). The debate is expected to begin around 7:30 p.m.

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Morning Notes

Merrick Mailer Goes Negative — Republican state Senate candidate Caren Merrick is railing against mudslinging by her Democratic opponent, Barbara Favola, by sending out a mailer that does some major mudslinging of her own. “Barbara Favola: Too extreme to represent us,” the mailer says, before listing a litany of negatives about Favola’s record on the Arlington County Board. “Apparently, she will do anything to get elected in her quest for power,” the mailer also says, before declaring: “On November 8th, vote to reject [Favola’s] mud slinging politics.” [Blue Virginia]

Man Struck By Train DiesUpdated at 11:50 a.m. — The 39-year-old McLean man who was struck by an Orange Line train in an apparent suicide attempt at the Clarendon Metro station last week has died. Earlier, Metro said the man had been in critical condition the Intensive Care Unit of a local hospital with head injuries and broken bones. It took rescuers about an hour to free the man from underneath the train on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The disruption on the Orange Line caused major delays for thousands of evening rush hour commuters. [Washington Examiner]

Boeing HQ Fight Comes Before the Board — Will the County Board approve a plan to build a sprawling new six-story headquarters for Boeing just north of Crystal City. Or will it take the unanimous opinion of the county’s Planning Commission and reject the project because of a lack of community “benefits?” The board will take up the matter at its meeting this evening. [Sun Gazette]

Flickr pool photo by Webaroo

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Campaign mailers authorized by Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola’s state Senate campaign have increasingly focused on one central theme: abortion.

While the 31st District state Senate campaign started out on a surprisingly positive note, mailers paid for by the Democratic Party of Virginia and authorized by Favola have now gone negative. The mailers contain sentences like: “Caren Merrick will stand with extremists against a woman’s right to choose” and “Tea Party Republican Caren Merrick doesn’t share our values.”

At least two such mailers have been sent to 31st District residents in as many weeks. Two earlier Democratic mailers focused more on Favola’s positives — including support for education and Arlington’s low unemployment rate — although both also made reference to her commitment “to protect a woman’s right to choose.”

Previously held by the now-retired Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, the 31st District became a lot less Democratic after this year’s redistricting process (44.4 percent of the redrawn district voted for Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, compared to 34.7 percent of the old district). Favola is apparently betting on abortion being the issue that convinces complacent Democrats, used to easy state Senate victories, to go to the polls.

Merrick’s campaign, meanwhile, has remained overwhelmingly positive — focused on issues like jobs, the economy and Merrick’s business background —  much to the surprise (and, in some cases, delight) of local Democratic operatives. In debates and in her campaign literature, Merrick largely avoids social issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Last week, the Merrick campaign issued a statement decrying “mudslinging” from Favola.

“The Merrick campaign believes Ms. Favola, is using false, negative campaign tactics to hide her 14 year record on the Arlington County Board where she has ignored the wishes and concerns of local civic associations, increased spending 70%, increased her own pay by 59%, and filed a 2 million dollar lawsuit halting critical transportation solutions and naming government workers personally liable,” the campaign said.

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Morning Notes

Steve Jobs Memorial Grows — The Post-it-Note memorial to Steve Jobs at the Clarendon Apple Store is getting bigger. Since we arrived at the Apple Store yesterday morning, the memorial has grown from zero to dozens of hand-written notes for the late Apple founder.

Favola Takes Aim at Merrick on NRA Rating — Republican State Senate candidate Caren Merrick was given an “A-” rating in a new candidate “scorecard” issued by the National Rifle Association. Democrat Babara Favola, meanwhile, received an “F” rating. But it was Favola who took the offensive. It’s “not a grade my opponent should be proud of,” Favola Tweeted. Said Favola campaign manager Adam Scott: “Caren Merrick is supported by the Tea Party, the NRA, and anti-choice extremists who want to chip away at a woman’s right to choose in Virginia. That’s just not what we need in the state Senate.”

Relocated ‘Nine’ Starts Tonight — The Arlington Players production of ‘Nine’ starts tonight at the Kenmore Middle School Theater. The musical — which was made into a Hollywood movie two years ago — was originally scheduled to be held at the Thomas Jefferson Middle School Theater. It had to be relocated, however, due to earthquake damage at the theater. [The Arlington Players]

Lots of Events This Weekend — There’s plenty of stuff going on in Arlington on what promises to be an absolutely beautiful fall weekend. If you want to support a high school car wash, or attend an Oktoberfest, or party with artists, check out our Events Calendar.

Photo courtesy @btrpkc

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On his blog yesterday, Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey reported that some residents have taken note of Republican state Senate candidate Caren Merrick’s propensity for skipping local candidate forums.

“Merrick, who is running against Democrat Barbara Favola for the 31st state Senate seat, has declined to appear at a number of joint appearances in Arlington,” McCaffrey wrote. “It’s happened so often, it must be a strategy rather than a series of coincidences.”

While skipping neighborhood-level political debates may not seem on its face like a great strategy, one wonders how much damage it could really do.

To what degree is your local vote influenced by watching a candidate forum or debate?

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Morning Notes

Car Runs Into Apartment Building — A car ran into an apartment building on Lee Highway over the weekend. The impact punched a big hole in the side of the brick building, located at 4343 Lee Highway in Waverly Hills. [WUSA9]

Chorus Performances Relocated — The Potomac Harmony Chorus has announced that its 35th anniversary show, Melodies, Memories and Magic, will be relocated to the Washington-Lee High School Auditorium from the earthquake-damaged Thomas Jefferson Community Theater. The all-woman chorus is also seeking a new venue for its December holiday concert and sing-along. [Potomac Harmony Chorus]

Merrick Holds Cash Advantage — As of Aug. 31, Republican state Senate candidate had a nearly 9-to-1 campaign cash advantage over Democrat Barbara Favola, who had just emerged victorious from a bruising primary. [Sun Gazette]

Julia’s Empanadas Now Served at Boccato — Clarendon’s Boccato Gelato (2719 Wilson Blvd) started serving D.C.’s famous Julia’s Empanadas over the weekend. The expanding eatery is planning to start serving baguettes and pastries from Arlington bread delivery service LeoNora Bakery on Oct. 1. [Clarendon Culture, Twitter]

Photo courtesy David Johnson

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