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Victoria Virasingh (via Victoria Virasingh/Facebook)

Arlingtonian Victoria Virasingh has thrown her hat into the ring to challenge Rep. Don Beyer for the 8th District Democratic primary next year.

Beyer has held onto the 8th District, which includes parts of Arlington and Alexandria, since he won a crowded primary for former Congressman Jim Moran’s seat in 2014 and the general election later that year.

Virasingh was born and raised in Arlington and is the Vice-Chair of Outreach for the Arlington Democrats. She was previously been part of Communities in Schools at Barcroft Elementary School. Her professional resume includes work for Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the IRS Criminal Investigations Unit, and controversial tech company Palantir.

“I was born in Arlington to immigrant parents,” Virasingh said. “My mom is from Ecuador. My dad was born to Punjabi Sikh refugees in Thailand. They are immigrants who worked minimum wage jobs here in Virginia’s 8th. I became the first in my family to go to college by getting a full scholarship to Stanford University. My story represents the American Dream, the belief that no matter where you come from, if you work hard you can achieve your own success.”

Virasingh said her return to Arlington for work highlighted that some of those support systems have gone.

“When I came back to work in Arlington it became clear to me that the structures — living wage, affordable housing — that helped my family succeed are gone,” Virasingh said. “We need to create opportunities for people to have healthcare and to live and work here. We need a $18/hour minimum wage, housing for all, equity in education and Medicare for All.

Virasingh said her life experience has shown her the need for “true progressive policies to level the playing field and provide opportunity for all.”

According to Virasingh’s website, some campaign priorities include:

  • Housing for all
  • Equity in education
  • Securing a living wage
  • Medicare for all

On Twitter, Virasingh noted that is she wins, she will be the first woman to hold the 8th District seat.

Virasingh listed the following as some examples of involvement in the 8th District.

I am the Vice-Chair Outreach for Arlington Democrats which means I work closely with our 9 caucuses.

I believe voter registration and education is an essential pillar of our democracy and as a precinct captain, I work to increase voter participation.

I was deployed to Barcroft Elementary School through Communities and Schools and worked side by side with the Site Coordinator there on family engagement, distribution of resource vouchers, and lead student programming.

During the pandemic, I lead Hispanic outreach for Rides to the Vaccines.

I strongly align myself with the mission and vision of Bridges to Independence, and they have called on me to  jump in on projects and meetings.

I am a member of the Arlington County Economic Development Commission.

Additionally, I attend meetings and events with LULAC, Latino Caucus, ASHPA, community events put on by interfaith communities in Arlington.

I am also part of Arlington Young Dems and the NAACP-Arlington Branch.

I built private-public partnerships at Palantir Technologies which led to the founding of the Future of Work Team. Leading the team took me to working in Europe while being based out of Germany.

While in California, I sat on the Youth Board of City Youth Now, a non profit organization that provides support to youth in the Juvenile system transitioning into independent living.

I have been an advisor for the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority which I was a part of in college.

“I think that our district deserves to have a representative that takes leadership on progressive issues and drives the conversation on issues affecting our constituents everyday,” said Virasingh. “I thank Representative Beyer for his service. I think it’s time for new leadership that matches the composition of our district. I think it’s time for new leadership that is not reactive to adopting progressive policies, but is proactive in leading the charge for progressive policies that lift our communities up.”

Beyer told ARLnow that he has also supported Medicare for all for years, and his plan for now is to focus on doing his job as best he can.

“The seat belongs to the people of Virginia’s 8th District,” Beyer said. “[Competitive elections] make our community stronger, our democracy stronger, and makes me a more effective candidate and leader. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing. God bless her and I never want to discourage anyone from being involved.”

The 8th district seat is up in the 2022 election, and the Democratic primary is currently scheduled for June 21.

Photo via Victoria Virasingh/Facebook

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County Board members Takis Karantonis (left) and Matt de Ferranti (right) at the Madison Community Center polling place on June 8, 2021 (photo via Takis Karantonis/Twitter)

Primary day was a good day to be an establishment Democrat in Arlington, though not necessarily so for every incumbent.

A primary challenge to incumbent County Board member Takis Karantonis was soundly rejected by voters, who gave Karantonis just over two-thirds of the vote. He defeats Chanda Choun, who ran on a platform of responsive government, technological advancement, and lower taxes, among other things.

Karantonis, who was first elected in a special election and is running for his first full term, will now face a trio of independent candidates in the fall: Audrey Clement, Mike Cantwell and Adam Theo. He thanked his volunteers and Choun for “a positive, well-fought campaign.”

In the 49th House of Delegates district, which runs along Columbia Pike, voters said yes to one of the most liberal state lawmakers in the Commonwealth and said no to a candidate running to his left. Del. Alfonso Lopez, who was first elected in 2012, cruised to another Democratic nomination over Karishma Mehta, by a vote of around 70% to 30%.

Mehta, a Pentagon City resident, was endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, the Sunrise Movement and local activist group Our Revolution Arlington. She was openly critical of her new corporate neighbor, Amazon, which is building its HQ2 within the district and will eventually be Arlington’s second largest employer — second only to the Department of Defense.

Lopez thanked voters tonight for their “resounding support.”

The other contested local primary was in the 45th House of Delegates district, which includes portions of South Arlington, Alexandria and southern Fairfax County. In it, incumbent Del. Mark Levine simultaneously lost his reelection bid in the 45th district while also falling short in his run for lieutenant governor.

Emerging victorious is Alexandria Vice-Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, who is garnering nearly 60% of the vote district-wide to 40% for Levine. The margin in Arlington was closer — 53% to 47% — but nonetheless a defeat for Levine, who loaned his campaign nearly $1 million in his unsuccessful statewide run.

Bennett-Parker was endorsed by state Sen. Adam Ebbin, Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti, and County Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol, among others. In declaring victory via social media, she also thanked her campaign volunteers.

In statewide races, Arlington voted the same way as Virginia as a whole.

Former Governor Terry McAuliffe is again the Democratic nominee for governor, with 60% of the vote in Arlington and 62% statewide.

Hala Ayala is the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee, despite a last-minute controversy over a political donation from Dominion, with 35% of the vote in Arlington and 36% statewide.

Incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring, meanwhile, is also advancing to the November general election after garnering 68.5% of the vote in Arlington and 56% statewide in his race against Jay Jones, who was endorsed by Gov. Ralph Northam.

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(Updated at noon) After relatively robust early voting, day-of voting in today’s Democratic primary in Arlington is off to a very slow start.

As of 9 a.m., only about 0.5% of active local voters cast ballots during the first three hours of voting this morning, according to the county elections office.

“It’s a slow one,” the office said via Twitter.

The highest turnout — 1% — was seen in the 45th House of Delegates district, which features a competitive race between Alexandria City Vice-Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker and incumbent Mark Levine, who is also running for Lieutenant Governor.

Arlington is not alone in seeing low turnout. The neighboring City of Falls Church had only recorded 132 voters as of 9 a.m. Across the state, in fact, low turnout is being reported and is causing some concern among Democrats about a potential lack of voter enthusiasm.

One exception to the low turnout trend today: Alexandria, where competitive citywide races have drawn more a turnout of more than 10% as of 10 a.m.

Polls in Virginia are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m.

The contested races on the ballot in Arlington — all Democratic primaries — are below.

A number of non-Democrats will be on the ballot this fall, facing off against the primary winners in the November general election.

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(Updated 5:40 p.m.) Arlington has seen significantly higher early voting turnout than usual, ahead of the Democratic primary tomorrow.

Neighborhood polling places will be open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. for those who have not voted early or absentee. Voters will see a full slate of Democratic candidates for local and state elections. Primary winners will face non-Democratic candidates in November.

Arlingtonians have been taking advantage of early voting opportunities since April 23. According to the Arlington County elections office, 2,803 people voted early and in-person before that option closed last week — a 140% increase over the last Virginia gubernatorial election cycle in 2017.

Meanwhile, more than 3,900 mail ballots for the Democratic primary were distributed before the May 28 deadline to request a ballot, the office said in a tweet. These can still be returned by mail but must be postmarked by tomorrow (June 8) and received by the local voter registration office by noon on Friday.

On the ballot in Arlington are three statewide elections, two contested House of Delegates elections, and the Democratic race for County Board.

Democrats have a number of potential replacements for Gov. Ralph Northam, including former governor Terry McAuliffe and Jennifer Carroll Foy — both of whom visited Arlington last week — as well as Jennifer McClellan, Lee Carter and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

The winner of the gubernatorial primary will face off Glenn Youngkin, who beat out a half-dozen other Republican candidates to win the GOP nomination.

Meanwhile, seven Democrats are competing for Fairfax’s current role as Lieutenant Governor. They are Del. Hala Ayala, Del. Sam Rasoul, Norfolk Council Member Andria McClellan, Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman, Del. Mark Levine and Arlington businessman Xavier Warren.

Voters can also choose between incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring or his Democratic challenger Jay Jones.

Challenging Del. Alfonso Lopez for the 49th District is Karishma Mehta, while Alexandria City Vice-Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker is going up against Levine (who is also running for Lieutenant Governor) in the 45th District.

The 47th and 48th districts are not facing primary challenges on the ballot this year. Incumbent Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48th) faces no challenger and Matt Rogers, who launched a bid to unseat incumbent Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), is not on the ballot due to a paperwork snafu. He contested a decision by the State Board of Elections not to grant him and two other candidates a filing deadline.

Meanwhile, locals can choose to keep incumbent Democrat Takis Karantonis in his County Board seat or select his opponent, Chanda Choun. In November, the winner will face off a trio of independents: Audrey Clement, Mike Cantwell and now, Adam Theo.

Theo describes himself as a patriotic Libertarian Buddhist. He is the chair of the Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia, which operates in the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church as well as Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

Tomorrow also is the deadline for candidates to file the forms needed to have their names printed on the ballot in the November general election.

There is no Republican primary, as “the Republican party did not call for any primary elections in Arlington,” the county elections office noted. Any voter can cast a ballot in the Democratic primary, regardless of party affiliation, as Virginia is an open primary state.

Registered voters can find their polling place on the Virginia Department of Elections website. A pocket guide from the department includes a list of acceptable IDs that voters can use to prove their identity when they arrive at the polls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Morning Notes

Car Chase Speeds Through Arlington — “Virginia State Police just chased a U-Haul pickup truck from Arlington into Alexandria on Mt. Vernon Ave, then back into Arlington and finally into D.C. via I-395.” [Twitter, Twitter, ALXnow]

Masks Not Required at Polling Places — “Those headed to vote in the June 8 Democratic primary in Arlington will have to make their own choices about mask-wearing. State election officials this time have not provided local elections offices with specific guidance on masks, although Arlington election officials have issued a request. ‘Several polling places are in schools with mask requirements, so we are still encouraging voters to wear masks, and will have them available for voters who forget one,’ county election chief Gretchen Reinemeyer told the Sun Gazette.” [Sun Gazette]

Chicken Restaurant Eyes Arlington — “It turns out that Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers has a bigger appetite for Greater Washington than the two Northern Virginia locations the Washington Business Journal reported about in May. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based chain aims to open around 50 locations across the region… the company is actively pursuing sites in Arlington, Ashburn and Leesburg, among others.” [Washington Business Journal]

AWLA Reopening Shelter to Public — “We are very excited to announce that starting Wednesday, June 2nd, AWLA will be open to the public! Potential adopters no longer need to make an appt to meet our in-shelter pets — just stop by!” [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Arlington Home Show This Weekend — “Whether you are a resident looking to improve your home, an experienced contractor, or landlord managing rentals, the 2021 VIRTUAL Arlington Home Show & Expo offers a convenient one-stop shop to ‘Ask an Expert’ and learn of new ways to update your home, and add value to your property.” [Event Calendar, Arlington Home Show]

Mastercard Returning to Arlington Office — “Mastercard Inc. will soon bring workers back to its New York City office at least two days a week. The payments giant also plans to open its Arlington, Virginia, office to more workers after already inviting more staff back its Sydney and Dubai offices, Chief Executive Officer Michael Miebach said in a memo to staff Wednesday. For most locations across the U.S., the company hopes to have workers in by September.” [Bloomberg]

Local Restaurants Need More Help — “Behrooz Sarvghadi is the owner of Kabob Bazaar, in Arlington, and one of hundreds of thousands of small business owners looking for financial assistance, as the nation tries to recover from the pandemic. ‘I’m hoping we get it, so we can continue the business,’ said Sarvghadi… the U.S. Small Business Administration says it ‘received more than 303,000 applications representing over $69 billion in requested funds, and nearly 38,000 applicants have been approved for more than $6 billion.’ But the issue is, only $28.6 billion was ‘signed into law.'” [WJLA]

Challenger Wants County Arts Changes — “The recent Embracing Arlington Arts forum between County Board aspirants actually provided some fireworks – albeit on an issue that qualifies as inside baseball. Incumbent County Board member Takis Karantonis and his challenger in the June 8 Democratic primary, Chanda Choun, split over whether the local community was best served by having the Arlington government’s arts and cultural-affairs apparatus continue operating as a subsidiary to the government’s economic-development operation.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Cemetery Station Reopening — “Metro customers at Addison Road and Arlington Cemetery will enjoy safer, modernized stations when the stations reopen on Sunday, May 23, after three months of work to completely rebuild their platforms and make upgrades throughout the stations. The reopenings will mark the completion of all 12 stations slated for platform reconstruction in Virginia.” [WMATA]

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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.”

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Morning Notes

Vote By Mail in June Primary — From Arlington’s elections office: “More than 3,900 mail ballots for the June 8 Democratic Primary are on their way.. Deadline to request a mail ballot: May 28 @ 5 p.m.” [Twitter]

Restaurants Cited For Covid Violations — “Twenty-nine Arlington restaurants were cited for violating Gov. Ralph Northam’s COVID-19 restrictions between Jan. 1 and April 4 of this year, according to data obtained exclusively by Patch from Arlington County Public Health.” [Patch]

Auction of Art Institute’s Equipment in Rosslyn — “Former Art Institute of Washington… has closed and will make a complete liquidation of super high end kitchen, catering and food service equipment including 1,000s of small wares, appliances, and high-end kitchen equipment… [plus] all technology, educational equipment, furnishings, A/V, business equipment and supply.” [Rasmus Auctions, Rasmus Auctions]

Local GOP Holding Online Meeting This Month — “The chairman of the Arlington County Republican Committee is anticipating face-to-face gatherings in coming months, but for now is sticking with an online format. ‘I am looking forward to holding in-person meetings again in the very near future,’ GOP chair Andrew Loposser said in an April 21 e-mail to the party rank-and-file. The e-mail noted that the monthly meeting set for April 28 would be held online via Zoom.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Native Named Head Basketball Coach — “Loyola women’s basketball has named Danielle O’Banion the program’s 12th head coach. The Arlington, Virginia native who played at Boston College, most recently was an assistant at Minnesota. She takes over for Joe Logan, the program’s all-time winningest coach who was relieved of his duties after the 2020-21 season. The Greyhounds finished 0-13.” [Fox 45]

Fundraiser for Murder Victim’s Family — “The family of Hernan Leiva, who was killed in a parking lot in the Skyline area of Bailey’s Crossroads April 17, launched a GoFundMe site to raise funds to help with funeral costs. Leiva, age 58, worked at the Target in Skyline. He was attacked by a coworker when he arrived at work early Saturday morning.” [Annandale Blog]

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Morning Notes

Residents Want Better HQ2 View — “The tallest and most distinctive tower planned for Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters, the conch-shaped ‘Helix,’ will be like no other building in Greater Washington. And Arlington residents would like to see it from their neighborhoods… [as planned] the positioning would obstruct the surrounding community’s views of the signature structure, said Leonardo Sarli, an Arlington planning commissioner.” [Washington Business Journal]

Ebbin Endorses Colleague’s Challenger — “State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria-Arlington-Fairfax) has endorsed challenger Elizabeth Bennett-Parker in the competitive Democratic primary in the 45th House District. ‘I feel a responsibility to weigh in,’ Ebbin said in an April 22 statement… Bennett-Parker, who currently serves as vice chair of the Alexandria City Council, will face off against [Del. Mark] Levine in the June 8 Democratic primary.” [Sun Gazette]

County Launches Hunger Task Force — “Arlington County has launched a Food Security Task Force to develop strategies and recommendations to achieve a more food secure Arlington. ‘Our fellow Arlingtonians in need are our families and neighbors, and while the County and community came together to address hunger needs throughout the pandemic, much more remains to be done,’ said Matt de Ferranti, Chair of the Arlington County Board.” [Arlington County]

Bar Seating Now Allowed Again — “Remember sitting at a bar and ordering a drink from a bartender? It’s been a while since that simple activity has been allowed in much of the greater Washington area due to pandemic regulations. But in an executive order quietly updated on Wednesday, Governor Ralph Northam is allowing Virginia bar patrons to be seated at a bar for service as long as there is a minimum of six feet between parties.” [Washingtonian]

Other Covid Restrictions Eased — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced that sports and entertainment venues in Virginia may begin to operate with expanded capacity, and social gathering limits will increase beginning Saturday, May 15th. The announcement comes as vaccinations continue to rise in the Commonwealth, and more than half of all adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]

Nearby: D.C. Statehood Advances — “For the second time in history, the House passed legislation Thursday to make the District of Columbia the nation’s 51st state, bolstering momentum for a once-illusory goal that has become a pivotal tenet of the Democratic Party’s voting rights platform. Democrats unanimously approved Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Washington, D.C. Admission Act, describing it as a bid to restore equal citizenship to the residents of the nation’s capital and rectify a historic injustice.” [Washington Post]

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It could be a competitive Democratic primary in Virginia’s 49th House District between long-time delegate Alfonso Lopez and newcomer Karishma Mehta.

Since announcing her candidacy in October, Mehta has received several notable progressive endorsements including from Democratic Socialists of America, Sunrise Virginia, and Our Revolution Arlington. She’s also raised a considerable amount of money, with her campaign saying they’ve so far raised five times more than previous 49th District challengers.

In the first quarter of 2021 the campaign raised about $51,000, for a total haul of $78,000.

Mehta has been running an active campaign, sending her supporters more than a dozen emails since mid-March. The emails have asked for donations, announced endorsements, and demanded that corporations like Dominion Energy and Amazon — which is building its HQ2 within the 49th District — “are immediately reigned in.”

Lopez, meanwhile, has racked up endorsements from a proverbial who’s who list of Arlington and Virginia lawmakers, officials, and organizations. That includes U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia Secretary of Education Arif Qarni, the Arlington firefighters union, and even his primary challenger in 2019, JD Spain, president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP.

The campaign says it has raised more than $80,000 in the first quarter of 2021 and $160,000 overall.

The 49th District runs from Seven Corners to Pentagon City, including much of Arlington’s diverse Columbia Pike corridor.

The primary is set for June 8, with early voting starting tomorrow (April 23). The race pits an established Arlington lawmaker against a first-time candidate .

Mehta is a 29-year-old preschool teacher, the daughter of Indian-American parents who immigrated to the U.S. seeking a better life. But they struggled, she tells ARLnow, to pay rent, get affordable health care, and pay down debt. While she originally hails from Tennessee and Pennsylvania, she moved to Arlington about a decade ago to teach.

Mehta says she is “proud to help represent the wave of progressive insurgents across the country working to put people first, not corporations.”

“I’ve seen a cyclical pattern and the lack of accountability not just in our elected officials, but in the way we’ve created society,” she says. “My goal is to help be part of a new generation of legislators that help break that cycle of inequity, to help build new systems that uplift all of our people.”

“We represent the future of the Democratic Party, whereas the moderates like Delegate Lopez represent the past,” she adds.

Lopez was first elected as a Delegate in 2011. Since then, he’s become the Majority Whip in the Virginia House of Delegates and has sponsored a slew of notable bills, including one earlier this year that gave localities greater say over which businesses get liquor licenses.

This past General Assembly session his entire legislative agenda was signed into law, including bills related to gun control, providing more access to financial aid to students no matter immigration status, and funding to improve water treatment plants and prevent Chesapeake Bay pollution.

Lopez tells ARLnow that he believes his experience getting legislation passed is why he continues to be the best candidate for the job.

“What I do is bring Arlington progressive values to Richmond and work to get as much I can done, to move the policy needle as far as I can while also being successful and effective in getting legislation passed,” he says.

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