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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A screenshot of the four candidates for the County Board (via Arlington Committee of 100/Facebook)

Ranked-choice voting is supported by all four candidates for County Board, according to their comments at an Arlington Committee of 100 candidate forum held last night (Wednesday).

The event was the first candidate forum of the fall general election season.

Support is strong among the three independent candidatesAudrey Clement, Mike Cantwell and Adam Theo — who want to unseat Democrat incumbent Takis Karantonis. He won a special election in 2020 and his seat is now up for a full four-year term. Theo, a Libertarian, is the most recent addition to the ballot after officially launching his campaign this week.

While all four support ranked choice voting, the reform would not be ready for the upcoming Nov. 2 election, as the county is still hammering out the logistics of the system. Dismayed at the pace of implementation, the independents said the reform would reveal public support for candidates like them and add political diversity to the County Board.

“I’ve spent a lot of my free time promoting ranked choice voting in Virginia,” said Cantwell, who became the vice president of Fair Vote Virginia, which advocates for ranked choice voting in Virginia, in 2019. “I went to Richmond in February 2020 and lobbied to bring it to Virginia. At that time, to the surprise of many, the legislature passed bills 506 and 1103, which allowed it in [Arlington] and the rest of Virginia. Since that time, [the county has] taken very little action to implement that new law.”

Theo also criticized the lack of movement on implementing the new voting system and educating voters about it.

“It would’ve been awesome to have the logo-picking determined by ranked choice voting,” he said. “That would’ve been a great way to educate the public. Here we are, waiting for the county to proceed and provide results. I have a lot of skepticism for the County Board’s real willingness to push forward real reform. It puts their own positions, jobs, in jeopardy.”

Karantonis said he is on the record supporting ranked-choice voting and voted to fund an initiative to test it out.

“I put money where my mouth is,” he said. “I think this is a great improvement in democracy.”

During the forum the four candidates articulated their positions housing and on Arlington County’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Both Karantonis and Theo said “affordable housing” is the biggest issue facing Arlington.

“I’ve been a housing advocate from day one,” Karantonis said. “The first thing my wife and I experienced [when moving here] was not being able to find housing, not having choices… Arlington is a community that looks back to a solid record of planning carefully for housing, of matching development with assets like transportation, schools and natural resources. We need to bundle these to support the creation of new housing choices because displacement is a real thing.”

Theo agreed.

“[Housing affordability] poses the problem of pricing out the elderly, low-income, immigrant and disabled people who are clinging on as it is already,” he said. “The number of housing units built in this county is horrifyingly low.”

But he took a jab at the County Board for talking about affordable housing and posing for photos at new developments, while not doing more to prioritize affordability. He spoke favorably of the Missing Middle Housing Study, a county-led effort to see if single-family home areas should be rezoned for more types of moderate-density homes, as a means to increase housing options for the middle-class.

Cantwell said he worries about affordability both in terms of housing and taxes.

“I think the biggest problem facing Arlington is runaway spending and taxes and lack of accountability in county government, [which] stems from lack of political competition,” Cantwell said. “I’m for affordable housing, but I question the outcomes of $300 million spent on a government-run affordable housing program… I think most Arlingtonians are interested in finding a market rate affordable housing place to live in, but not that many are interested in being part of government run program, where they have to submit tax returns, W-2s [and other] bureaucracy.”

Clement said the Missing Middle Study will create more housing, but nothing truly affordable, predicting people will continue to get priced out of their neighborhoods. She added that it won’t promote racial equity, citing a study from New York University that found between 2000-2007, upzoning in New York City “produced an influx of whites in gentrified areas, even as white population plummeted.”

“A far better solution is to repurpose unrented luxury units in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor to moderate income housing,” she said.

(Another NYU study found little link between neighborhood gentrification and displacement of low-income residents, at least in New York City.)

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A now-former Arlington elections official is facing charges after police say she improperly removed someone from the voter roll.

Tyra Baker turned herself in on August 26, according to Arlington County police, after arrest warrants were issued in connection to an incident last fall involving Baker’s service in the elections office. She was released on bond but is due to be arraigned in court today (Thursday) on charges of voter intimidation, a misdemeanor, and election official corrupt conduct, a felony, according to court records.

A person with knowledge of the situation, who wished to remain anonymous, tells ARLnow that it started with a dispute over money at Baker’s family-run funeral home in Green Valley.

Baker managed the Chinn Baker Funeral Service on S. Shirlington Road, which was owned by her father until his death in 2018. Family members accused Baker of financial impropriety, leading to a physical confrontation last summer, the person said.

Baker was arrested after that alleged incident and charged with assault.

“At approximately 3:10 p.m. on June 27, 2020, police were dispatched to the 2600 block of Shirlington Road for the report of a domestic dispute,” said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Kirby Clark. “Tyra Baker, 51, of Arlington, Va., was arrested and charged with Domestic Assault and Battery. As the incident was domestic in nature, further details are protected under Virginia Code.”

Baker pleaded not guilty to the assault charge in Arlington General District Court. Her next court appearance in that case is set for May 2022, according to court records.

At the time of her arrest, Baker was still a part-time worker in the Arlington elections office.

Baker “worked as a seasonal Assistant Registrar since 2008,” Arlington Director of Elections Gretchen Reinemeyer said via a county spokeswoman, adding that she has also “served for several decades as an election officer on Election Day.”

The person familiar with the situation said the individual Baker is accused of subsequently removing from the voter roll was the assault victim. Police declined to confirm that, citing the need to “best protect the identity of the victim in each case.” The person removed from the roll only became aware of it after trying to vote in the pivotal fall 2020 general election.

“In October 2020, the victim attempted to vote in Arlington County, but was informed she was previously removed from the voter roll and unable to cast a ballot,” Clark tells ARLnow. “The victim subsequently filed an official complaint with the Arlington County Office of Elections. In December 2020, the Arlington County Police Department was contacted by Special Prosecutor Tony Kostelecky of the Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office regarding the case and began to investigate.”

“Follow-up investigation by detectives determined that the suspect was working as an Assistant Registrar in the Arlington County Office of Elections when she removed the known victim from the voter roll without proper authorization and without completing adequate documentation,” Clark continued. “Warrants were obtained for Tyra Baker, 51, of Arlington, Va., for § 24.2-607 Prohibited conduct; intimidation of voters; disturbance of election; how prevented; penalties and § 24.2-1001 Willful neglect or corrupt conduct. Baker turned herself in at the Office of the Magistrate on August 26, 2021, where she was served the warrants, and subsequently released on an unsecured bond.”

Reinemeyer described the incident as “isolated” but declined to provide specific information about the allegation. Generally, she said, voters who cannot cast a standard ballot at the polls are allowed to cast a provisional ballot pending further investigation.

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A parent group that got its start advocating for a full return to school during the pandemic is calling on the Arlington County Democratic Committee to end its School Board caucus.

Arlington Parents for Education (APE), which has been vocal recently in its criticism of School Board leadership and Arlington Public Schools’ American Rescue Plan spending amid the coronavirus, says the caucus — most recently held in May, to determine who local Democrats endorse in the general election — discourages broad election participation and makes officials beholden to the political party.

“This ‘endorsement’ effectively decides the outcome of the general election during a little-known caucus in May, because the ACDC places the endorsee’s name on its coveted November sample ballot. To wit: every School Board member since 2003 has been endorsed by the ACDC,” APE said in a statement.

The group added that until this process ends, “the Arlington School Board will continue to put students’ needs last, move in lock-step, and avoid even voting on issues that may be unpalatable to the caucus-voting-minority within the party.”

In Virginia, all School Board races are nonpartisan, meaning parties like Arlington Dems can only endorse candidates, not nominate them as in a primary. But as part of the endorsement caucus, candidates agree not to run in the general election, making the end result similar to a primary.

In a statement, ACDC Chair Jill Caiazzo said the group has the same right as any private organization to support candidates for elected office.

“Arlington Democrats fights every year to elect candidates who will advance Democratic policy priorities at all levels of government, including local races,” she said. “Voters need look no further than the recent alt-right fracas at a Loudoun School Board meeting to understand the importance of Democratic leadership in our schools at this time. Arlington Democrats choose our endorsed candidates for this critical leadership position using the most robust endorsement process of any organization in Arlington, with record-breaking participation in each of the past two years.”

This year, the caucus was held to decide who Democrats will endorse during the Nov. 2 general election to fill a seat held by School Board member Monique O’Grady, who’s not seeking a new term. The 2021 caucus, in which ACDC endorsed former educator Mary Kadera, had in-person and online voting options due to the pandemic, and brought in 6,207 ballots, setting a local record. The lockdown-era mail-in caucus in 2020 brought in 5,700 votes.

For the parent group, that turnout is low, even if record-breaking.

“This means that a School Board seat for a 25,000+ student school system in a county of 233,000 is decided by just 2.5% of the population, and in most years it is even lower,” APE said. “We believe broad participation and civic engagement are cornerstones of democracy.”

The group pointed to a list of self-identified Democrats who also want to see the caucus abandoned, including Parent-Teacher Association members, local NAACP members and former School Board candidates Symone Walker and Miranda Turner.

This spring, Kadera and Turner also critiqued the caucus during a candidate dialogue hosted by the Arlington NAACP.

“With all due respect to Arlington Dems, I’d like them to see them be able to endorse a candidate in the normal way other community organizations do, without running a caucus that can artificially constrain the participation of some people,” Kadera said.

Turner agreed, saying the process — which happens in the spring — confuses people and generates low turnout.

“I think it does tend to discourage folks from voting who would otherwise be very interested in voting for a school board candidate,” she said. “It is in fact a nonpartisan race, and I do think it might be better for the school system as a whole to treat it as such.”

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Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti at an NAACP and Black Lives Matter rally and march in Arlington last year (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A new political group has announced plans to force a recall of Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.

Virginians for Safe Communities (VSC) is aiming to remove her and her counterparts in Fairfax County and Loudoun County — Steve Descano and Buta Biberaj, respectively — by gathering enough signatures to have a court review its case against the three prosecutors. Should the group get those signatures and should a judge rule in its favor, a special election would be held.

The trio were elected in 2019 on their pledges to reform the criminal justice system, and Arlington’s top prosecutor has emphasized initiatives such as decriminalizing marijuana possession, ending cash bail and increasing data transparency. But not everyone sees her changes, or those of her counterparts in neighboring counties, as reforms.

“Their radical policies have proven not only unlawful but dangerous, including eliminating cash bail by fiat, unilaterally nullifying narcotics laws, and failing to prosecute serious crimes. The people of our community would be shocked that these prosecutors aren’t pursuing crimes like animal cruelty, domestic assault, reckless driving, and indecent exposure,” VSC President Sean Kennedy tells ARLnow.

Dehghani-Tafti rejected his claims and said she is fulfilling her campaign promises well.

“I’m doing exactly what I promised my community I would do — what I was elected to do — and doing it well: making the system more fair, more responsive, and more rehabilitative, while keeping us safe,” she said. “This is a far-right attempt to overturn a valid election through a non-democratic recall.”

The effort has already received coverage by national outlets such as the New York Times, which described Kennedy as a Republican political operative and noted that another backer, former Trump administration appointee Ian Prior, is “leading a petition drive to recall school board members in Loudoun County over critical race theory.

The group has not disclosed who its donors are.

Kennedy cited Arlington County Police Department’s annual report, which notes an increase in felony aggravated assaults and carjackings, as evidence against Dehghani-Tafti — though the report also shows a decrease in violent sex offenses and a relatively low homicide rate. He also cited rising homicide rates in Fairfax County in 2021 and an alleged failure to prosecute domestic abusers in Loudoun.

Meanwhile, Dehghani-Tafti’s tenure has seen some conflicts with judges over plea deals and dropping charges without stating a reason why for the record.

Public Defender Brad Haywood defended Dehghani-Tafti and said the group does not have a pulse on Arlington’s community or courthouse.

“I don’t know all of the problems they’re having in other jurisdictions, but the consensus among defense attorneys and her prosecutor colleagues from places like Alexandria and Portsmouth is that Ms. Dehghani-Tafti has done the best job of any of the reform-oriented prosecutors elected in Virginia over the past few years,” he tells ARLnow. “She’s been thoughtful about staff retention and recruitment, she’s moved at a measured pace with her policy changes, and she’s been deliberate about engaging and showing respect to stakeholder groups that were skeptical of her, such as the police department.”

Haywood added that there have been no homicides yet in 2021, and his office has observed that sexual assault appears to be prosecuted more aggressively now than under her predecessor, Theo Stamos.

Matthew Hurtt, a spokesman for the Arlington County Republican Committee and former ARLnow opinion columnist, said Arlington Republicans are concerned about the stats and “look forward to working alongside Virginians for Safe Communities wherever we can.”

“We are encouraged by a broad, bipartisan coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and independents who support prosecutors who will faithfully execute their oath of office and uphold the law,” he said. “Picking and choosing which laws to enforce or re-writing laws wholesale is not the job of a prosecutor — it’s the job of the general assembly.”

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Voting on June 8, 2021 at the Walter Reed Community Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County will hold a mock election tomorrow (Tuesday) to test out ranked-choice voting.

Voting will be open to the public from 2-4 p.m at the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center (2100 Clarendon Blvd). Those interested can then attend a second session from 5 -7 p.m to witness the process by which the ballots are counted.

The county will use the mock election to get feedback from voters on ballot layout, voting instructions, and on “tabulation scenarios,” officials said.

Ranked-choice voting allows voters to rank candidates by preference on their ballot. Advocates for the system say that it leads to elections that are less negative and reduces the chance of an extreme candidate being elected, compared to a traditional winner-takes-all format. Some communities have ditched the election format after adopting it, however.

Arlington County and other Virginia localities have state authorization from the General Assembly to try out ranked-choice voting, but so far the county has held back from adopting it. Regulations are still being finalized by the state and are unlikely to be ready in time for an election until 2022, the Sun Gazette reports.

At a County Board meeting on July 17, proponents for the election system expressed frustration about the lack of progress in the transition to ranked-choice voting. In response, Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol noted that the mechanics of ranked-choice voting were “complicated,” according to the Sun Gazette.

Earlier in the year, the Arlington County Civic Federation held Zoom meetings to discuss county voting reforms, chief among them ranked-choice voting.

Although not yet in use by the County Board, the Arlington County Democratic Committee does use ranked-choice voting to decide its nominations for government seats.

Last May, the ranked-choice system propelled Takis Karantonis to victory in the Democratic primary, even though his opponent Barbara Kanninen, who now chairs the School Board, collected the most first-preference votes. Karantonis went on to win the special election to fill Erik Gutshall’s County Board seat in a landslide over his Republican and independent opponents.

“The Arlington Democrats have been using Ranked Choice Voting for our internal endorsement and nomination processes for several years, seeing a strong value in identifying the candidate that draws the broadest support from Democratic voters,” said Maggie Davis, deputy chairperson of Arlington Dems, after the Democratic primary last year.

At a statewide level, Virginia’s Republican Party embraced ranked-choice voting this May, using the system to nominate Glenn Youngkin as their candidate for governor.

Hat tip to Dave Schutz

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Victoria Virasingh (via Victoria Virasingh/Facebook)

Arlingtonian Victoria Virasingh has thrown her hat into the ring to challenge Rep. Don Beyer for the 8th District Democratic primary next year.

Beyer has held onto the 8th District, which includes parts of Arlington and Alexandria, since he won a crowded primary for former Congressman Jim Moran’s seat in 2014 and the general election later that year.

Virasingh was born and raised in Arlington and is the Vice-Chair of Outreach for the Arlington Democrats. She was previously been part of Communities in Schools at Barcroft Elementary School. Her professional resume includes work for Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the IRS Criminal Investigations Unit, and controversial tech company Palantir.

“I was born in Arlington to immigrant parents,” Virasingh said. “My mom is from Ecuador. My dad was born to Punjabi Sikh refugees in Thailand. They are immigrants who worked minimum wage jobs here in Virginia’s 8th. I became the first in my family to go to college by getting a full scholarship to Stanford University. My story represents the American Dream, the belief that no matter where you come from, if you work hard you can achieve your own success.”

Virasingh said her return to Arlington for work highlighted that some of those support systems have gone.

“When I came back to work in Arlington it became clear to me that the structures — living wage, affordable housing — that helped my family succeed are gone,” Virasingh said. “We need to create opportunities for people to have healthcare and to live and work here. We need a $18/hour minimum wage, housing for all, equity in education and Medicare for All.

Virasingh said her life experience has shown her the need for “true progressive policies to level the playing field and provide opportunity for all.”

According to Virasingh’s website, some campaign priorities include:

  • Housing for all
  • Equity in education
  • Securing a living wage
  • Medicare for all

On Twitter, Virasingh noted that is she wins, she will be the first woman to hold the 8th District seat.

Virasingh listed the following as some examples of involvement in the 8th District.

I am the Vice-Chair Outreach for Arlington Democrats which means I work closely with our 9 caucuses.

I believe voter registration and education is an essential pillar of our democracy and as a precinct captain, I work to increase voter participation.

I was deployed to Barcroft Elementary School through Communities and Schools and worked side by side with the Site Coordinator there on family engagement, distribution of resource vouchers, and lead student programming.

During the pandemic, I lead Hispanic outreach for Rides to the Vaccines.

I strongly align myself with the mission and vision of Bridges to Independence, and they have called on me to  jump in on projects and meetings.

I am a member of the Arlington County Economic Development Commission.

Additionally, I attend meetings and events with LULAC, Latino Caucus, ASHPA, community events put on by interfaith communities in Arlington.

I am also part of Arlington Young Dems and the NAACP-Arlington Branch.

I built private-public partnerships at Palantir Technologies which led to the founding of the Future of Work Team. Leading the team took me to working in Europe while being based out of Germany.

While in California, I sat on the Youth Board of City Youth Now, a non profit organization that provides support to youth in the Juvenile system transitioning into independent living.

I have been an advisor for the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority which I was a part of in college.

“I think that our district deserves to have a representative that takes leadership on progressive issues and drives the conversation on issues affecting our constituents everyday,” said Virasingh. “I thank Representative Beyer for his service. I think it’s time for new leadership that matches the composition of our district. I think it’s time for new leadership that is not reactive to adopting progressive policies, but is proactive in leading the charge for progressive policies that lift our communities up.”

Beyer told ARLnow that he has also supported Medicare for all for years, and his plan for now is to focus on doing his job as best he can.

“The seat belongs to the people of Virginia’s 8th District,” Beyer said. “[Competitive elections] make our community stronger, our democracy stronger, and makes me a more effective candidate and leader. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing. God bless her and I never want to discourage anyone from being involved.”

The 8th district seat is up in the 2022 election, and the Democratic primary is currently scheduled for June 21.

Photo via Victoria Virasingh/Facebook

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Morning Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lopez thanked voters tonight for their “resounding support.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Updated at noon) After relatively robust early voting, day-of voting in today’s Democratic primary in Arlington is off to a very slow start.

As of 9 a.m., only about 0.5% of active local voters cast ballots during the first three hours of voting this morning, according to the county elections office.

“It’s a slow one,” the office said via Twitter.

The highest turnout — 1% — was seen in the 45th House of Delegates district, which features a competitive race between Alexandria City Vice-Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker and incumbent Mark Levine, who is also running for Lieutenant Governor.

Arlington is not alone in seeing low turnout. The neighboring City of Falls Church had only recorded 132 voters as of 9 a.m. Across the state, in fact, low turnout is being reported and is causing some concern among Democrats about a potential lack of voter enthusiasm.

One exception to the low turnout trend today: Alexandria, where competitive citywide races have drawn more a turnout of more than 10% as of 10 a.m.

Polls in Virginia are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m.

The contested races on the ballot in Arlington — all Democratic primaries — are below.

A number of non-Democrats will be on the ballot this fall, facing off against the primary winners in the November general election.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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