Last night, reform candidate Parisa Dehghani-Tafti was elected the next top prosecutor for Arlington and Falls Church, leaving questions about how her campaign promises could affect the area’s political and legal landscape.
Throughout her unusually contentious — and expensive — campaign, Tafti promised to stop prosecuting some marijuana possession cases, eliminate some cash bail requirements, and make it easier for defense attorneys to access case files, among other reforms.
Tafti declined to discuss details about her plans for the prosecutor’s office itself, but the other agencies most affected by her reforms say her tenure could have a big impact on their work.
Public defenders may have more time with their clients
Chief Public Defender Bradley Haywood has been a vocal critic of outgoing Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos and donated to Tafti’s campaign. He told ARLnow her win will “absolutely” change the work his office can do, adding that her election was an “amazing opportunity” for judges, lawyers, and prosecutors to work together on criminal justice reform.
One reform Haywood said will majorly impact public defenders is Tafti’s promise to do away with the the requirement that defense attorneys hand copy all the prosecutor’s files about their criminal cases — a process several attorneys say is “horribly inefficient” and makes preparing large cases impossible.
“We estimated that there were about 1,000-1,500 hours we spent in that stupid room typing manually,” Haywood said of his office’s work in the past year. “It’s going to go down from 1,000 hours to zero probably in January. That will give us time to actually learn more about our clients.”
Tafti told ARLnow last night after the polls closed and her campaign declared victory that she was “absolutely” still committed to digitizing the document policy.
The Arlington County Bar Association, which includes private defense attorneys, declined to comment when asked how the new prosecutor’s policy priorities could affect members’ work.
The Sheriff’s Office may need a budget bump
Another one of the reforms Tafti focused on during her campaign was ending the practice of “cash bail,” which she said penalizes lower-income people who might instead remain jail as they await trial.
Outgoing prosecutor Theo Stamos announced last November she would stop seeking bail for people accused of low-level misdemeanors after seven state lawmakers urged her to fix the system. However, public defenders criticized the plan for still excluding too many defendants, calling it a “cynical PR move” to help her bid for re-election.
Sheriff Beth Arthur, who won her re-election last night, told ARLnow she didn’t necessarily oppose more changes to the bail system. But she did express concern about how to manage resources if judges choose to release defendants before trial with conditions — like weekly drug testing — in lieu of bail.
“I do have concerns from a staffing perspective and from an operational perspective on how how this impacts the poor people who are managing the program and who have a caseload of 60-65 people,” she said of her office’s pre-trial program that supervises such defendants. “That’s a lot.”
However, Arthur said she’s hopeful that the county will grant her office additional resources to staff pre-trial programs should they be affected by Tafti’s reforms — or the jail diversion program for people with mental illnesses.
In June, the Arlington County Board approved a $45.3 million total budget for the Sheriff’s Office in fiscal year 2020.
Today may be Election Day in Arlington, but the Arlington Democratic party may well be watching other jurisdictions’ elections more closely.
Virginia is one of the few states with a “serious shot” at flipping both its House and Senate blue this election, an outcome Democratic leaders have long hoped for to pass a more progressive agenda in Richmond and boost Democratic presidential candidates come next November. Acknowledging that Arlington voters overwhelmingly vote blue already, the local party is casting its support out wider to help other Democratic candidates in the state.
“Arlington is fortunate to have an electorate that largely supports progressive candidates, as well as very engaged volunteers,” Arlington Democrats Chair Jill Caiazzo said in a statement yesterday (Monday). “Arlington Dems decided early to unleash its resources to support strategic contests beyond Arlington.”
“Our volunteers have fought hard across the state to elect Democratic candidates to the General Assembly who will pass important legislation on healthcare accessibility, economic opportunity for all, gun safety, women’s, voter, and reproductive rights, and other critical issues,” said Caiazzo.
Overall, the party said it has lent support to 14 House of Delegates and 7 state Senate candidates in Chesterfield, Fairfax, Fauquier, Fredericksburg, and Prince William counties, as well as the Virginia Beach. The roster of incumbent and challenger candidates supported include:
- Sheila Bynum-Coleman for Delegate District 66 (Chesterfield)
- Jennifer Carroll Foy for Del. District (Ashburn/Prince William)
- Lee Carter for Del. District 50 (Manassas/Prince William)
- Joshua Cole for Del. District 28 (Fredericksburg/Stafford)
- Wendy Gooditis for Del. District 10 (Loudoun/Frederick)
- Danica Roem for Del. District 13 (Manassas)
- Ibraheem Samirah for Del. District 86 (Fairfax/Loudoun)
- Kathy Tran Del. District 42 (Fairfax)
In the last two months, the party supported the General Assembly candidates by sending postcards (20,000), deploying volunteer canvassers (100), and running phone banks (25.)
— Monique OGrady (@Monique4APS) November 5, 2019
The efforts to bolster Democrats in other jurisdiction began months ago, as the local party highlighted Loudoun County’s candidate for Senate District 13 (John Bell) and Fairfax County’s candidate for Delegate District 40 (Dan Helmer) and Newport News’ Delegate candidate for District 94 (Shelly Simonds) at its annual Blue Victory Dinner in May.
“We believe this election will have historic implications for Virginia and will be a shot across the bow to the White House that 2020 is coming. We are just getting started,” said Arlington Young Democrats President Dan Matthews.
Jill Caiazzo, the chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, penned an email to the party’s mailing list Sunday (Feb. 10), in the hopes of buoying spirits dampened by recent revelations about Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring.
While any one of the state’s top three elected Democrats could yet resign — Northam and Herring for admitting to wearing blackface as young people, Fairfax over allegations that he sexually assaulted two women — Caiazzo sought to remind party faithful that “the 2017 election was never about one or two individuals.”
She joined the growing calls for Fairfax to step down late last week, after a second woman accused him of rape, and has already demanded that Northam step aside. But, with all 140 state lawmakers and a variety of local offices on the ballot this fall, Caiazzo is urging her committee to work to “have an impact in our own community.”
Her full email to the committee is as follows:
We are all struggling to deal with the disturbing news from Richmond. I have sat down to pen this email to you multiple times over the past week, only to have my sentiments overtaken by the latest news cycle. I do not know how these controversies will end.
ARLINGTON DEMOCRATS’ ROLE IN NAVIGATING THIS CHALLENGE
But as I said at our monthly meeting on Wednesday, I do know that Arlington Democrats have a role to play in moving our community forward through these difficult times. We may not be able to affect the outcomes of the dramas happening in Richmond, but we can have an impact in our own community. We can reject hate and support sexual assault survivors. We can channel our collective anger that issues of racism and sexual assault still plague us into finding positive solutions for the manifestations of these issues in our own community.
We also can remember that the 2017 election was never about one or two individuals. It was about a movement of grassroots activists of all backgrounds and ages rising up to provide a badly needed course correction for our country. The rise of progressive activism was the central victory of the 2017 election. No subsequent controversy, however hurtful, can take that victory away from us. Only we have the power to do that — only we can decide whether we will allow this heartbreak also to break our activist spirit.
TOO MUCH TO ACCOMPLISH TO GIVE UP
To that question, Arlington Democrats, I say NO. I will not allow the failings of individual leaders to dampen my activist spirit. I cannot — there is simply too much work to be done to achieve a fairer, safer and more prosperous Commonwealth. The stakes are too high. As in early 2017, I am once again picking myself up and dusting myself off. Two steps forward, one step back: it’s time for the heart of the Democratic Party — its local activists — to keep moving forward again.
In that spirit, and mindful that Democrats must re-earn the trust of voters and volunteers that has been lost over the past few days, I respectfully invite you to join me at several upcoming events, detailed below. Some are organized by Arlington Democrats; others are community events. Now more than ever, we need both: to lead in our own right, and to meet our neighbors where they are. I hope that you will join me in the struggle to lead our Party, our community, and our Commonwealth forward.
Caiazzo is referring both to previous listening sessions held by activists on both race and sexual assault, and to some upcoming community discussions on the county’s history with Nazism and school desegregation.
Meanwhile, the situation in Richmond remains unsettled.
Arlington Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) made headlines this weekend for threatening to introduce articles of impeachment against Fairfax if he refused to resign, and circulated a potential resolution to start the process among his Democratic colleagues. But he backed off that threat this morning (Monday), writing in a statement that he is “open to discussions on other avenues” that would allow for a full investigation of the accusations against Fairfax.
My statement this morning – I remain committed to the victims first. pic.twitter.com/01xynHwOdj
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) February 11, 2019
Some reports have suggested that Hope faced resistance from within his own party for the move, particularly from members of the Legislative Black Caucus.
NEWS: A House Dem conf call grew heated last night when members of the legislative black caucus demanded @HopeforVirginia step back from trying to impeach @LGJustinFairfax, per 2 Dems familiar w the call.
Hence the Hope climbdown this am…
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) February 11, 2019
A third Va Dem, this one briefed on the call said none of @HopeforVirginia's allies spoke up. Members of @VaBlackCaucus, which has been steering much of the reax among Va Dems since last Fri, spoke first and that was that.
"It was a pre-set massacre," says this Dem.
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) February 11, 2019
The lieutenant governor is still telling reporters that he does not plan to resign, and is currently looking for an FBI investigation into the claims against him — one incident is alleged to have happened in Boston in 2004, the other in North Carolina in 2000.
Northam also gave some of his first interviews since the scandal broke with the news that a racist photo appeared on his medical school yearbook, saying that he is “not going anywhere” and pledging a renewed focus to racial justice in the remainder of his term.
Herring has been silent, and criticism has been markedly more muted of his conduct, after he voluntarily admitted to wearing blackface once while in college, and apologized.
“I should additionally note that I have not called for the resignation of Attorney General Mark Herring, despite my strong disapproval of his conduct at age 19,” Del. Mark Levine (D-45th District) wrote in a Sunday email to constituents. “Herring’s voluntary admission of his blackface representation of a rapper, his lack of racist intent and his profound apology all seem sincere to me.”
However, Levine did note that he is one of just a few voices calling on Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-3rd District) to step down, after reports that he edited a college yearbook that was filled with photos of students in blackface and racial slurs. Norment has denied any knowledge of the photos.
Photo via Facebook
Arlington Dems Weary of Richmond Scandals — “With a political crisis of unprecedented proportions swirling at the statewide level, Arlington Democrats are reacting at perhaps the only pace available to them – one day, and one step, at a time. ‘We will get through this,’ a visibly weary Jill Caiazzo, chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, said at the organization’s monthly meeting on Feb. 6.” [InsideNova]
Dems to Hold Caucus for School Board — The Arlington County Democratic Committee will hold a “firehouse caucus” over the course of three days in June to determine the party’s endorsement for School Board. [Arlington Democrats]
Sheriff Arthur Running for Reelection — “Arlington Sheriff Beth Arthur on Feb. 7 kicked off a bid for re-election, touting successful partnerships her office has forged with other government agencies and the community at large. ‘I hope that I can count on you,’ Arthur told the Arlington County Democratic Committee as she launched a bid to retain the office she has held for the past 18 years.” [InsideNova]
Arlington’s (Sometimes) Hidden Gems — “In Arlington, we’re lucky to be home to 10 of ‘the oldest federal monuments.’ Those 40 oft-overlooked boundary stones were laid back in 1791 to mark borders of the spanking new District of Columbia.” [Falls Church News-Press]
How to Walk from Crystal City to DCA — “Reagan National airport is about 1,800 feet from Amazon’s new Crystal City headquarters… that’s not to say it’s an easy stroll: Train tracks, busy roads, and other obstacles separate a walker from DCA. Eventually, a pedestrian bridge could make the journey less fraught, but in the meantime, we gave one route a try.” [Washingtonian]
Lunar New Year Event This Weekend — The Eden Center in Falls Church is holding a Lunar New Year event Sunday “with a lion dance, entertainers, balloon sculptures, face painting and ‘other surprises and giveaways.'” [Tysons Reporter]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and some of his Democratic colleagues believe most children up for a hearing at Arlington’s immigration court are being treated fairly — but they worry that could soon change.
Beyer, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and several other members of Congress sat in for some hearings at the federal immigration court in Crystal City today (Thursday), and broadly came away pleased with what they saw, despite the chaos surrounding the Trump administration’s recent practice of separating children from families at the Mexican border.
Yet Beyer and his fellow Democrats fear what might happen should leadership at the court change. They’ve heard rumors that Jack Weil, a longtime immigration judge at the Department of Justice, could soon start hearing cases in Arlington, and they’re disturbed by his history.
Weil attracted nationwide attention after testifying that he believes children as young as 3 years old can represent themselves in immigration proceedings. Though all of the kids the members of Congress saw Thursday had legal representation, the Democrats expressed disbelief that any judge would decide whether a toddler should be deported without a lawyer present.
“It’s really disturbing, especially because we understand [Weil] is training other judges,” Beyer told reporters. “Look at all the conversations we have about the poor decisions of our 20-year-olds… The thought that even a 12-year-old, 13-year-old can make good decisions in court is silly.”
Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.) noted that many of the cases the congressional delegation observed involved complex asylum applications, underscoring just how complicated an immigration hearing could be even for adults who speak English. She believes it would be “insane” to ask a child to attempt to navigate the process.
Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) felt Arlington’s courthouse generally represented “the best process possible” for kids seeking asylum. But she added that even this court only had Spanish translation services available, when people coming from somewhere like Guatemala could speak one of the country’s other 22 languages instead.
Beyer said Congress should act to provide funding for lawyers for immigrant children, given that that nonprofits stepping up to help can only provide representation for a small fraction of kids making their way through the system. With President Trump tweeting that immigrants should be deported “with no judges or court cases,” the Democrats said they realized the odds were long, but said it would be worth the effort.
“We can do this if we have the will and compassion to do this,” Hoyer said. “This is America. We believe in due process.”
For about a month, it seemed as if Matt de Ferranti would be the only Democrat to throw his hat in the ring and run for County Board this fall.
With the Board’s lone non-Democrat, independent John Vihstadt, up for re-election, local party activists have been eyeing 2018 for years now. Yet, when de Ferranti announced his bid in January, he didn’t have much in the way of competition from his fellow Democrats, a stark departure from the surge in Democratic candidates in other races across the state.
De Ferranti, a lawyer and advocate for Native American education, has spent plenty of time in civic life since moving to the county five years ago — he’s sat on a variety of commissions and volunteered for local Democrats. But he’s also a first-time candidate and far from a sure bet to knock off Vihstadt.
Nevertheless, for weeks, he remained the only Democrat in the race, even as Jill Caiazzo made a pledge to run an open primary for the nomination a key part of her successful run to become chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
Chanda Choun, a cybersecurity staffer for software company Securonix, changed all that when he announced his own run in February, setting up Tuesday’s primary contest.
Choun freely admits that his decision to enter the race caught some in the party by surprise, noting that he only moved to the county in 2015 and became active politically immediately following President Donald Trump’s election. But he also believes his background as a Cambodian immigrant and Army reservist will help him overcome his lack of experience, even though a cadre of Arlington officials and civic leaders have lent de Ferranti their support.
“I understand why there might be confusion or questions about why I was running or who I am,” Choun told ARLnow. “But I believe I’ve answered those over the past four or five months… It’s about providing that different voice, and I think that’s struck a chord with people.”
De Ferranti, however, argues that his “relevant experience” working with elected leaders in county government shouldn’t be overlooked. He may not be quite as young as Choun — de Ferranti is 44, Choun is 30 — but he believes he’d also provide fresh perspective on the Board, informed by his years of experience.
“People want to know if you really have a plan and want to do the job, not just run for the job,” de Ferranti said. “I’m not running to get my name out there. I’m running to win.”
On policy matters, there isn’t much separation between the two. Both believe the Board needs to keep investing in county schools, transportation projects and affordable housing, even as financial pressures squeeze the county government — they’re also both willing to support a potential tax increase next year either, a distinct possibility as commercial tax revenues keep plummeting.
Neither candidate is a big fan of Vihstadt either, though both do acknowledge that the independent hasn’t radically disrupted the Board’s dynamic.
The bipartisan pair — Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers, both of Kentucky — will be recording their podcast at the event on April 21, according to a press release.
A number of female Democratic elected officials will be interviewed during the taping, including Del. Hala Ayala (D-51), who became one of the first Latina women to serve in the Virginia General Assembly this past November, and Del. Danica Roem (D-13), who became the first openly transgender elected official in Virginia after last year’s election.
Other recently-elected state officials, including Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-2), Del. Gwendolyn Wendy Gooditis (D-10), Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-31), Del. Karrie Delaney (D-67), and Del. Kathy Tran (D-42) are also expected to be interviewed.
The delegates will be discussing “why representation matters, the importance of inclusive representation, and how [the delegates] bring multi-layered experiences to governance and the legislative process.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is listed as the evening’s keynote speaker.
Photo via Arlington Democrats
Beyer Blasts GOP Tax Bill — Rep. Don Beyer is, to say the least, not a fan of the Republican tax bill that is expected to pass the House and be sent to the president’s desk later today. “At its core, this bill is an immoral redistribution of wealth towards the richest among us at a cost of trillions of dollars, and I believe that those who voted for this monstrosity will be held accountable,” Beyer said in a statement. [Rep. Don Beyer, Twitter]
Single Vote Swings Va. House — Thanks to a Democratic candidate in Newport News winning her race by a single vote, as determined in a recount, the Virginia House of Delegates is now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, ending a majority the GOP has maintained since 2000. [Washington Post]
‘Dominion Pint’ Coming to Arlington — The owner of Meridian Pint (also Brookland Pint and Smoke & Barrel) in D.C. is planning to open a new craft beer-centric outpost somewhere in North Arlington. The location has not yet been announced, but it will be called “Dominion Pint.” [PoPville]
DESIGNArlington Winners Announced — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday recognized the ten 2017 DESIGNArlington award winners for “outstanding architectural or landscape design in the County.” Among the winners are the new Marymount University building in Ballston, the Tellus apartment building in Courthouse, “The Quill” public art project in Rosslyn and two private North Arlington residences. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
Gutshall Sworn In — The newest Arlington County Board member, Erik Gutshall, was sworn in at yesterday’s Board meeting, while outgoing County Board Chair Jay Fisette received a standing ovation. [Twitter]
Changes to Historic Preservation Process — The Arlington County Board voted unanimously last night to revise and further codify the process for requesting historic preservation studies. Until now, any single individual could request a “historic preservation overlay district” study, which requires significant county staff time to complete. Before the vote, such a study could even be requested without consulting property owners in the proposed district. [Arlington County]
Arlington Man Dies in Plane Crash — Paul Schuda, a National Transportation Safety Board official and Arlington resident, was among three people killed in the crash of a small plane in Indiana. [NPR, Legacy]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
Heartened by Democratic gains in the Virginia House of Delegates in last night’s election, local Democrats are hopeful for progress in Richmond on issues important to Arlington County.
Democrats had picked up 14 seats in the House on Tuesday, with the remaining four seats subject to re-counts and late results.
By early Wednesday, control was tied 50-50 after Democrats picked up another two seats overnight, a big change from the 66-34 advantage Republicans had enjoyed.
And with the Arlington County Board set to finalize its legislative agenda for the 2018 Virginia General Assembly session, which convenes in January, several elected officials said local issues can make some headway in Richmond.
One particularly important issue is Metro, which local leaders say needs a dedicated funding source to help ease its budget worries. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said he will propose a dedicated funding source in what would be a symbolic move at the end of his term.
But with Governor-Elect Ralph Northam (D) to be joined by fellow Democrats Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring as lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively, County Board member Christian Dorsey said that combined with more Democrats in the House could mean more advocates for Metro.
“It’s a game-changer for Arlington, because one of the things on our agenda that we’re trying to figure out, a dedicated funding source for Metro, we didn’t even feel we could bring it forward this year,” Dorsey, who represents Arlington on Metro’s Board of Directors, said. “Now we can, and now we will. It can be a potential game-changer for Arlington and the region.”
“It helps us in Arlington,” said Erik Gutshall, who won Tuesday’s election to the County Board to replace retiring chair Jay Fisette. “The biggest thing that was on my mind that helps me rest a little easier is Metro. I think that was not talked about much, but was hanging in the balance. The way it could have gone differently, it would have been crucial.”
And beyond Metro funding, County Board vice chair Katie Cristol said more Democrats in the House could mean greater investment and advocacy for other transit in Virginia, including the Virginia Railway Express.
Cristol said the election of Danica Roem in the 13th District could be a big help, as she has emphasized solving transportation issues in Prince William County and Manassas Park City.
“One of the things everybody is talking about, even nationally, is Danica Roem being a groundbreaker in terms of transgender equality,” Cristol said, referring to Roem’s election as the first openly transgender state lawmaker. “But I’ve been cheering for her because she’s such a champion for VRE. I think we’re excited about the opportunity to have partners in things we care about like transport funding.”
Beyond those region-specific issues, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) said in a victory speech that House Democrats can start to look ahead and try and pass issues important to progressives. For Arlington, Dorsey pointed to the long-debated Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, as well as looking to the future of the environment.
“Medicaid expansion would be great to provide a bulwark for what’s going on with the federal government trying to destabilize the health insurance market places. That would be a great thing for Virginians,” he said. “We’ve been trying to do some things on the energy and environmental sustainability side with solar power. These don’t necessarily become real this year, but we can now see a path forward to work toward over the next couple of years.”
Dorsey added that with the new Democrats in the House means that Arlington can be less defensive in its legislative package, and start to advocate more vigorously for issues that matter to its elected officials and residents.
(Among the “wish list” items that were a long shot under GOP control but which may find traction: renaming Jefferson Davis Highway.)
“Our legislative agenda has always been, ‘How can we prevent them from doing the most harm to us, and then how can we build the groundwork to maybe move incrementally forward,'” Dorsey said. “Now we have a chance to say, ‘Hey, we can get some wins.’ So it’s terrific.”
FBI Seeking Man Who Touched Girl at Cemetery — The FBI’s Washington Field Office is searching for a man who “inappropriately touched a girl as the two stood in a crowd during a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.” [NBC Washington]
Task Force Recommends ‘Fleet Elementary’ — The task force charged with recommending a name for the new elementary school being built next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School has settled its choice: “Alice West Fleet Elementary.” Fleet was the first African-American reading teacher in Arlington’s public school system. The task force did not recommend transferring the name of Patrick Henry, a slave owner, from the current school, which will be transferring its students to new new school when it is complete. [InsideNova]
Bicyclist Group Calls Out Biking Bullies — In a blog post, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association is calling out aggressive male riders who yelled insults at a female bike commuter on two separate occasions on the Mt. Vernon Trail. “This sort of behavior is totally unacceptable,” the group said. [WABA]
Mt. Vernon Trail Upgrade Complete — The National Park Service has completed an upgrade to a portion of the Mt. Vernon Trail that runs through the Theodore Roosevelt Island parking lot. The upgrade includes a new crossing and speed table across the parking lot and the widening of the trail. [Greater Greater Washington]
Arlington Sells Bonds at Low Interest Rate — Arlington County solds $185 million in bonds at a relatively low 2.5 percent interest rate. “The interest rate we received today is one of the lowest we’ve ever received,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a press release. “However, it is slightly higher than the rate we received last year.” [Arlington County]
Tight Race in Va. Gov. Primary — The two candidates battling it out in the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary are in the midst of a tight race. The race between Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello is being portrayed as a contest between an establishment figure (Northam) and a progressive darling (Perriello). Primary voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, June 13. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
A record number of people turned out for last night’s Democratic Party straw poll, where County Board candidate Erik Gutshall and School Board candidate Monique O’Grady were some of the victors.
Hosted at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse by Del. Alfonso Lopez (D), more than 120 people cast ballots for Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board, Arlington School Board, lieutenant governor and governor. The attendance set a record for the event, now in its third year.
Lopez said the event raised around $12,500 from ticket sales, which he said will be funneled to Democratic candidates in other House of Delegates races across the commonwealth. Lopez added that getting people excited about the upcoming races was a big point of emphasis, as opposed to focusing purely on the straw poll results from a limited voter pool.
“I think what’s wonderful about it is people are so fired up,” he said in an interview. “They’re coming into the room fired up, excited about the campaigns, they’re excited about the candidacies, they’re excited about their friends running for office.”
Gutshall won the County Board poll with 38 percent of the vote, ahead of Vivek Patil with 30 percent, Peter Fallon with 22 percent and Kim Klingler with 10 percent.
Gutshall, who won the straw poll last year in his unsuccessful bid for a County Board seat, said creative thinking is required to solve problems like school overcrowding and housing affordability.
“We’ve got a wonderful county here that I’m proud to be a part of,” he said. “But we can’t stay the same.”
In her remarks, O’Grady cited her “experience keeping our school system strong,” as well as being co-chair of last year’s successful $138.83 million school bond campaign.
O’Grady won the School Board straw poll with 46 percent of the vote, ahead of incumbent James Lander with 36 percent and Maura McMahon with 18 percent.
In the statewide races, current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won the straw poll for the governor’s race against former Rep. Tom Perriello with 67.5 percent of the vote. Speaking on Northam’s behalf, state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) said Northam is a “fighter for our progressive values” and has advocated tirelessly for women, children and ethnic minorities.
“We can count on Ralph to be with us as the 73rd governor of Virginia,” Ebbin said.
Justin Fairfax took victory in the straw poll for lieutenant governor with 64 percent of the vote, ahead of Susan Platt with 20 percent and Gene Rossi with 16 percent. County Board member Christian Dorsey, who spoke on Fairfax’s behalf, praised his grueling campaign schedule and his long-term view on solving problems.
“The question is, who has the skill and the will and will fight for you?” Dorsey said. “In this regard, I am so impressed with Justin Fairfax.”
The Arlington County Democratic Committee holds its caucus for County Board nominee and School Board endorsement on May 9, 11 and 13. Statewide primary elections will be held on June 13.