Arlington, VA

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.

https://twitter.com/SeanMcElwee/status/1103313125246414848

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.

https://twitter.com/SeanMcElwee/status/1103315361582276608

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

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Opponents of the Arlington School Board’s decision to change the name of Washington-Lee High School have now poured thousands of dollars into Audrey Clement’s independent bid to unseat incumbent Board member Barbara Kanninen, providing the perennial candidate with her largest fundraising haul across any of her eight bids for local office.

Clement managed to raise just over $13,300 over the month of October alone, according to campaign finance documents, far outpacing Kanninen’s $4,200 raised over the same time period. Of that amount, nearly $10,200 came from two outspoken opponents of the Board’s vote in June to strip Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s name from the school.

Most of the rest of her fundraising haul for the month — just over $1,700 — came courtesy of Clement herself. She’s provided the bulk of the cash to support her second bid for the School Board, chipping in about $11,300 of the $28,200 she’s raised since January.

But the late monetary support has provided Clement, a member of the county’s Transportation Commission and a programmer for a Reston-based software company, with the most cash to power any of her long-shot campaigns since she first started running for various county offices in 2011. She’s never garnered more than 33 percent of the vote in any of her various races, often losing to county Democrats — Kanninen has the local party’s backing in the nominally nonpartisan School Board race, just as she did when first won office in 2014.

The contributions appear to be headed Clement’s way because she’s made preserving W-L’s name a prime focus of her campaign. She’s accused the Board of pushing through the name change while ignoring more substantive issues within the school system, targeting Kanninen for criticism specifically. Kanninen served as chair of the Board last year, a post that rotates among the five members, when the Board ultimately voted to change the school system’s policies for school names, then kicked off a renaming process for W-L, specifically.

While the Board has consistently acted unanimously when it comes to the renaming decisions, opponents of the change have zeroed in on Kanninen in recent weeks, calling her the prime architect of the initiative. Ed and John Hummer, a pair of W-L basketball stars in the mid-1960s, even purchased a full-page ad in the Sun-Gazette this week to promote Clement’s candidacy and blast Kanninen as “the person responsible for the whole ill-conceived name change project.”

John Hummer, who attended Princeton and became a first-round draft pick in the National Basketball Association after graduating W-L, provided Clement with nearly $5,200 in cash over the course of the last month. Donald Morey, another name-change opponent and frequent author of critical letters to the editor on the subject, added another $5,000.

Clement seems to have spent that cash just as quickly as she pulled it in — finance reports show that she spent nearly $13,000 last month, with the bulk of that paying for ads in the Washington Post and the Sun-Gazette.

She only reported having about $1,600 in the bank for the campaign’s closing days, compared to Kanninen’s war chest of nearly $19,200.

Flickr pool photo via wolfkann

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Independent County Board member John Vihstadt managed to pull in more cash contributions than Democratic challenger Matt de Ferranti over the final month of the race, but de Ferranti has kept his campaign afloat financially thanks to hefty loans from both himself and his mother.

Vihstadt, the first non-Democrat to win a seat on the Board since 1999, raised about $27,400 from Oct. 1 through Oct. 25, according to campaign finance documents released yesterday (Monday). De Ferranti pulled in about $21,100 over the same time period, after quite narrowly out-raising Vihstadt over the course of September.

But, in total, the Democrat reported raising about $66,100 over the course of the last month, thanks to $45,000 in loans. De Ferranti himself supplied $25,000, while his mother, Margot, lent the campaign $20,000. In the run-up to his primary win over Chanda Choun, de Ferranti and his mother both loaned the campaign $4,000 as well.

De Ferranti also donated $3,500 directly to his campaign, though that was far from his largest contribution for the fundraising period. The Leaders in Education Fund, the political giving arm of the advocacy group Leadership for Educational Equity, cut de Ferranti another $10,000 check after previously doing so last month.

None of Vihstadt’s contributions were more than $1,000 each. However, Steve Harris, the owner of the Arlington-based Mr. Wash Car Wash chain, did chip in a total of $2,000 to the campaign over the course of October, the documents show.

The incumbent, who’s seeking his second full term on the Board after winning a special election and then the general against Alan Howze in 2014, also bested de Ferranti when it came to small-dollar donations. Vihstadt notched 72 contributions of $100 or less, for a total of¬†$4,425, while de Ferranti managed 55 for a total of¬†$2,943.

The Democrat has also managed to spend down the bulk of his campaign account, shelling out nearly $124,500 in the last month alone. He now has about $10,850 left for the campaign’s remaining days.

Vihstadt’s spending was also in the six figures for the final month — he reported about $111,650 in expenses — but his larger campaign war chest means he still has about $58,300 left in the bank.

The independent incumbent has now marshaled just over $212,598 to support his re-election bid. De Ferranti’s total is slightly behind that at around $203,100, but that includes the $53,000 in loans he and his mother have provided to the campaign. Records do not show any loans made to Vihstadt’s campaign.

Voters will decide the lone County Board race on the ballot next Tuesday (Nov. 6).

Photo via Facebook

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Democratic County Board hopeful Matt de Ferranti raised slightly more campaign cash last month than independent John Vihstadt, the second straight fundraising period that the challenger has pulled in more contributions than the incumbent.

Even still, Vihstadt has persistently maintained a larger campaign war chest to draw on over the course of the race for the lone Board seat on the ballot this fall, with a roughly $73,300 advantage in cash on hand over de Ferranti through Sept. 30, according to campaign finance reports released Monday (Oct. 15).

De Ferranti, who is running to restore the Board to unified Democratic control after Vihstadt won a pair of upset victories back in 2014, managed to raise nearly $30,600 over the month of September, slightly less than the $39,600 he pulled in over the course of July and August. The independent wasn’t far behind, recording nearly $30,200 in contributions last month.

The bulk of the Democrat’s haul came courtesy of a $10,000 check from the Leaders in Education Fund, the political giving arm of the advocacy group Leadership for Educational Equity. The organization works to “end the injustice of educational inequity,” according to its website. Its board members and donors include former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and his daughter, Emma, and members of the Walton family, of Wal-Mart fame.

Vihstadt’s donations tended to come in the form of slightly smaller checks, with six contributions of $1,000 tied for his largest campaign checks. The independent pulled in a total of 77 contributions under $100, for a total of $5,211, while de Ferranti managed 62 small-dollar donations for a total of $4,228.

The incumbent’s real advantage is in his campaign war chest, where his more than $142,500 in the bank dwarfs the Democrat’s $69,200 in cash on hand. Yet de Ferranti will also benefit from the deep pockets of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, which reported having more than $104,000 in its coffers as of Sept. 30.

Vihstadt has now raised nearly $169,200 to support his re-election bid since January, compared to the nearly $137,000 the Democrat has managed over the same time period. The independent also out-raised Democrat Alan Howze when the pair squared off in back-to-back special and general elections in 2014, when Vihstadt became the first non-Democrat to sit on the Board since 1999.

In the county’s lone other race for local office, School Board member Barbara Kanninen reported raising a little over $2,000 last month, with about $17,000 in the bank. As the candidate running with the Democratic endorsement in the nominally nonpartisan race, she’s viewed as the heavy favorite over independent Audrey Clement, a perennial candidate for local office.

Clement reported receiving $3,700 in contributions last month, all but $100 of which came from Clement herself. She now has roughly $1,200 left in the bank.

Candidates will report on their finances again on Oct. 29, their last reports to be filed before the Nov. 6 election.

Photo via YouTube

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Democrat Matt de Ferranti managed to raise more cash over the last two months than independent incumbent John Vihstadt, who he’s challenging for the lone County Board seat on the ballot this fall.

But Vihstadt still has a substantially larger campaign war chest to draw upon, as the race rounds into the home stretch ahead of Nov. 6.

From July 1 through Aug. 31, de Ferranti raised just over $39,900, according to campaign finance documents released today (Wednesday). Vihstadt pulled in about $26,900 over the same time period.

The independent’s largest donation was a $5,000 check from a political action committee representing Arlington’s firefighters’ union, which endorsed Vihstadt in late July. De Ferranti’s biggest contribution was a donation of the same amount from Mark Johnson, a co-founder of the D.C. investment firm Astra Capital Management.

Yet the incumbent, the lone non-Democrat to sit on the Board since 1999, has spent considerably less than de Ferranti, leaving him with a roughly $70,000 advantage in cash on hand. As of Aug. 31, Vihstadt reported having nearly $123,800 in the bank, to the Democrat’s roughly $53,400, and shelled out just under $3,000 compared to de Ferranti’s $19,500 in expenses.

De Ferranti faces a formidable opponent in Vihstadt, who managed to win a pair of sweeping victories over Alan Howze in 2014, but he’s benefitted from the fundraising support of prominent state Democrats like former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring. He’s also set to welcome Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax for a fundraiser later this month.

Even still, Vihstadt looks on pace to out-raise de Ferranti, just as he did Howze — de Ferranti has raised roughly $106,100 since launching his campaign in January, compared to Vihstadt’s nearly $139,000 over the same time period.

However, de Ferranti does stand to benefit from the support of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, which is looking to return the Board to unified Democratic control. The party has only reported contributions through June 30, when it recorded having just over $101,800 in the bank.

Candidates will next deliver more details on their finances on Oct. 15.

Flickr pool photo via wolfkann

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Morning Notes

Hurricane Prompts Influx of Shelter Dogs from N.C. — “Dogs, cats and kittens were all transported from shelters ahead of the now Category 2 Hurricane Florence. They arrived… in Arlington Wednesday. Six dogs and two cats arrived from Hertford County, NC. Two dogs were adopted on-site. A total of 38 dogs and seven cats arrived from Florence County, SC. In total, 53 animals are now safe and sound in the D.C. area.” [WUSA 9]

PAC Raising Money for Female Candidates — Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol is among those expected to attend a “kick-off fundraiser” tonight for Brass Ovaries PAC, which raises money for first-time, female candidates for public office. [Tysons Reporter]

How to Pronounce ARLnow — FYI: the name of this site is pronounced “A-R-L now,” not “Ahrrrl now.” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Jeff Sonderman

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Sebastian Gorka, a former aide to President Trump fired amidst mounting criticism of his anti-Muslim views, is coming to Arlington to raise money for local Republicans.

The Arlington Republican Women’s Club announced this weekend that Gorka will be a featured guest at its Sept. 23 fundraiser, to be held at the Army-Navy Country Club. Tickets run anywhere from $25 to $250 for the evening.

Long a fixture on Fox News and other right-wing news outlets, Gorka joined the Trump administration shortly after doing consulting work for the campaign on foreign policy matters. Yet he frequently courted controversy during his time in the White House, particularly after reporters discovered his ties to far-right, anti-Semitic groups in Hungary, and he was dismissed from his post last August.

Carole DeLong, the president of the Republican Women’s Club, told ARLnow that she expects Gorka “will speak to us about his time in the White House, and the interesting subjects of his books.” Gorka’s published works include “Why We Fight: Defeating America’s Enemies — With No Apologies” and “Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War.”

DeLong added that she recently met Gorka at an event they both attended, and quickly convinced him to come speak in Arlington.

“He is a very nice and unique person,” DeLong said. “We are all so happy that he agreed.”

Arlington Democrats are considerably less enthused about Gorka’s imminent arrival in the county.

County Democratic Committee Chair Jill Caiazzo dubbed Gorka a “far-right ideologue” in a statement, highlighting his vocal defense of Trump’s travel ban targeting majority Muslim countries, in particular. She noted that her committee happens to holding its own potluck on the same day, headlined by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District), which she sees as a clear contrast between the two parties.

“Like the races on the ballot in November, it’s not a hard choice for Arlington voters who seek to reject the extreme Trump-GOP agenda, including the discriminatory travel bans championed by Dr. Gorka,” Caiazzo said. “We look forward to seeing those voters at the potluck and the polls.”

Despite Caiazzo’s criticisms, DeLong said she had no compunctions about working with Gorka, calling him “delightful to work with.”

Gorka has made headlines in Arlington once before, prompting a brief Twitter outcry when someone spotted his distinctive Ford Mustang with the vanity plate “ART WAR” parked on a sidewalk near Rosslyn’s Gateway Park.

Photo via @SebGorka

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Morning Notes

Crash Closes WB Lee Highway — All lanes of westbound Lee Highway were closed at Spout Run for part of the morning after a crash. [Twitter, Twitter]

Flyover Planned Today — A flyover of Arlington National Cemetery, in support of a funeral, is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. today. [Twitter]

More Buses for Rosslyn Commuters — “After initially providing no additional backup options for riders during the¬†Blue Line shutdown and major Orange and Silver Line work¬†that began Aug. 11, Metro is now making some changes… Without much fanfare or notification to riders, Metro said this week it will add four additional Route 5A buses between Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride and Rosslyn and L’Enfant Plaza each morning.” [WTOP]

Rep. Jim Jordan Coming to Arlington Fundraiser¬†— Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) will be the special guest at a fundraiser for Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) in Arlington next month. The fundraiser is being held Sept. 7 at Washington Golf and Country Club. Jordan has been in the news this summer over accusations that he turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of wrestlers while an assistant coach at Ohio State. [TrailBlazer]

Ballston Apartment Building Sold — “The Ballston Place transaction… has closed with Akelius Residential AB buying the 382-unit apartment complex for $170 million, or $445,026 per unit.” [Globe St.]

Photo courtesy Patricia Kime

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(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

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]

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Morning Notes

Rosslyn skyline

Garvey Out-Raises Gutshall — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey out-raised Democratic challenger Erik Gutshall by more than $20,000 in April and May. Garvey raised $57,143 to $36,751 for Gutshall. Both candidates received donations from about 300 people. [Washington Post]

More People Biking to Work — The traffic woes and Metrorail headaches caused by Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance work is apparently pushing more people to commute to work via bike. On Monday, Arlington’s “Bike-o-Meter” near the Key Bridge recorded 2,325 bike trips, double the normal number for a Monday around this time of year. The pleasant weather probably helped, too. [WJLA]

Outdoor Lab Exceeds Fundraising Goal — Saturday’s fundraiser for the Arlington Outdoor Lab shattered the $50,000 fundraising goal, garnering pledges of $84,000 for the educational facility. [Falls Church News-Press]

New Chef at Water & Wall — John Leavitt, previously of Provision No. 14 in D.C., is taking over kitchen duties at Water & Wall in Virginia Square from proprietor and chef Tim Ma. Expect a new menu to roll out next month. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Credit Union Branch Opens in Crystal City — The Lafayette Federal Credit Union has opened a branch at 2231 Crystal Drive in Crystal City. The 80-year-old local financial institution will mark¬†the opening of its seventh branch with a grand opening celebration¬†next Thursday, June 16 at noon. [Layfayette FCU]

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