(Updated 9:50 p.m.) Arlington Democrats celebrated a triumphant election night for its candidates for Arlington County Board and School Board, as well as all members of the state-level Democratic ticket.
With all precincts reporting, Democratic nominee Erik Gutshall won the race for County Board with 62.82 percent of the vote. Monique O’Grady, the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s endorsee for School Board, took 70.56 percent.
Gutshall took 46,319 votes, ahead of independent Audrey Clement with 17,415 and fellow independent Charles McCullough‘s 8,753. O’Grady won 50,677 votes, ahead of Mike Webb with 12,642 and Alison Dough with 7,271 to succeed James Lander.
In the races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, the Democratic candidates all won Arlington County’s 55 precincts by big margins to help deliver what looked set to be a clean sweep for the party in Virginia.
Governor-Elect Ralph Northam (D) took 68,315 votes in Arlington, ahead of Republican Ed Gillespie with 16,160. Justin Fairfax (D) garnered 66,687 votes in Arlington in the race for lieutenant governor ahead of state Sen. Jill Vogel’s 17,594, and Attorney General Mark Herring (D) won re-election with 67,111 votes ahead of John Adams’ 17,366 votes.
At the ACDC’s watch party at The Salsa Room on Columbia Pike, great cheers went up when the television networks projected Northam as the winner, as more than 100 attendees celebrated Democrats’ triumph across Virginia.
Gutshall said he was “very grateful” to win, and said he enjoyed hearing from residents as he vied for retiring Board chair Jay Fisette’s seat.
“It was a lot of hard work, a lot of great chances to have some really good conversations with folks in Arlington,” Gutshall said. “Even though it might appear from election results that we are a very blue community, there’s a lot of diversity of opinion within that blueness. It was a good experience for me to hear that diversity of viewpoints on all the different issues that are facing us.”
O’Grady said the campaign was a “humbling” experience, and said she intends to put the work in now to hit the ground running in January when she is officially sworn in.
“It’s what I’ve been trying to do, which is keep up with all the issues, continue to go to the meetings, continue to keep up with the community reactions to so many things on the table,” she said. “In January, there’s a lot of work to do, and so I want to ensure that I’m ready to go. Even though I won’t be sworn in until January, I’m already hard at work making sure I stay engaged.”
ACDC chair Kip Malinosky said it was rewarding to see so many people step up to volunteer in Arlington to help get out the vote. The county’s Elections Office said final turnout was 55 percent, the highest for a gubernatorial race since 1993.
“What feels so good is that so many people stepped up in a big way,” Malinosky said. “We helped out. It was really depressing after last year, but we came back so strong and people bounced back. They got involved, they made calls, knocked on doors, posted on social media. We went to every festival, every event and we got people engaged and said, ‘Look, we’ve got to compete.'”
With three of the county’s four members of the Virginia House of Delegates running unopposed, it was a relatively sedate affair for Dels. Patrick Hope, Mark Levine and Rip Sullivan in Districts 47, 45 and 48, respectively, as all won more than 90 percent of the vote in their districts.
Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49) was the only one to face a re-election challenge, from Republican Adam Roosevelt. But with all precincts reporting, Lopez won 18,536 votes to Roosevelt’s 4,202 in a district that includes neighborhoods along Columbia Pike, around Pentagon City and west to Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners in Fairfax County.
Elsewhere, Democrats were on track to make significant gains in the House of Delegates, and Lopez said it will mean progress on a variety of issues the party’s followers hold dear.
“Everything we care about, every value we care about, every issue we cherish, it can start to happen: Sensible gun violence prevention legislation, passing Medicaid reform, dealing with how we fund our schools, actually protecting the environment in Virginia,” Lopez said in a speech.
Clement, who has run for office in Arlington unsuccessfully seven times, said she is open to running for election again. But in an interview after results were counted, she said she is reluctant to challenge County Board member John Vihstadt (I), who faces re-election next year.
“In my opinion, there are two key components to county government: one is the budget, two is how it deals with development,” Clement said. “Vihstadt and I diverge on the development issue, but we agree on the budget component. We’re both fiscal conservatives, so I would find it difficult to run against him on that account.”
In a statement on Twitter, McCullough congratulated Gutshall on his win and urged him to do more to “put people first.”
“The board can expect that I’ll be there to remind them of that often because I am committed to staying involved and engaging with this wonderful community as it tackles the big issues ahead,” McCullough wrote.
Like the three Arlington County Board candidates earlier this week, they then faced additional unanswered questions from the audience — due to time constraints — that ARLnow collated and emailed to them.
Two candidates’ unedited responses are below. (A third candidate, Mike Webb, did not respond.)
1. How do you plan to deal with the exploding student population in Arlington schools?
The simple and easiest answer would be to build more schools. If land is not available – build schools up. Ashlawn Elementary is an example of a school that recently and successfully built-up to address the increase in students.
I think that the school board needs to partner with the county board on this issue as it economically impacts both boards and together we should be able to work towards a possible solution that resolves the need for overcrowding in the schools and classrooms.
APS must get in front of its capacity crisis with better planning and a strategy on how to effectively provide seats for all of its students. As a member of the school board, I will work with my colleagues to plan with members of the county board to make best use of our limited dollars, limited space, and limited time. Through this collaborative effort we can reach decisions that will not only best serve our students, but also make efficient use of Arlington tax dollars.
2. Do you think a career teacher should be paid enough to afford to live in Arlington?
Perhaps we need to consider housing-vouchers for teachers that make a very good case for the need to live in Arlington County. I work for a non-profit in Arlington and I know many of my coworkers would rather not commute in from Fairfax, Alexandria, Loudoun, eastern Maryland, Baltimore – but they do because they cannot afford to live in Arlington.
Yes. Arlington should continue to find ways to support middle class residents who are at risk of being priced out of living in Arlington. This “missing middle,” as County Board candidate Erik Gutshall calls it, is an essential and invaluable component of our community and workforce. Teachers want to be able to live where they work. It fosters a closer connection between educators and their students as well as between educators and the larger community; this connection assists teachers with their work, making them even more effective in their jobs. Therefore, it makes sense to look for ways to attract the best and brightest teachers, including supporting policies that make it easier for our teachers to make Arlington home. This will help recruit and retain teachers – one of the current strategic plan goals.
3. Identify the area of waste you would like to eliminate if elected.
I propose looking at areas that do not directly impact the children. We should first take a look at administrative costs and other overhead.
As a new member of the school board I would welcome an emerging practice that gives APS the ability to consider three different plans for new school buildings. Plans will be offered that show a design using the minimum budget, a mid-range budget, and maximum budget. This policy would seek avenues to eliminate waste, yet not at the expense of essential, quality services.
I also welcome more collaboration between the school board and county board. I think collaborative planning will help eliminate wasted time, eliminate wasted dollars with consultants and contractors, and will lead to more efficient use of our tax dollars and limited county- and school-owned land.
4. If elected, would you support changing the name of Washington-Lee High School?
I believe changing the name of Arlington’s first high school should not be a determination made by the school board. This is a decision that should be made by the people of Arlington County. I would support moving this decision to a general election vote.
As a strong supporter of community empowerment and the democratic process, I support the evolving process to review our Arlington school naming policy. The policy is actually up for renewal and the discussion is timely. Like the current school board members, I recognize that the tragic deaths that occurred in Charlottesville remind us that the presence and veneration of Confederate names and symbols can often serve as incubators of hate that divide communities. This process will give our community an opportunity to determine the impact closer to home, while also looking at our own history, which can help us set a path forward for the future.
I look forward to hearing from a variety of Arlington stakeholders on this issue. I will respect the process and garner input and guidance from those who will study the issue during this process. This process will also give Arlingtonians a chance to evaluate items like whether a person must be deceased at least 5 years before using that person’s name. This was a stumbling block for Discovery Elementary School which considered naming the school after astronaut and Senator John Glenn.
5. What would you propose to ensure fair school boundaries?
Realigning school district boundaries may not necessarily be the answer. Something that has surprised me about Arlington County is the lack of variety in immersion schools especially in an area that is so diverse in languages and cultures. We have Spanish immersion schools – what about French, Mandarin, Arabic, Hindi or others? If I had the opportunity to send my daughter to a French immersion school on the other side of Arlington – I’d take that opportunity in a heartbeat. If we want to realign school boundaries – let’s give the parents a chance and desire to want to shift schools – so realigning boundaries isn’t the only option.
I believe many items must be thought through to ensure that Arlingtonians feel the boundary process and results are fair. That includes drafting boundaries that maximize traits that help our students and divisions succeed. Looking at items that will benefit instruction should have weight, along with other factors.
6. How would you manage school growth?
Please see my answer to #1.
Proper planning that involves the community and the county board will help us get in front of our capacity crisis. This planning should value instructional focus as much as it manages construction.
7. What are your views on the common core standards?
I think the common core standards are important. People need to be able to move to another state and know that similar core standards are in place state to state and county to county.
Virginia does not use common core standards. It has created its own standards of learning to evaluate our students’ comprehension of important material at different grade levels. Fortunately, that gives our school district more opportunities to weigh in on whether the testing (and how that testing is administered) meets the needs of our students.
I believe testing requirements can negatively tip the scale, resulting in teachers testing so much that it gets in the way of actual education. I support evaluating the amount of state-mandated testing, which can increase anxiety among our students and hinder why they go to school in the first place – to learn. I also support a path the state is now investigating which includes evaluating new ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge on important subject matters.
8. Do you promote inclusion in Arlington Public Schools?
Yes, inclusion is my #1 priority. The state of Virginia has adopted an inclusion policy of 80-100% of the day spent in a general education setting for special needs children. Arlington is significantly behind in implementing this policy. I constantly struggle to keep my son included on his IEP. Students coming out of isolated programs cannot function in a normal society or learn a vocation that interacts with the general population. Studies prove that general education students rapidly adjust to learning how to accept special needs children as peers. This benefits all students empathetic and socioemotional development. In many counties, this has also shown to save money by schools not needing to support two educational systems in the same school.
Yes. I look forward to APS’ new process to promote inclusion in our classrooms. I think there is much to be gained by having students of different abilities working together. I believe if we want this to be successful we must be willing to provide teacher training and be open to pushing support staff into the classroom instead of pulling students out of classrooms. We must also give our teachers the tools they need to administer more individualized instruction, which will benefit all students.
With Election Day less than a month away, candidates for the Arlington County Board and School Board are honing in on their final pitches to voters.
And at a forum Wednesday night at Marymount University hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, the six candidates clashed on a range of issues, from how to engage more millennials in county government to closing the achievement gap in Arlington Public Schools.
The format varied from previous forums, as each candidate was able to ask a question of their opponents before taking further questions from the audience.
Erik Gutshall and Monique O’Grady, who were victorious in the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s caucus earlier this year for County Board and School Board, respectively, both touted their experience in county issues.
Both agreed that while Arlington is largely on the right course, it can do better. Gutshall, who is the current chair of the Planning Commission, said the county must not make too many concessions to developers on proposed site plans.
“If we don’t stick to our plans and our negotiations… and we don’t stick to our values, then we’ve lost,” he said.
Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement pointed to her regular attendance at the body’s monthly meetings as relevant experience.
And fellow independent Charles McCullough II said that beyond his involvement in the South Arlington Working Group among others, he would represent a fresh face with new ideas if elected to the County Board.
“We need to have other ideas, other experiences,” he said.
On the budget, Clement criticized the Board’s practice of spending closeout funds from higher tax revenue than anticipated. She said that the money should be paid forward to the following year to relieve the tax burden, rather than directed to “pet projects to satisfy its particularized constituencies.”
McCullough argued that developers in Arlington must pay their “fair share” to help make up budget shortfalls, while Gutshall said that rising property values must not be treated as a “blank check” for increased spending.
Among the School Board candidates, there were some sharp differences. O’Grady and fellow candidate Alison Dough agreed that the Arlington Career Center represents a “good opportunity” for a fourth comprehensive high school. But Mike Webb, running for School Board after an unsuccessful tilt at Rep. Don Beyer’s (D-Va.) seat in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, disagreed.
Instead, he said, School Board members should focus on ensuring instruction is as good as possible, and that no students are left behind.
“Before we build another high school, we have to think about the achievement gap that affects all our students,” Webb said.
And on the subject of the upcoming boundary changes in Arlington Public Schools, Dough said that more immersion schools where classes are taught in more than one language could help relieve the capacity pressures on other buildings.
Dough, who said her special needs child inspired her to run for School Board, suggested more language programs, like immersion in Chinese, French or Russian to help APS students embrace new cultures.
“Let’s look at the boundary issue differently and give our parents a reason to switch schools,” she said.
And with the nationwide opioid epidemic also touching Arlington, O’Grady said parents and students alike must be educated on the risks and solutions.
“It’s in our neighborhoods, it’s in our communities,” she said. “Let’s come together to learn how to deal with this.”
All six agreed on the need for elected officials to encourage more county residents to get involved, and help uphold the so-called “Arlington Way.”
“We need to be opening that door,” Webb said. “We have to build that pathway to leadership.”
The candidates will face off in another forum Sunday (October 15) hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street).
The three candidates for Arlington County Board agreed on the need for more affordable housing at a forum Tuesday night, but offered differing methods on how to achieve it.
Speaking at a forum hosted by the Arlington County Civic Federation at Virginia Hospital Center, the traditional kick-off for the fall campaign season, Audrey Clement, Erik Gutshall and Charles McCullough all argued more can be done.
McCullough, an independent endorsed by the Arlington Green Party, said the county must expand its use of rental assistance programs, especially for the likes of teachers and public safety workers like firefighters and police officers.
Democratic nominee Gutshall argued that the county should use its existing Affordable Housing Master Plan to create what he described as “missing middle housing” like apartments and townhouses for middle-income residents near Metro stations and along major thoroughfares.
“It’s a great formula to redefine our development paradigm and creates housing for the middle class,” he said.
To help prevent continued losses of such housing, Clement said the county should designate more areas as Local Historic Districts to capture architectural heritage and be tougher on developers.
McCullough agreed that developers should be held to a higher standard and compelled to provide more affordable housing and other amenities.
“For too long, development has meant displacement,” McCullough said. “That should not be the way, but unfortunately that has become the Arlington Way.”
Talk of the so-called “Arlington Way” of engaging with residents and gathering extensive community feedback came up when the candidates discussed how to get more people involved in local issues.
Clement argued that the Democrat-dominated County Board deters participation, as does a sense that controversial agenda items are left to the end of monthly meetings.
“It is really an endurance contest and that is really what discourages public participation,” Clement said.
Another emphasis of Gutshall: helping more small businesses open and operate more easily in Arlington. That follows reports of businesses having difficulty navigating the county’s permitting and inspection bureaucracy.
Earlier in the forum, Gutshall argued that he would go beyond party politics, and that the county’s progress has been not down to Democratic values, but “Arlington values.”
Gutshall emphasized that he was not a “hand-picked choice” of his party, after Democrats’ use of a caucus to pick their nominee was criticized as undemocratic by Clement. Both independents argued they would be unencumbered by any need to play “party politics” if elected to the Board.
“I tend to believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and that’s where the voters are,” Clement said, noting that she previously was a member of the Greens but became “disillusioned” after it veered too far left.
“We need to be able to have an unencumbered voice for the issues we have right now,” McCullough added.
Also participating in Tuesday night’s forum was School Board candidate Monique O’Grady, who earned local Democrats’ endorsement at the caucus in May.
She was the lone candidate debating, after Mike Webb was barred from participating for allegedly not turning in the correct paperwork, while a third candidate, Alison Dough, was absent. Webb was in the audience and met voters before and after the forums.
In her remarks, O’Grady said she would focus on keeping standards high in academics, ensure any redrawn school boundaries respect the county’s diversity, address Arlington Public Schools’ rising capacity and ensure there are more open channels of communication.
On the latter, she said she would be open to having more conversations with teachers and students, either candidly in their schools or at School Board meetings. But O’Grady said with APS having added 1,000 new students in one year, the Board must act quickly and decisively.
“We’re short on money, we’re short on seats and we’re short on time to fix this problem,” she said.
The candidates are set to debate several more times ahead of Election Day on November 7, including on October 11 at a forum hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100 at Marymount University.
Arlington Man’s Dog Found Days After Fatal Crash — Ten days after 57-year-old Arlington resident William F. Schlesinger died in a crash on I-95 in North Carolina, his dog has been found alive. Nellie is being called a “miracle dog” after she wandered into a convenience store late at night with a broken leg and numerous bug bites. She had been riding in the pickup truck with Schlesinger when he reportedly fell asleep, veered off the highway and slammed into a tree. [Fayetteville Observer]
Local Election Fundraising Very Light — The frontrunners for Arlington County Board and School Board only have a few thousand dollars apiece in the bank as of the beginning of the month. Their opponents have even less. “It may turn out to be one of the least costly County Board general elections in recent history,” the Sun Gazette reports. [InsideNova]
State Dept. Office Staying in Arlington — The U.S. State Department is keeping its footprint in Rosslyn for another decade-and-a-half. The GSA signed a lease worth just over $200 million over 15 years for nearly 350,000 square feet of office space in central Rosslyn. The lease extends over two buildings, with one of the buildings also housing a private State Department contractor. [Washington Business Journal]
Update: W-L Expected to Reopen Next Week — Washington-Lee High School is expected to reopen for summer school classes next week after an air conditioning issue closed the school this week. W-L’s summer school classes were temporarily moved to Yorktown High School this week. [Arlington Public Schools]
‘Capital Bikeshare Fiesta’ in Nauck — “Arlington’s Dieta Cero-Auto program will be promoting Capital Bikeshare this Saturday at Drew Sprayground (3514 22nd Street S.) from 2-5 p.m. Stop by and purchase your CaBi membership for 50% off!” [Event Calendar]
Discovery Named ‘Green Ribbon School’ — “Discovery Elementary School is being recognized as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School… Discovery is one of 45 schools being honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education.” [Arlington Public Schools]