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Podcast: Democratic County Board Nominee Matt de Ferranti

Fresh off a commanding primary win, Democrat Matt de Ferranti has the next four months to make his case to Arlington voters about why they should oust incumbent County Board member John Vihstadt in his favor.

De Ferranti, a lawyer and local political activist, has the benefit of running as a Democrat in deep blue Arlington, particularly in a midterm cycle that’s shaping up to be quite favorable to Democrats at the top of the ticket. But Vihstadt, the Board’s lone independent, won his seat in another midterm year, back in 2014, and has incumbency to lean on as he campaigns for another term.

De Ferranti spoke with ARLnow about his vision for the county’s economy, how he sees the Amazon HQ2 debate, how he thinks he can beat Vihstadt, and much more.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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Vihstadt Amasses Robust Campaign War Chest to Fend Off de Ferranti

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) County Board member John Vihstadt is assembling a sizable campaign war chest to support his re-election bid, with roughly three times as much cash on hand as Democratic challenger Matt de Ferranti.

Vihstadt, the Board’s lone independent, reported having just over $99,870 in the bank through June 30 on campaign finance documents released yesterday (Monday). He reported raising about $21,700 in the month of June alone, and has now pulled in a total of nearly $112,000 in contributions since last January.

Meanwhile, de Ferranti reported about $33,000 in the bank, now that he’s a few weeks removed from besting Chanda Choun in the Democratic primary. He raised a little over $12,100 last month, bringing his total for the campaign to about $66,200 in all.

County Democrats are eyeing the race intently as a chance to return the Board to unified Democratic control, following Vihstadt’s twin victories over Alan Howze in 2014.

But it would seem they have yet to put their wallets behind de Ferranti in a big way — de Ferranti was his own leading donor in the month of June, chipping in $2,000 to his campaign. De Ferranti and his mother, Margot, have also loaned the campaign $4,000 each. Notably, de Ferranti is planning a fundraiser with County Board Chair Katie Cristol and other Democrats later this month.

Vihstadt, however, has yet to contribute much to his own re-election effort.

His donations are largely split between large-dollar and small-dollar amounts, according to data collected by the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project. His leading donor for the month of June was Jackie Kramer, who chipped in $1,000 to the campaign.

Vihstadt, who’s been endorsed by a handful of Democratic officials around the county, is just off the fundraising pace he set in 2014, as he ran in a special election followed immediately by a general election. From July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2014, he pulled in about $135,000, compared to roughly $111,000 over the same time period covering 2017 to 2018.

He reported raising about $255,000 in all over the course of those campaigns. Howze managed nearly $222,000 in contributions over the same time period, and lost handily in both elections.

Candidates won’t deliver their next fundraising reports until Sept. 17.

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Morning Notes

Fireworks Law in Arlington — “In Arlington County, fireworks that are projectiles, explode, emit flames or sparks to a distance greater than twelve (12) feet are prohibited.” [NBC Washington]

Three Elected Dems Back De Ferranti — County Board Chair Katie Cristol, Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy and Sheriff Beth Arthur have endorsed fellow Democrat Matt de Ferrani in his challenge of incumbent County Board member John Vihstadt. Vihstadt, who is again running as an independent, has the endorsement of a trio of Democratic elected officials: County Board member Libby Garvey, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos and Treasurer Carla de la Pava. [InsideNova]

AWLA Saves Fawn — An Animal Welfare League of Arlington animal control officer rescued a young deer from a roadway over the weekend, sending the fawn to a wildlife rehabber to recover. [Twitter]

Photo courtesy Craig Fingar

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With a Low-Turnout Primary Win Under His Belt, de Ferranti Looks to November

Matt de Ferranti scored a decisive, 20-point win in his bid to become the Democratic nominee for the Arlington County Board — but with that success comes the daunting task of figuring out how to beat an incumbent who twice put up double-digit margins of victory four years ago.

De Ferranti, an advocate for Native American education, didn’t have much trouble overcoming cybersecurity professional Chanda Choun in yesterday’s primary. He earned more than 7,000 of the roughly 11,500 votes cast, and lost just two precincts to Choun, even though both were first-time candidates.

Yet the real challenge for de Ferranti will be translating his primary victory into a win this fall against independent John Vihstadt, who won both a special election and general election in 2014 after assembling a unique coalition of disaffected Democrats, Republicans and even local Green Party supporters.

“I’m looking forward to building the strongest grassroots campaign the county’s ever seen, because that’s what it will take to win,” de Ferranti told ARLnow. “But there’s time yet to get to the general. For now, I’m just very grateful for the team we built and the support we were able to build across the county.”

Many of the county’s top Democrats seem to think de Ferranti has what it takes — he earned the endorsement of three state legislators, two School Board members and a whole host of former elected officials during the primary. The county’s Democratic Committee also praised de Ferranti as a “terrific addition” to the party’s ticket in a statement Tuesday night, praising his focus on “maintaining our excellent schools, addressing housing affordability, improving our transportation system and stimulating a strong economy for all.”

Other observers, however, are less optimistic. While de Ferranti did win handily, he also ceded roughly 40 percent of the vote to a candidate in Choun who was broadly unknown in political circles before suddenly jumping into the race in February. Even with predictions of a “blue wave” election in November, it might not be enough to get de Ferranti over the top.

“It just really shows that his support is very thin, and there’s not much of it,” said Ben Tribbett, a veteran Democratic strategist. “John Vihstadt has got to be ecstatic… In my mind, it will be very difficult to lose as a Democrat in Arlington in this kind of environment, but it’s possible he’ll do just that.”

In particular, Tribbett points to the anemic turnout in the primary as reason for de Ferranti to be concerned. Though he never expected voters to flood to the polls for a local primary, he noted that Alexandria’s mayoral primary attracted roughly 10,000 more voters to the polls than the County Board race did.

Considering that Arlington has roughly 70,000 more residents than Alexandria, Tribbett finds that result “very telling.”

“A primary electorate of 11,500 shows it was essentially the people who always show up and vote, it doesn’t indicate real levels of support,” Tribbett said. “He’s trying to run as an establishment politician, when he’s not a politician and nobody knows him.”

The primary turnout represented just 7.7 percent of the county’s registered voters, according to the Arlington elections office, and did pale a bit in comparison to even past Board primaries. For instance, more than 15,200 people cast ballots when Erik Gutshall challenged Libby Garvey in 2016, and nearly 20,000 participated in 2015’s six-way race.

De Ferranti, however, said he was generally “pleased” with the turnout in the primary, especially considering that there wasn’t any other race at the top of the ballot to attract Democratic voters — neither U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) nor Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) drew primary challengers.

“We had a great contest with a couple of really strong candidates,” said County Board Chair Katie Cristol, a Democrat. “Credit goes to both of them for running inspiring campaigns that drew a lot of people to the polls.”

Yet Tribbett wonders just how inspiring de Ferranti will prove to be for Democrats who backed Vihstadt last time around, and even some who are considering doing so again this year. Garvey has already announced her intentions to support the independent once more, as have Democrats in two countywide offices: Treasurer Carla de la Pava and Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos.

“Look at who endorsed [de Ferranti] and who stayed out of it: why would any of them endorse him now?” Tribbett said. “What is his reason for why people are replacing John Vihstadt?… He’s not invulnerable, but you can’t beat somebody with nothing.”

None of the other three Democrats on the Board have lent the newly minted nominee their support as of yet — Cristol, for her part, said she’s “not ready” to discuss who she’ll be supporting — but de Ferranti believes he’ll have no trouble outlining his case against Vihstadt for skeptical Democrats.

“I’ll be acknowledging, ‘this is a decent person,’ but also making it clear that the values that I’ll bring to the position are different,” de Ferranti said. “I’m focused on returning Arlington to a fiscally reasonable approach, but one that’s open to visionary decisions like building the Orange Line, which required some investment.”

Photo via Facebook

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De Ferranti Captures Democratic Nod for County Board

Matt de Ferranti has won the Democratic primary for Arlington County Board and will face incumbent John Vihstadt in the November general election.

De Ferranti captured about 61 percent of the vote, to 39 percent for Chanda Choun, a relative newcomer to civic life in Arlington.

A lawyer and advocate for Native American education, de Ferranti has sat on a variety of commissions and volunteered for local Democrats since moving to Arlington five years ago.

Between the Democratic County Board primary and the three-way Republican U.S. Senate primary, in which Corey Stewart emerged victorious, overall voter turnout in Arlington was light — just over 10 percent.

https://twitter.com/ArlingtonVotes/status/1006690893963956224

The Arlington County Democratic Committee congratulated de Ferranti, calling him a “terrific addition to this solutions-oriented ticket.” More from an ACDC press release:

Arlington Democrats congratulate the Democratic Nominees across Virginia, and in particular, Matt de Ferranti for becoming the Democratic Nominee for Arlington County Board. Arlington Democrats came out to vote today because we clearly recognize that the best way to maintain the momentum of progressive change and blunt the Trump administration chaos is to keep voting!

Now that the voters have chosen the Democratic nominee for the County Board seat, Arlington Democrats are ready to work hard to elect the entire Democratic ticket, which also includes Tim Kaine for U.S. Senate, Don Beyer for the U.S. House of Representatives, and Barbara Kanninen for the Arlington School Board. These progressive leaders have delivered for Arlington, and they deserve reelection. Matt de Ferranti is a terrific addition to this solutions-oriented ticket.

Jill Caiazzo, Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, expressed, “We thank both Matt de Ferranti and Chanda Choun for conducting a positive, issue-oriented and energetic primary. We are excited to have Matt on the ballot because he will move Arlington forward by maintaining our excellent schools, addressing housing affordability, improving our transportation system, and stimulating a strong economy for all.”

Caiazzo further noted: “Flipping Virginia Blue this year begins in our own backyard with this important County Board seat.” Since 15 elected seats were flipped blue in Virginia last year, Democrats have succeeded in expanding Medicare for 400,000 Virginians, even without a majority in either the House of Delegates or the Senate. Flipping the County Board seat blue will help Arlington make even more progress on issues that make a difference for all residents.

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Candidate Essay: Matt de Ferranti

Last week, we asked the two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in tomorrow’s primary. 

Here is the unedited response from Matt de Ferranti: 

I am running for County Board to tackle Arlington’s biggest challenges. I know and love this community and have the values, relevant experience, and vision to expand opportunity for everyone in Arlington over the next four years.

Our three biggest challenges: building the schools to educate all of our students, housing affordability for families and individuals at different stages of life and income levels, and a local economy that needs to be strengthened and expanded for our future and neighbors in need. We also need leadership to improve our transportation system and address climate change.

Our Schools

I am committed to educational opportunity and making sure Arlington Public Schools has the resources to provide every student with an excellent education. This commitment is reflected in my professional life.  I began my career as a teacher and now work as an advocate for Native American students at the National Indian Education Association.

I serve as the Chair of the Budget Advisory Council to the School Board. One of the main reasons I am running is to address our school capacity challenges. We must build additional seats in a cost effective manner so that we can educate every child as if they were our own.

Housing Affordability

I have worked for Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together and believe deeply that housing must be affordable for middle class Arlingtonians and those working to get into the middle class. Teachers, firefighters, police officers, and everyone who works or lives in our community should be able to afford to live here. Residents should also be able to age in place.

I serve on the Housing Commission, which works to expand affordability so that everyone in our community can have a place to call home. I know that meeting the goals for affordable housing in our Affordable Housing Master Plan will not be easy. I will not be able to do it alone or overnight, but I will work on this issue with courage, creativity, and relentless commitment if I have the honor of serving you.

An Economy that Works for Everyone

I have worked as an attorney for local governments, so I understand land use law and the need for a vision and plan to address our commercial vacancy rates and encourage economic growth across the County.

I serve on the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission, which was created to improve coordination between the County Board and the School Board. As a graduate of Leadership Arlington and Arlington Neighborhood College, I know that we must pursue a vision for our community that brings jobs here that build upon our educated workforce and targets clean-tech, green-tech, and the knowledge-based industries that will help us thrive in the years to come. We must also value small businesses as critical community stakeholders and base all of our economic decisions on the best interests of all of our residents, now and in the future.

Economic Opportunity

Our economy must serve all Arlingtonians and provide opportunity for those in need.  We are the fifth wealthiest county in the nation, but we still have families who go hungry here. There are 2,200 households served by the Arlington Food Assistance Center every month. I will lead the effort to eliminate child hunger in Arlington.

The Choice We Face on Tuesday

So, on education, housing affordability, and our economy, I bring Arlington values and relevant experience.

I would bring these same core values to the other key issues we face. On transportation, I am committed to funding Metro, making good on our promises along Columbia Pike, and seeking revisions to the recent funding cuts to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. On our environment, I believe in our Community Energy Plan and will help lead our efforts to combat climate change. I will stand steadfast for an inclusive, compassionate community on immigration and LGBTQ rights. And I will speak out and work for common sense gun safety measures because all of us have a moral responsibility to act on this issue.

I have earned the endorsements of Greater Greater Washington, Blue Virginia and the Sun Gazette News. I also have the support of Delegate Rip Sullivan, Delegate Alfonso Lopez, State Senator Adam Ebbin, Clerk of the Court Paul Ferguson, Vice-Chair of the School Board Reid Goldstein and School Board Member Tannia Talento. To see a list of supporters or learn more please, go to www.mattforarlington.com.

I would be honored to earn your vote tomorrow and to serve you on the Arlington County Board.

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De Ferranti Touts Experience, Choun Promises a ‘Different Voice’ Ahead of County Board Primary

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.

“There is some credit due to scrutinizing and looking carefully at our decisions,” de Ferranti said. “But once that is done, it’s about having the courage in making forward-looking decisions and understanding change is inevitable. It’s working with it, managing it and using change to shape our community in good ways.”

To that end, both Democrats want to see the county lure more businesses to Arlington and reverse the skyrocketing commercial vacancy rates in Rosslyn and Crystal City. The pair differs on how they’d approach that vexing question, however.

De Ferranti prefers to “look toward the next economy” by marketing the county to “clean tech and green tech” companies — he’s also open to further exploring the possibility of using vacant space in Crystal City to house students, a proposal often bandied about as the school system runs out of available land.

Choun wants to step up the county’s marketing efforts to lure in new businesses, but also lean on his experience in the military and in government contracting to bring federal government agencies back to Arlington, after many have fled.

“Let’s get those dollars back in Arlington,” Choun said. “That was our historic economic base. Obviously, we still want to diversify away from it, but let’s grow the pie as a whole.”

Another key separation: their feelings on the oft-discussed, but seemingly sidelined, Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola. Choun is open to studying the project in more detail, but de Ferranti is a bit more ready to write it off.

“I know there was some study, and I respect those who wanted to look into it more deeply,” de Ferranti said. “But almost everyone I talked to, and my own analysis and common sense, says it’s not the right thing for us.”

But with relatively few policy disagreements separating the pair, Choun expects that his background, as both an immigrant and a tech-savvy millennial, will help separate him from de Ferranti.

“It’s about building a coalition: millennials, veterans, military, people of faith, tech professionals, minorities,” Choun said. “It’s not necessarily about platform, but messaging, vision and character.”

De Ferranti, meanwhile, is counting on his more traditional approach of winning local office to carry the day. Beyond just the endorsements of the county’s Democratic establishment, he’s also pulled in plenty of cash from its traditional donors — he’s raised more than $54,000 over the course of the campaign from more than 175 different people, according to state records. By comparison, Choun has managed to pull in nearly $30,000, with $25,000 coming in the form of a loan from Choun himself.

“I’ve got relevant experience on the key issues to make a difference on the biggest challenges that we face,” de Ferranti said. “I believe more and more people are hearing that, and it’s why I have the support of so many.”

File photo

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Morning Notes

Woman Pleads Guilty to Oxycodone Conspiracy — A former medical assistant at doctor’s offices in Arlington and Alexandria has pleaded guilty “for her role in leading a conspiracy to distribute oxycodone,” according to federal prosecutors. “From 2011 through December 2017, [Louise] Edwards stole blank prescription pads and electronically-generated fraudulent prescriptions using a medical recordkeeping system… Edwards facilitated the fraudulent filling of at least 353 prescriptions, totaling 42,360 pills of 30 milligram oxycodone.” [Alexandria News, Patch]

Elected Officials Support Striking Workers — Local elected officials, including Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol and state Sen. Barbara Favola, are scheduled to meet this morning with Didlake Inc. employees who work at the Army National Guard Readiness Center on S. George Mason Drive. The employees are on strike after the company refused to recognize their vote to join a union.

Thousands Attend RFK Memorial at ANC — Thousands of people attended a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy. Speakers at the memorial included Rep. John Lewis, Parkland school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez, and former President Bill Clinton. Country music star Kenny Chesney played a rendition of “This Land is Your Land.” [Associated Press]

Meeting Space Coming to Rosslyn — “Meeting and event space provider Convene has inked a deal to open a new location high atop the CEB Tower at Central Place in Rosslyn, where it plans to join the building’s namesake tenant as early as October. The New York-based company has signed a 14.5-year sublease for 35,000 square feet from Gartner Inc., CEB’s parent company, at 1201 Wilson Blvd.” [Washington Business Journal]

Sun Gazette Endorses de Ferranti — The Arlington Sun Gazette has endorsed Matt de Ferranti in the Democratic Arlington County Board primary, which will be held this coming Tuesday. However, the paper has little good to say about him, instead opining that he and fellow candidate Chanda Choun lack “deep roots in the community and, we fear, each has yet to develop an ingrained grasp of local issues to provide a viable challenge to the very plugged-in incumbent [John Vihstadt].” [InsideNova, InsideNova]

Photo via @ArlingtonVaFD

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Democrat Matt de Ferranti to Run for County Board

The first Democrat has thrown his hat into the ring — or, at least, made a media announcement — for this year’s Arlington County Board race.

Attorney Matt de Ferranti filed the paperwork for his bid on Tuesday (January 2). He currently is legislative director for the National Indian Education Association and previously worked as a teacher in Houston.

He is the first declared candidate against incumbent John Vihstadt (I), who is running for re-election.

In a statement, de Ferranti said he is “running to expand opportunity for everyone in Arlington County.”

“Staying true to Arlington’s history and our shared values is the recipe for Arlington to continue to be a great place for everyone,” he said. “Our commitment to housing affordability, building the schools we need to educate every Arlington student, and maintaining our great transportation system are key. Investing in our parks and open spaces, working locally to address climate change and keeping our community safe and inclusive are sound investments in our future. We can — and must — make smart investments while also being fiscally responsible.”

de Ferranti has been on the county’s Housing Commission since 2014, and served on the Affordable Housing Study Working Group from 2014 through the adoption of the County’s Affordable Housing Master Plan in 2015.

He has also been a member of the Budget Advisory Council for Arlington Public Schools since 2014, and has served as chair since June 2017. He has also worked with Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together and the Education Trust.

“I’m running for the Arlington County Board because I know and love this community,” he said. “And because I know that, together, we can put our shared values into practice and expand opportunity for everyone in Arlington County.”

de Ferranti is expected to make his first speech as a candidate at the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s meeting on Wednesday, January 10. In the near future, ACDC will decide how it will choose its nominee: whether through a primary election, the preferred choice of Arlington Young Democrats and others, or a caucus like it used last year.

Outgoing ACDC chair Kip Malinosky said that “there are a couple other people interested in running, but no one [else] to my knowledge that has filed or ready to announce.”

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