(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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Less than a week before the primary, gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, Del. Alfonso Lopez, and Virginia Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn paid a visit to Acme Pie Company on Columbia Pike.

All three Democrats are running for office in the upcoming primary, set for Tuesday, June 8 — with early voting happening now. (Filler-Corn is unopposed in the primary.)

Around slices of blueberry and lemon curd pie, joined by Acme’s owner Sol Schott, they discussed small businesses, economic recovery, and their love of pie.

“The best pie in America,” Lopez said about Acme’s offerings. A few moments later, McAuliffe bought a whole pie.

“I got five kids,” the McLean resident and former governor said as his reasoning.

The campaign stop was intended to highlight the plight and hoped-for recovery for Virginia’s small businesses.

“Almost 41% of Black and Brown [owned] businesses have closed. How do you rebuild? How do you bring small businesses back?,” McAuliffe asked. “We do microloans, access to capital, and working on the regulatory structure.”

While Acme Pie has found ways to survive over the last year, it’s been rough going with the shop losing a large slice of its wholesale business.

The business did get a Paycheck Protection Program loan and Schott said that one of the most frustrating aspects was dealing with paperwork and navigating the legalese.

“I would like to see some more hands-on help with paperwork,” Schott told ARLnow. “I did get help from Alfonso personally on that.”

Lopez, who is facing an intra-party challenger in his run for re-election in the 49th District, agrees that the paperwork and amount of work that small business owners need do to gain access to loans and capital can be a barrier.

“What we need to be doing is dealing with procurement reform… and changing the definition of what a small business is,” Lopez said in an interview with ARLnow. “There’s so much more we could do to help these folks who are literally putting everything into their dream of a small business and be able to take care of their family.”

McAuliffe, who is seen as the front-runner for the competitive Democratic gubernatorial nomination, told ARLnow in an interview that the Commonwealth needs to be directly involved in providing access to capital to small businesses.

“We as a state should stand up our own, basically, investment bank structure to help small businesses, to get them off their feet, and work with them,” he said. “The state being involved in micro-financing and other lending opportunities, I think is very important for us.”

The four spoke about other issues impacting residents in Arlington and across Virginia, including education and affordable housing.

“We’ve got to invest in education… You’ve got to have the best education system if you’re going to recruit businesses in the 21st century,” McAuliffe said. “Today, [Virginia] is 50 out of 50 states in average teacher pay. That’s disgraceful… so, raising pay above the national average.”

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Morning Notes

Summer School Enrollment Limited — “Despite having offered financial incentives to teachers to teach summer school, there are fewer applicants than the number of students who are eligible for summer instruction at the elementary level, making it impossible for APS to offer summer strengthening support to all eligible elementary students.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Car Driven onto W&OD Trail — “We were riding our triple bike and came across someone who had driven onto the W&OD Trail from Park Rd S… it was rather scary that they barely stopped before we passed by.” [Twitter, YouTube]

New Location for Free Covid Tests — From Arlington County: “Our no-cost, no-appointment mobile COVID-19 testing has moved! It’ll be based in the parking lot of Unitarian Universalist Church (4444 Arlington Blvd) through May 28.” [Twitter]

Dems Prepare for Apartment Outreach — “Voters [in multi-unit buildings] may have tipped the outcome of the 2018 County Board race, in which Democrat Matt de Ferranti ousted independent John Vihstadt… This year, races for local and legislative posts are probably not in much doubt across Arlington. But Democrats are hoping to run up the score in the races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in order to offset Republican strongholds downstate.” [Sun Gazette]

Va. GOP Selects Gov. Nominee — “Former private equity chief Glenn Youngkin became the Republican nominee for Virginia governor Monday night after his closest rival, business executive Pete Snyder, conceded while votes were still being tabulated.” [Washington Post, Associated Press]

D.C. Planning Full Reopening — “D.C. plans to lift a slew of coronavirus capacity restrictions starting May 21, with a full reopening to come in June.” [WTOP, PoPville]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Statements of Support for AAPI Community — “Arlington Public Schools condemns racism and all expressions of hate, bias and discrimination. The horrific shootings in Atlanta earlier this week are a tragic reminder of the increase in violent attacks, hate speech and discrimination targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We grieve with the families of the victims of the shootings in Atlanta on March 16 and share the sorrow of all who stand against hate and discrimination.” [Arlington Public Schools, Press Release]

Opposition to Zoning Proposal — “The proposal has nevertheless attracted some pushback from Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, a community group that has begun organizing opposition to the county’s housing efforts on the grounds that Arlington hasn’t properly prepared for additional growth… Other affected neighborhoods, including Green Valley in South Arlington, also offered opposition.” [Washington Business Journal]

Citizen Group Wants Tree Update — “‘Don’t call us, but we promise we’ll call you’ appears to sum up the Arlington County government’s reaction to an Arlington County Civic Federation call for an expeditious effort to update an analysis of the county’s tree canopy… The Arlington government last conducted a tree inventory in 2016, reporting the findings in 2017. The roughly 750,000 trees in the county’s 26 square miles cover about 41 percent of the county’s ground area.” [Sun Gazette]

Chainsaw Art Coming to Lyon Park — “This summer, Mallon is scheduled to do chainsaw sculptures on three stumps trees near the community center in Arlington’s Lyon Park, a community-owned park in the county. Mallon, who grew up in Arlington, said he usually brings about five chainsaws to a project, depending on the level of detail of the work.” [Patch]

GOP Gov. Candidate in Arlington — Glenn Youngkin, a Republican candidate for governor, made a campaign appearance at the Crystal City Sports Pub over the weekend. The event was criticized by Democrats for its crowd of maskless supporters. [Twitter, Twitter]

Airport Passenger Volume Going Up — “TSA screened 1,543,115 people yesterday, Sunday, March 21. The last time checkpoint throughput topped 1.5 million was March 15, 2020.” [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Confusion Over CVS Vaccine Reservations — “The confusion began early Tuesday morning, with people reaching out to ABC7 to express their frustration over the COVID-19 vaccine registration process at CVS pharmacies in Virginia. ‘They didn’t do what they said they were going to do, and it’s just really frustrating,’ said Roxanne Grandis, who’s been trying to make vaccine appointments for her elderly parents.” [WJLA]

Some Kudos For County Vaccination Effort — “Virginia’s been struggling for weeks to administer vaccine doses. Out of the 1.38 million doses the Commonwealth received, officials only injected 1.1 million. That’s roughly 80%. Meanwhile, Arlington County is setting the standard at 97%. How did they do it? With other areas struggling, how did Arlington Public Health succeed on all levels? Local officials say it’s been a team effort.” [The Dogwood]

Chase Young’s Arlington Connection — “Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young, whose father was in law enforcement, testified before the Maryland House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, expressing support for police reform… Young, named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year on Saturday, grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, but his father spent 22 years as a police officer in Arlington, Virginia.” [ESPN]

Arlington Man Running for Governor — “Another Northern Virginia executive is joining the Republican race for governor. Peter Doran of Arlington said Tuesday he is seeking this year’s GOP gubernatorial nomination. It is his first run for office.” [Associated Press]

Arlington Dems Eye High Rises — “Mid-rise and high-rise living represents a large swath of the Arlington population, and ‘many of them are inaccessible to outside groups,’ said Carol Fontein, who heads the robust precinct-operations efforts of Arlington Democrats. As a result, the party aims to recruit those living in multi-family complexes to help with outreach – within the limits set by owners of the properties.” [InsideNova]

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Nearly one year after Arlington Public Schools closed classrooms, the end of distance learning is in sight for students and teachers.

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Francisco Durán said today (Friday) that on Tuesday he will announce dates when students can return to their school buildings — with students expected to return by mid-March.

The forthcoming timeline for the announcement is one-and-a-half weeks ahead of Durán’s schedule. The push to announce the phased return dates next week comes in response to a press conference that Gov. Ralph Northam held this morning.

During the School Board meeting last night (Thursday), Durán told board members and listening community members that he would provide dates on Feb. 18. This morning, Northam urged all K-12 school divisions in Virginia to make in-person learning options available to students by March 15.

“Given Governor Northam’s press conference this morning, I will announce the dates in my Return-to-School Update this coming Tuesday,” Durán said in an APS School Talk update sent this afternoon. “Our timeline aligns with the Governor’s guidance.”

Principals and school staff have been preparing for student returns in March, he said.

Arlington teachers and staff have been re-entering their classrooms in phases since last week. Durán came under fire last night for not following other Virginia school divisions, which have announced firm return dates.

“I’m certainly aware of the announcements of other divisions in Northern Virginia and others that are moving forward, but we are taking the time to do what is asked… to make sure we’re safe and ready to go back in person,” he said during last night’s meeting. “I’m going to continue to make decisions to best serve the needs of students in Arlington while ensuring the health and safety of everyone.”

Student groups will return in this order:

  1. Preschool through 2nd grade students and countywide elementary special education students
  2. Grades 3-5
  3. Grades 6-12

Students from grades 3-12 will learn via “concurrent instruction” models. They will remain in their current classes, with their current teachers, regardless of whether they are in-person part-time or fully virtual. Teachers will instruct both online and in-person students whether they are in the classroom or working remotely.

On Wednesday, students enrolled in select technical education courses, from cosmetology to auto collision repairs, were able to return to their classrooms at the Arlington Career Center, Durán said. Students with disabilities who need in-person supports were the first to return on Nov. 4.

This week, APS launched a health screening application for teachers and staff to use daily, providing the school system with information on who tests positive, experiences symptoms or comes in contact with coronavirus-positive people, he said. The app will be available to students and families on Feb. 18.

Meanwhile, Durán said in-person instruction and support are having a “moderate” impact on reports of positive cases and close contacts with sick individuals. He cited the following statistics on positive cases and reports of close contacts among staff and students:

This morning, Northam also encouraged school divisions to offer summer school for families who want their children to make up for any loss of learning incurred during this school year.

“The health and safety of students, educators, school personnel, and communities continues to be our top priority,” Northam said. “We know that children learn better in classrooms and that going to school is vital for their social-emotional needs and for receiving critical services like meals. It is also important for our youngest learners, students with disabilities, and those with limited access to technology who have struggled most with remote learning. By focusing on mitigation measures, we can provide our kids with safe and equitable learning environments.”

Responding to early signs of falling grades during distance learning, two former School Board members indicated their interest in summer school options in December.

Photo via Arlington Public Schools Twitter

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(Updated at 8:50 p.m.) Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced a new round of coronavirus-related restrictions this afternoon.

The changes, which are to take effect early Monday morning, include tightening the limit on social gatherings from 25 to 10 people, and a “modified stay at home order” between midnight and 5 a.m. daily.

The new restrictions come with some exceptions.

The social gathering rule does not apply to “religious services, employment settings, or educational settings.” The midnight curfew doesn’t apply to those “obtaining food and goods, traveling to and from work, and seeking medical attention.”

Another change: a tightening of the state mask mandate, for those five and over. It will now apply “in indoor settings shared with others and when outdoors within six feet of another person.”

Despite the new restrictions, Northam said restaurants will be able to stay open with existing rules in place, including no on-site alcohol sales after 10 p.m.

During his Thursday afternoon press conference, Northam said coming COVID vaccines are cause for optimism, but with nearly 4,000 new cases and dozens of deaths per day in the Commonwealth, “hard realities” necessitate tighter restrictions.

Intensive Care Unit hospitalizations have been rising, Northam said, and nurses and doctors are becoming exhausted. Here in Arlington, the rate of new cases hit a new high on Monday.

“If you don’t have to go out, stay at home,” the governor said. “This is just plain common sense.”

The new rules will go into effect until Jan. 31, but may be extended beyond that.

Northam also took a dig at President Trump near the end of the press conference, saying that the president had “checked out” on the pandemic and “it’s time for real leadership.”

The full press release from the governor’s office is below.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Three young, tech-focused startups in Arlington were among 41 projects across the state awarded $2.51 million in funding.

The Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund (CRCF) awards, announced by Gov. Ralph Northam on June 6, included grant funding for Fend Incorporated — a Startup Monday frequent guest — NOVI LLC and SeeHear LLC.

The CRCF is run through the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), a non-profit corporation funded in part through the state to promote technological development in Virginia.

Fend Incorporated adds a system with a physical beam-link used to transfer data in otherwise digital systems, making them less prone to hacking. The company was awarded $50,000.

NOVI LLC develops autonomous, intelligent satellites and was awarded $48,700.

SeeHear LLC is a corporation that commercializes earlier government research into web-based speech programs for adults with hearing loss. The company was awarded $50,000.

According to a spokesperson for CIT, proposals undergo a multi-stage review process, including assessments by subject matter experts and evaluation by the CIT Board of Directors.

“Virginia is recognized as one of the most innovative states in the nation, and we know that identifying and supporting Virginia innovators at critical early stages through state-funded programs like CRCF is key to maintaining and expanding our leadership role,” Northam said in a press release. “The Commonwealth will continue to deliver programs that facilitate bringing pioneering technologies and ideas to market and create a culture where entrepreneurs will thrive.”

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has vetoed legislation that would have dramatically reduced Arlington County’s tax revenue from two country clubs.

HB 1204 would have reduced the tax bills for Army Navy Country Club and Washington Golf and Country Club, but would have cost the county’s coffers nearly $1.5 million annually.

The state legislature will now have an opportunity to override the veto.

More from an Arlington County press release:

“We are grateful to Governor Northam for vetoing HB 1204,” Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “The governor, by his action to keep authority over local property assessments in the hands of local government, and not in Richmond, has shown real leadership.  This legislation had major implications for all localities across the Commonwealth.”

Arlington encourages all local governments to unify and ask their legislators to sustain the veto when the General Assembly reconvenes April 18 at the State Capitol, Cristol said.

“We are committed to resolving the assessment issue with the golf courses, and we are confident that we can find an equitable solution,” she said. “I want to thank our Arlington delegation for standing strong with us throughout this process.”

In his veto message, Northam says that he expects Arlington and the clubs to reach a compromise soon. The clubs are suing the county, fighting back against what they say is an unfair way to assess what is essentially open space — treating the many acres of golf courses as developable land.

The governor’s veto message is below.

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 1204, which requires the County of Arlington to assess two private country clubs within its boundaries as land dedicated to open space rather than its current method of highest and best use.

This is a local dispute over a local government’s method of assessing land for property taxation. As such, the solution to this dispute should be reached on the local level without the involvement of the state.

I have been assured that an agreement acceptable to both sides of this dispute is close to being reached. I encourage the parties to continue negotiations to find a solution so that similar legislation will not be necessary in the future.

Accordingly, I veto this bill.

Sincerely,

Ralph S. Northam

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Morning Notes

IRS Rules on Tax PrepaymentsUpdated at 12:35 p.m. — Taxpayers hoping to get an additional deduction by prepaying their local property taxes may be out of luck. The IRS ruled late Wednesday afternoon that prepayments can only be deducted in limited circumstances that may not apply to many local jurisdictions — but are, reportedly, applicable to others. The ruling comes after local residents have already prepaid millions in taxes. One tipster told ARLnow.com that there was a line of “probably forty people,” some “paying for up to three years,” at the Arlington County treasurer’s office Tuesday morning. [Washington Post]

Disabled Train Delays VRE — Virginia Railway Express trains were delayed during the morning rush hour due to a disabled freight train north of Crystal City. [Twitter]

Ebbin Proposes Multiple Terms for Va. Gov. — State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-31) has proposed legislation that would take the first step towards allowing governors in Virginia to be elected to two consecutive terms, rather than the current one term limit. [InsideNova]

County Crews Treating Roads for Snow — Arlington County crews were out yesterday pre-treating local roadways with brine, in anticipation of a winter weather event. According to forecasters, the only snow in the forecast is an expected dusting on Saturday. [Twitter, Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]

AED and SCORE Partnering — “Beginning this January, BizLaunch and SCORE DC will formally partner on a variety of entrepreneurial workshops from advanced social media training to lead generation to how to become an 8(a) contractor and much more.” [Arlington Economic Development]

Flickr pool photo by Fritz Myer

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After a contentious race for governor in Virginia, the campaign managers for the two major candidates had a few flashpoints as they reflected on the contest in Arlington on Monday night.

Chris Leavitt, who managed Republican Ed Gillespie’s campaign, said his opposite number on Democratic candidate Ralph Northam’s campaign, Brad Komar, was a “liar” for saying he and his colleagues had no knowledge of an attack ad run by the Latino Victory Fund against the Republican.

Komar said the ad came from a community that felt it was “under attack,” but that the Northam campaign was not involved.

“It’s not how I would have responded,” he said. “We did not see the ad; I did not authorize it.”

The ad showed a white man in a pickup truck with a Gillespie bumper sticker and a Confederate flag threatening minority children. It ran on Spanish-language channels for two days before being taken down after the terrorist attack in New York by a man driving a pickup truck.

The pair were in conversation before more than 250 people at George Mason University’s Arlington campus at an event by the Virginia Public Access Project and GMU’s Schar School of Policy and Government. It came less than a week after Northam beat Gillespie to the governor’s mansion, thanks in part to the 68,315 votes he received in Arlington to Gillespie’s 16,160.

Komar said he regretted the campaign leaving then-lieutenant governor candidate Justin Fairfax, who also triumphed last week in a Democratic clean sweep alongside Attorney General Mark Herring, off a mailer that was sent to some houses in Northern Virginia.

At the time, the campaign said it was accommodating the Laborers’ International Union of North America, which did not endorse Fairfax as he opposes two planned natural gas pipelines, but endorsed the other two.

“We handled a regular, normal thing badly,” Komar said, noting that it should not have been sent out by the campaign but by someone else.

Leavitt defended the Gillespie campaign’s decision to run television ads attacking Northam as weak on the Central American street gang MS-13, and supporting so-called “Sanctuary Cities,” where local authorities do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

Such “sanctuaries” do not exist in Virginia, but Leavitt said that the Gillespie campaign had data that suggested that some independent voters were concerned about a rise in crime committed by illegal immigrants.

“You have to pick certain spots where there are avenues where you can go after your opponent,” Leavitt said. “This was one of those avenues.”

And Leavitt said trying to find weaknesses in Northam to attack was especially problematic, given his personal history as a U.S. Army doctor then a pediatric neurologist, as well as a stellar career in Richmond.

He said the Gillespie campaign hoped for a bruising Democratic primary against former Rep. Tom Perriello to expose more weaknesses.

“Frankly, the Governor-Elect did not have as many vulnerabilities as we would have liked, and we thought a primary could open up a few more,” Leavitt said.

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