Fundraiser for Man Killed in Crash — An online fundraiser for Stevan Zikic, the 26-year-old Alexandria man killed when he collided with a school bus while riding a motorcycle in Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood, has raised nearly $35,000 for “overseas transportation and funeral costs.” [GoFundMe]
County Board Approved Pike Plan — “The County Board voted 5 to 0 to approve zoning updates that will help realize the vision of Columbia Pike as a walkable ‘Main Street’ by providing greater flexibility for commercial, office, light industrial, and agricultural uses–including animal boarding and craft beverage production — on ground floors along the Pike.” [Arlington County]
Public Art Plan OKed — “The Arlington County Board voted 5 to 0 today” — despite some last-minute opposition — “to approve an update to the Public Art Master Plan (PAMP) that will better serve placemaking efforts and improve the quality of public spaces around the County. The update, which is part of the County’s overall Comprehensive Plan, details the vision and guiding principles of public art in Arlington and sets priorities and themes centered around goals to integrate, expand, connect and engage through public art installations around the County.” [Arlington County]
Unhoused Taking Up Residence Under Bridge — “Eight months after the W&OD bicycle-pedestrian bridge opened at the Arlington-Falls Church border, members of our homeless population have gravitated there… I’m told by Kurt Larrick, assistant director of the Human Services Department. ‘Our outreach teams,’ which include PathForward volunteers, ‘are making regular visits.’ On Oct. 15, they spoke to two men sleeping at the base of a footing for the bridge. They didn’t seem interested in services now but agreed to discuss the possibility when reminded of the location’s vulnerabilities.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Beyer ‘Falling Short’ in Fundraising — “Let’s say you’re independently wealthy, well-regarded by most constituents (even from the opposition party) and occupy a district so reliably Democratic that the only way an incumbent could possibly lose the seat is via a scandal… What would you be doing? If you were U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th), you’d still be asking supporters to send you money.” [Sun Gazette]
Two Men Beaten in Crystal City Area — “Victim One was inside the business in line at the register behind the suspect, when the suspect allegedly turned around, struck him in the face, exited the business and verbally threatened him from outside. A short while later, Victim Two attempted to enter the business when the suspect, who was still standing outside, allegedly struck the victim in the back of the head with a blunt object before fleeing the scene on foot. Arriving officers located Victim Two outside of the business with a large laceration on the back of his head and administered aid until medics arrived on scene.” [ACPD]
Here Comes the Flu — From Virginia Hospital Center ER chief Mike Silverman’s latest social media post: “Our COVID isolation numbers in the ED have been pretty stable over the last 3 weeks. We’re better than a month ago but we continue to have a steady number of patients who require our COVID isolation protocol. Hospital wide, our inpatient census is up a touch from last week and our overall percent positive rate for the hospital is also up a bit. We are starting to see just a sprinkling of flu cases over the last month. It’s not too late to get your flu shot.” [Facebook]
It’s Monday — Today will be breezy and mostly sunny, with a high near 51. West wind 9 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph. Sunrise at 6:51 a.m. and sunset at 4:54 p.m. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny, with a high near 53.
Jan. 6 First Responders Recognized — “The Arlington County Board today gave special honors and recognition to members of Arlington County Police Department, Fire Department and Sheriff’s Office for their efforts to respond to the Capitol riot on January 6. Approximately 60 personnel were honored during the event today at the County Board Recessed meeting.” [Arlington County]
Fmr. APS Students Staying in Private School — “Ten-year-old Jonah Kaufman of Arlington is proud of his 4th grade report card from the private school he attends in northern Virginia… it was a far different story in 2020 when Jonah and his 8-year-old brother, Noah, were in a public school, trying to learn from home during COVID-19. ‘They weren’t learning,’ Jena Kotler, the boy’s mother says. ‘They were sad, they felt isolated. It was just crazy.'” [WJLA]
Man Pulls BB Gun on Beer Thief — “At approximately 11:32 p.m. on July 19, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery by force… the male victim was walking in the area when the suspect approached and engaged him in conversation. When the victim walked away, the suspect began chasing after him. The victim fell to the ground and the suspect demanded the beer he was carrying. After the suspect took the beer, the victim retrieved a BB gun from his vehicle and confronted the suspect.” [ACPD]
Sluggish Fundraising in County Board Race — “The four candidates for County Board had a total of less than $14,000 on hand at the end of June, according to new figures from the Virginia Department of Elections. That’s not an average of $14,000 per candidate. It’s $14,000 for all candidates. Takis Karantonis, the incumbent board member… reported $5,301 on hand as of June 30, according to filings made public July 15. Audrey Clement, a frequent candidate for political office, reported $3,286.” [Sun Gazette]
New Capital Improvement Plan Approved — “The Arlington County Board has approved a $1.25 billion three-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) that focuses on meeting Arlington’s existing commitments, addressing critical infrastructure maintenance, and beginning investments in long-term plans and programs that will ensure sustainability over the years to come.” [Arlington County]
Air Quality Alert Today — “A Code Orange Air Quality Alert means that air pollution concentrations within the region may become unhealthy for sensitive groups. Sensitive groups include children, people suffering from asthma, heart disease or other lung diseases and the elderly. The effects of air pollution can be minimized by avoiding strenuous activity or exercise outdoors.” [National Weather Service, Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]
The race for the 45th District House of Delegates seat is a weird one.
Delegate Mark Levine announced in December that he would be running for Lieutenant Governor. A month later, Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker announced that she would be running for Levine’s delegate seat. The wrinkle in all of this, however, is that Levine is also running for reelection in the 45th district as a precaution in case he doesn’t win the fairly crowded Lieutenant Governor primary.
He’s not alone in this — running for two seats is legal in Virginia — but it leaves the 45th district in an awkward Schrödinger’s cat-type race where Bennett-Parker is simultaneously running and not running against Levine.
“It’s a weird situation,” Levine admitted. “I never expected this to happen. [But] it’s legal under Virginia law. I think I’ve been a good delegate and the people should re-elect me. If I win both, I’ll resign from the 45th district and there will be a special election.”
(The 45th District itself is a bit odd, encompassing some of the residential neighborhoods around Pentagon City to the north; Shirlington and Fairlington to the west; Del Ray, Potomac Yard and Old Town Alexandria in the center; and a narrow corner of Fairfax County to the south.)
Levine, a former radio talk show host, was elected in 2015 and campaigned for stricter gun control regulations and expanding healthcare access, among other progressive goals. Levine, like many Democrats in the state legislature, has found it easier to make good on those campaign promises after Democrats took the majority in 2019.
“This year, the predominant gun regulations have been my bills and in all state-owned buildings and offices and polling places,” Levine said. “Introduced 47 bills and passed half of them… and it wasn’t my bill on marijuana legalization that passed, but I led the way.”
Bennett-Parker, co-director of the nonprofit Together We Bake, was elected to the Alexandria City Council in 2019 and said her experience working in local government would bring a unique perspective to the state legislature.
“First, having served as Vice Mayor, I understand the nuance of the role that local government plays in people’s lives and how the state is often an impediment to localities in serving their residents,” Bennett-Parker said. “Currently there are only 18 Delegates out of 100 who have served in city or county government and none of them are from Northern Virginia. Obviously, we face different issues than other parts of the Commonwealth. I hear from constituents all the time who want the City Council to do things that we can’t do because we don’t have the authority.”
Bennett-Parker also noted that she would be the minority in a government body that is still 70% male.
“Women have for too long been held back by governmental policies and programs designed by men,” Bennett-Parker said.
Bennett-Parker’s nonprofit, Together We Bake, is an Alexandria-based workforce training program that helps women exiting the criminal justice system, experiencing homelessness, recovering from abuse or addiction, or facing unemployment.
Bennett-Parker has been reluctant to criticize Levine openly, saying instead that she aims to focus on campaign goals.
“When I decided to run, this race looked like it would be an open seat, as Delegate Levine had announced he was running for Lieutenant Governor,” Bennett-Parker said. “I am focused solely on this district and serving its residents. I have delivered results for the 45th district as Vice Mayor and on regional bodies, and I will keep doing so in Richmond.”
(Levine’s campaign says he announced he was running for re-election at the same time as his lieutenant governor announcement.)
Levine, in contrast, has no qualms about saying that he doesn’t think Bennett-Parker is the right candidate to replace him as the 45th District delegate.
“No, I don’t think so,” Levine said when asked if he thought Bennett-Parker would make a good replacement.
Levine said that part of his role as delegate has been taking an active role in community meetings and discussions, something he says he hasn’t seen from Bennett-Parker.
“I absolutely have not neglected my community,” Levine said. “We had a shooting in Old Town on Monday night. I was at a community meeting with Police Chief Michael Brown. [Bennett-Parker] wasn’t there. It was a room full of concerned constituents and she wasn’t there… I was out at a COVID memorial. I was there. [Mayor Justin] Wilson was there. [City Council member Mo] Seifeldein and [City Council member Canek] Aguirre were there. You know who wasn’t there? Elizabeth Bennet-Parker. I’m more active in the community every day and I don’t see her.”
Some of Levine’s peers have disagreed with his assessment, however, with Bennett-Parker winning endorsements from state Senator Adam Ebbin and former delegates Marian Van Landingham and Rob Krupicka, among others. She was most recently endorsed by Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti, according to an announcement this morning.
While much of Levine’s campaign finance has been focused on the statewide race, in the 45th District Bennett-Parker has raised twice as much as Levine’s campaign for delegate.
According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Bennett-Parker has raised $106,434 to Levine’s $45,573 — though Levine has raised $705,284 in the lieutenant governor race. Bennett-Parker’s top donors include attorney and Democratic financier Sonjia Smith, Levine’s 2015 opponent Julie Jakopic, and Alexandria School Board member Veronica Nolan.
In the delegate race, Levine’s top donors include the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association and the Northern Virginia Labor Federation.
For both Levine and Bennett-Parker, expanding healthcare and combatting the effects of climate change are two of the major priorities ahead for the state legislature.
“In terms of fights ahead: healthcare is the big one,” Levine said. “We need affordable healthcare. I think healthcare needs to be more transparent and we need to make sure people aren’t being bankrupted by healthcare costs.”
Bennett-Parker said the state should take the momentum from expanding Medicaid and keep moving forward.
“Expanding access to affordable health care,” Bennett-Parker said, when asked about her top priorities. “Expanding Medicaid was an important step in the right direction, but we need to do more to make healthcare, including mental healthcare, more accessible and affordable for all Virginians. We also need to find a way to lower prescription drug prices, especially for seniors.”
County Board Approves Several Projects — “The Arlington County Board took action at its April meeting on a number of projects designed to invest in community development and improve infrastructure throughout the County. ‘The Board’s actions today invest in Arlington’s future through a flexible space for the arts, additional flexibility to allow for additional affordable housing, four neighborhood conservation projects, and infrastructure that improves our core utilities and provides essential services for our residents,’ County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said.” [Arlington County]
Local Group’s Statement on Chauvin Verdict — Black Parents of Arlington issued a statement last night about the verdict in George Floyd’s murder: “This ‘justice’ system, while today handed down a verdict that provides accountability, cannot, and will not, ever restore justice. Justice is when a Black photographer can visit a client without being harassed by both neighbors and law enforcement. Justice is when a pregnant Black woman can deliver her baby with dignity, and not in the captivity of an Arlington County jail.” [Press Release]
More Students Taken Off In-Person Waitlists — “In response to the CDC’s 3-foot distancing update, schools have continued to accommodate more students in person, and nearly half of all APS schools have cleared their waitlists. So far in April, nearly 1,000 students have been added for in-person instruction, and we are working through the remaining students as capacity allows. Additionally, more classes at the elementary level have now transitioned into one classroom, versus the previous split classes.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Candidates Want More APS Transparency — “The two candidates for the Democratic endorsement for School Board say there’s one tangible thing the county school system can do immediately in an effort to address seemingly intractable achievement disparities. Let the sunshine in. The way to address achievement gaps ‘is to know that they’re there – bring them out into the light.'” [Sun Gazette]
Fundraising Advantage for Incumbents — “Two Arlington legislators facing intra-party challenges from their left are maintaining healthy cash-on-hand totals headed toward June 8 primary showdowns. Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) ended the first quarter with $120,853 in his campaign account, while challenger Matt Rogers had $13,180, according to filings with the Virginia Department of Elections… In the 49th District, Del. Alfonso Lopez ended the quarter with $131,117 on hand compared to $30,990 for educator Karishma Mehta.” [Sun Gazette]
County Board Recognizes ‘Notable’ Trees — “Arlington has more than 750,400 trees of at least 122 species that provide $1 million in environmental benefits to the County annually in the form of pollution removal, carbon storage, energy savings, and avoided stormwater runoff, and are valued at $1.41 billion total. On Tuesday, April 20, 32 of these trees will be designated as Notable Trees by the Arlington County Board.” [Arlington County]
Local Park Volunteers Honored — “The Arlington County Board will recognize two winners of the Bill Thomas Park Volunteer Award at its Board meeting on Tuesday, April 20. Elaine Mills and Glenn Tobin will be recognized for their dedication and support of Arlington County natural resources and public open spaces. Mills is the winner for 2019 and Tobin is the winner for 2020.” [Arlington County]
A thousand signs encouraging voters to “Dump Trump” may pop up around Arlington, if local Democrats are able to raise enough money to fund the rest of the printing run.
The Arlington County Democratic Committee says a donor has already contributed $1,000 for the yard signs, but it is seeking another $2,000. It made the fundraising pitch online Monday, to coincide with the Presidents Day holiday.
The signs will be distributed free of charge to anyone who requests one, the party said.
More from Arlington Democrats:
For Presidents Day we remember the lives and achievements of our past presidents. Leaders who embodied honor and dignity and who worked in pursuit of our shared American values of freedom, opportunity, and equality. But we know President Trump couldn’t care less about these values. He’s shown nothing but contempt for the principles we hold dear, and his tenure has been marked by corruption, incompetence, greed, and willful ignorance.
So in honor of Presidents Day, we’re poised to order hundreds of these “Dump Trump” yard signs to show our Democratic spirit all around town and remind people to vote and volunteer!
Had enough? Us, too. Help us paint Arlington blue by chipping in to print 1,000 #DumpTrump2020 yard signs! Make your gift at https://t.co/JWdhueWtjZ. pic.twitter.com/KyOfSaPiV2
— Arlington Democrats (@arlingtondems) February 17, 2020
Last week President Trump visited his campaign office in Rosslyn to celebrate a big fundraising haul and to thank campaign staff.
Dorsey Hasn’t Returned Union Donation — Arlington County Board and WMATA board member Christian Dorsey, “who promised three months ago to repay a $10,000 campaign donation that violated the board’s ethics policy, has not yet refunded the money and is likely to be replaced as Virginia’s representative on the regional board. Dorsey said Wednesday that he is working on a wire transfer to return the money to a transit union that routinely negotiates with Metro.” [Washington Post]
Beyer Slams Impeachment Trial — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) issued the following statement… ‘Today Senate Republicans ended their impeachment show trial. It will go down as one of the most craven events in American history.'” [Press Release]
County Board Race Fundraising Update — “The two Democrats vying for Arlington County Board entered 2020 with roughly the same amount of cash on hand, according to figures from the Virginia Department of Elections. Incumbent Libby Garvey had $16,823 in her campaign kitty as of Dec. 31, while challenger Chanda Choun had $16,155, according to data reported after the Jan. 15 filing deadline.” [InsideNova]
West Glebe Road Bridge Open House — “The deteriorating West Glebe Road Bridge, on the Arlington border near I-395, will be the topic of an open house next week. The bridge is currently closed to large vehicles weighing more than 5 tons due to structural deficiencies. It’s set for a major rehabilitation project, likely starting later this year.” [ALXnow]
Forum to Discuss Repealing Second Amendment — “Encore Learning will present a forum on ‘Repeal the Second Amendment: The Case for a Safer America’ on Monday, Feb. 10 at 3 p.m. at Central Library. The speaker, American University professor Allan Lichtman, will discuss his perspectives on gun safety and will argue for national legislation and the potential revision of the U.S. Constitution.” [InsideNova]
Dirt Closes Restaurants in Miami, Too — “On Thursday at 11 p.m., employees were told via a text message from DIRT Regional Director of Operations Aaron Licardo that both the Sunset Harbour and Brickell locations were closing for good. The two Miami spots closed on the heels of the Virginia location shuttering; that restaurant, located in Ballston, lasted less than a year. The message employees received claimed the company ‘found no other way to keep these locations open.'” [Miami Herald]
Another School Boundary Process Coming — “It might go well, or it might be the civic-engagement equivalent of a bloodbath. But either way, Arlington school leaders are about to embark on a new round of rejiggering elementary-school boundaries.” [InsideNova]
Fire Station 8 Contract Approved — “The Arlington County Board today approved a $16.1 million construction contract and a concept design for a new, energy-efficient, four-bay station to replace the obsolete Fire Station No. 8 at 4845 Lee Highway. The new fire station will better serve the community while honoring Fire Station No. 8’s long history.” [Arlington County]
Local Man Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violations — “An Arlington political consultant who served as the treasurer of multiple Political Action Committees (PACs) pleaded guilty today to lying to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) about approximately $32,500 in payments of PAC money that he directed to himself and a close friend.” [Press Release]
Run With a Running Legend Friday — Updated at 2:45 p.m. — “Kathrine Switzer, who in 1967 became the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon – wearing bib number 261 – and is the founder of the global non-profit 261 Fearless, will be in Arlington this Friday to run with the 261 Fearless Club DC Metro/VA. The short, easy run will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington. It is free and open to the public; all are invited.” [Press Release]
ACPD Celebrates Accreditation — “The Arlington County Police Department has received its Initial Accreditation from the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission (VLEPSC). The announcement comes following an intensive on-site assessment, which took place in April 2019.” [Arlington County]
Notable Local Candidate Endorsements — The website Greater Greater Washington has endorsed a number of Arlington candidates, including Del. Alfonso Lopez for the 49th House of Delegates district, Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol for County Board, and Parisa Dehghani-Tafti for Commonwealth’s Attorney. Additionally, Cristol has endorsed Dehghani-Tafti. [Greater Greater Washington, Twitter]
Photos by Verónica Colón/Twitter, Sandra P., Bill Colton, Arlington County Fire Department/Twitter, and Susan C.
Arlington’s one-time Congressional candidate Gwendolyn Beck reportedly flew on notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s private jets, and was photographed partying with him and Prince Andrew.
Two British newspapers reported on the revelations last week, focusing on the prince’s association but also mentioning Beck. The 2014 independent candidate for Virginia’s 8th Congressional district told ARLnow today that her name is being “dragged into this” despite not doing anything wrong.
The Guardian reported last week that new flight logs indicate that Andrew flew on Epstein’s private jet with Beck in 1999, around the time Beck has said she managed about $65 million of the billionaire’s investment funds for Morgan Stanley. Beck flew with Epstein on his jet multiple times in the late nineties, logs show, including with former Treasury secretary and Harvard president Larry Summers.
Women have accused Epstein of using his Boeing 727 — nicknamed the “Lolita Express” — to traffic underage girls in New York, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Investigators recently subpoenaed his personal pilots to in connection to the accusations.
Logs have shown passengers over the years included world leaders like President Trump and Bill Clinton, but have not indicated passengers took part in the crimes with which Epstein was charged. Epstein died in a Manhattan jail cell last month; his death was ruled a suicide.
Beck was also captured in a photo from 2000 shared by the Daily Mirror, which was taken at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida; it shows Beck smiling standing in a circle with Epstein, Andrew, and now-First Lady Melania Trump (then Melania Knauss).
Beck reiterated the prince’s public denials of wrongdoing in Epstein’s company.
“Prince Andrew has a delightful personality and is a total gentleman,” she told ARLnow in a brief phone interview Tuesday morning. “I firmly agree with the statements he has made publicly.”
Beck was listed in Epstein’s “black book” under a “Massage — Florida” heading, as reported by The Smoking Gun in 2015. The book also contained the contact information for wealthy businessmen and underage victims who said they were forced to provide naked massages for Epstein and his friends.
Beck told the Smoking Gun at the time that she had received “a couple of massages” at Epstein’s home from a masseuse, but had never given any herself or spotted underage girls.
“I’m just sorry that I got dragged into all this,” Beck told ARLnow today of her association with Epstein, adding that she was “at a lack of words.”
In addition to being a VIP at his home and on his private jet, Beck was also the first candidate to accept political contributions from Epstein — as reported by ARLnow in 2015 — after he was forced to register as a sex offender in 2008 for soliciting sex from a minor.
Epstein donated a total of $12,600 to help Beck’s 2014 campaign. The money made up about half of her eventual warchest against incumbent Rep. Don Beyer who won the November general election that year with 63% of the vote compared to Beck’s 2.7% of the vote.
“I thought that Jeffrey was healed, I don’t know,” Beck told ARLnow today.
The League of Women Voters of Arlington decided to take a stand against gerrymandering with an upcoming public event, an Un-Birthday Party for Elbridge Gerry.
The event is taking place tomorrow (Wednesday, July 17) at Ireland’s Four Courts in Courthouse from 6:30-8:30 p.m. There will be trivia, tips on political activism, free food and games. Tickets can be purchased for $10 on Eventbrite.
With Gerry’s birthday coming up on July 17, the League of Women Voters decided to remember his legacy and role in history.
Elbridge Gerry established a reputation as “the father of gerrymandering” in 1810, during his time as governor of Massachusetts. He was notorious for dividing electoral districts for political gain and power.
The United State Supreme Court ruled last month, that although gerrymandering seems unjust, it isn’t the place of federal judges to intervene. The ruling means gerrymandering decisions will be left up to individual states and Congress.
The League of Women Voters disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision — and opposes partisan and racial gerrymandering in general — and plan to speak out on the issue at the event.
Jackie Rivas, a member of the Arlington League and coordinator for the upcoming event, said she wants people to understand that everyone is affected by gerrymandering. She said that she hopes this event sends a message to local politicians that the public is paying attention and cares about the issue.
Rivas told ARLnow that the League has invited local politicians to attend and hear elevator pitches about potential legislative changes from members at the event.
Image via Arlington League of Women Voters/Eventbrite
Busy Weekend for Fire Department — The Arlington County Fire Department helped to rescue a person trapped in an overturned SUV on northbound I-395 at Glebe Road Saturday evening and battled an attic fire in the Arlington Forest neighborhood early Sunday morning. [Twitter, Twitter]
Arlington’s Top Bond Rating Reaffirmed — “For the 19th year in a row, all three credit ratings agencies have reaffirmed Arlington County’s debt ratings of Aaa/AAA/AAA — the highest rating. Arlington is one of just 48 counties in the United States, and nine in Virginia, to receive the highest rating from all three credit agencies for its bonds.” [Arlington County, Fitch Ratings]
Amazon Makes Va. Political Contributions — “Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), with leases for its second headquarters in Arlington signed and hiring underway, is ramping up its political contributions in Virginia, weeks ahead of a key state primary.” [Washington Business Journal]
GGW Endorses Challenger in Prosecutor Race — “The two-term incumbent, Theo Stamos, is being challenged by a political newcomer, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti. Greater Greater Washington’s volunteer Elections Committee considered the positions of these two qualified candidates, and we endorse Dehghani-Tafti.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Food Truck Nights in Ballston — “Local food trucks will be parked in front of Randolph Towers on the first Wednesday of the month from June to August. On June 5th, stop by for a taste of Maine from Red Hook Lobster Pound and comfort food favorites by Dogs on the Curb!” [Ballston BID]
One of the country’s leading progressive activists and researchers is launching a new fundraising push for primary challengers to two Arlington lawmakers.
Sean McElwee, a co-founder of Data for Progress, announced yesterday (Wednesday) that his organization would be launching “The Progressive Virginia Project,” an effort to raise cash for four candidates in Virginia’s statehouse races this fall. Among the group set to benefit from the fundraising is Nicole Merlene, who is challenging state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) and J.D. Spain, who is looking to unseat Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District).
In a tweet describing the new program, McElwee wrote that his group is seeking to elect “progressives who are fighting for a Virginia where Dominion Energy doesn’t set the agenda.”
The utility company’s influence in Richmond has become an increasingly controversial issue for the state’s Democrats in recent years, with many (Lopez included) swearing off contributions from Dominion. The General Assembly helps regulate the company, convincing many lawmakers and activists that it’s inappropriate to then rely on Dominion’s largesse when election season rolls around.
Any money taken in by the program will be divvied up among Merlene, Spain and two other candidates: Del. Lee Carter (D-50th District), the legislature’s lone Democratic socialist and a fierce Amazon opponent, and Yasmine Taeb, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35th District).
McElwee was previously a leading voice in supporting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s insurgent progressive candidacy in New York, and launched a similar initiative during the 2018 midterms to elect several other candidates in statehouse races across the country. In all, his group was able to raise more than $448,000 to support races in eight states.
Data for Progress wrote on the new fundraising page that it picked the four candidates not only for their opposition to Dominion, but their support for a “Green New Deal, universal healthcare and racial justice” in Virginia.
Our next candidate is @jdspainfordel49, the President of Arlington's NAACP. He's facing Alfonso Lopez, a delegate that profits from ICE detention centers. Support JD here: https://t.co/RWdFF0QkPZ
— the supreme court will destroy everything we want (@SeanMcElwee) March 6, 2019
Merlene, who up until recently held leadership positions with the Arlington County Civic Federation and the county’s Economic Development Commission, has framed her run against Favola as a chance for a new generation to take the reins in Richmond.
In addition to criticizing Favola’s acceptance of Dominion cash — she’s taken $9,500 from Dominion over the last eight years — Merlene has blasted her work as a lobbyist while also serving as a senator. Favola runs a lobbying and consulting firm representing influential local institutions like Virginia Hospital Center and Marymount University.
Spain has also sworn off corporate cash in his challenge to Lopez, but that doesn’t provide quite the same contrast between the candidates. Lopez has refused money from both Dominion and Amazon (though he has taken Dominion money in past years), and draws most of his campaign cash from progressive groups.
Spain, currently the president of Arlington’s NAACP, has focused his campaign thus far on providing fresh representation in Richmond, and beefing up support for affordable housing and schools in the South Arlington district. He has not, however, attacked Lopez over his much-discussed consulting work for an ICE contractor, which McElwee highlighted in his support for Spain. The activist has made calls to “Abolish ICE” a central part of his work, prompting a broader debate within the Democratic party about the agency’s role.
It remains to be seen, however, just how much traction either candidate has gained in their primary challenges thus far — statehouse candidates won’t report how much cash they’ve raised again until April 15. A June 11 primary will decide the intraparty contests.
Photo of Merlene, left, via Facebook