Arlington, VA

(Updated at 10:25 p.m.) The top prosecutor in Arlington and Falls Church has lost her bid for re-election.

In the most closely watched local race in today’s Democratic primary, incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos has been defeated by challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who ran a campaign centered on criminal justice reform. Tafti has 52% of the vote compared to 48% for Stamos, with all 59 precincts in Arlington and Falls Church reporting, though the results are unofficial until certified.

The total unofficial margin of victory was 1,128 votes.

“I knew it could happen!” one supporter shouted at Tafti’s victory party at Fire Works Pizza in Courthouse as the final votes were tallied.

“Change can come here to Arlington,” said a campaign volunteer, Arlington resident Symone Walker, who said she’s mailed postcards and held meet and greets for Tafti because of her belief the challenger could reform the county’s justice system.

Tafti herself was breathless and wide-eyed as she passed through the group and gave hugs to her supporters. When Stamos called to concede around 8:15 p.m., Tafti thanked her and offered to meet with the incumbent later this week.

In a speech a few minutes before 9 p.m., Tafti thanked a crowd of her supporters, saying “it would have been easy for you to be silent.”

“I feel humbled and grateful and excited but with no illusions about the work ahead,” she told ARLnow afterward.

“I always thought she could win and should win, but it’s never an easy battle against an incumbent,” said state Sen. Adam Ebbin, who supported Tafti’s campaign and stood next to her as she addressed the crowd.

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe cheered during the event, later telling ARLnow that he supported Tafti’s campaign because he was “looking for new leadership” after Stamos opposed his legislation to restore voting rights to felons in 2017.

“I think a lot of people wondered why I did it,” he said of wading into a local prosecutor race. “But it was the right thing to do.”

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Voting is still underway in Arlington and a competitive commonwealth’s attorney race may drive higher-than-normal turnout.

As of 1 p.m. the Arlington elections office reported an estimated 10 percent turnout. That points to what may be upwards of 15 percent turnout by the time polls close at 7 p.m., according to Arlington County Registrar Linda Lindberg.

“It’s been a slow day” in Crystal City, Columbia Pike, Fairlington and other south Arlington neighborhoods, Lindberg said, “but we’re doing some pretty brisk business up in the northwest,” where commonwealth’s attorney candidates Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and Theo Stamos live.

Fifteen percent turnout may be low compared to a presidential election year, but it would be 50 percent higher than the last equivalent election cycle. In 2011, with multiple candidates running in the Democratic primary for commonwealth’s attorney, the 31st state Senate district and the 49th House of Delegates district — just like this year — 10 percent of voters cast ballots, Lindberg recounted.

Following a broader trend of higher absentee voting, in the 2011 primary some 1,500 voters cast absentee ballots, while this year more than 2,000 have cast in-person absentee ballots alone; mailed absentee ballots have not yet been counted for today’s primary.

No problems have been reported at the polls so far, and Lindberg noted that one thing is going particularly well this year: new electronic poll books — tablet computers with ID scanners, used to check voters in at polling stations — are in use in Arlington for the first time and so far have been working flawlessly.

“We’re very pleased,” said Lindberg, Arlington’s long-time election chief who is retiring this summer.

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(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Starting at 6 a.m. today, voters began showing up at their polling places across Arlington as voting in the Democratic primary kicked off.

At Randolph Elementary School in Douglas Park, St. Agnes Catholic Church in Cherrydale, and Madison Community Center in Old Glebe, lines were short and skies were clear.

“It’s been slow, but steady. There’s been 83 people so far, or 2.7 percent turnout. It’s pretty normal,” said Bill Harkins, election officer at St. Agnes.

At Randolph Elementary around 41 people had cast their ballots by 7:41 a.m., according to election officer Harry Dunbar, and another 13 voters arrived in the next half hour. Dunbar said there are 3,000 people who live in the precinct.

“Half of that is normal for a busy general election,” Dunbar said, noting that primary election turnout is usually much lower.

By mid-morning, Arlington’s elections office reported that turnout was somewhat light, but higher in precincts in Arlington’s northwest. Voters in residential northwest Arlington tend to be a bit more conservative, at least relative to the rest of the county.

The only hiccup noticed so far was a ballot that wouldn’t scan at Randolph Elementary. At around 8 a.m., officials had identified the likely culprit: blocks that printed too faintly along the border of the document.

Today’s primary marks the end of several hotly contested races between the Democrats on the ballot — namely the race for commonwealth’s attorney and the state Senate seat in the 31st District. With most races still lacking a non-Democratic candidate, the primary could also decide the Nov. 5 general election.

At Randolph, the race on most people’s minds was the one for commonwealth’s attorney between incumbent Theo Stamos and challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti who have clashed in debates since kicking off their campaigns last winter.

Evelyn Luis, a long-time Douglas Park resident, said she doesn’t usually vote in the primaries but showed up today to support Stamos.

“Even though she’s running as a Democrat and I am not a Democrat I know I have to make a choice between the two candidates.” Luis said.

Luis wore a shirt from the 1990s-era Crime Prevention Council of Arlington County, on which she was a board member. She said she disagreed with Tafti’s platform and PAC funding.

Another voter, Aaron Willis, who has lived in the area for a decade, said he’s voted in every primary since moving to the D.C. region. He feels part of the “nerve center” of politics after coming from Ohio where he sometimes felt disconnected.

Willis said he supported Tafti in today’s election, citing her record of pushing for reproductive rights and restoring voting rights to felons.

The interest in the prosecutor’s race also ran high at St. Agnes.

“The important race to me was the commonwealth’s attorney,” said St. Agnes voter Chris Guest. “I think it’s always good to have options, but I wanted to vote against outside money, especially when that’s heavily for one candidate.”

“All of the races are important. Arlington is a great place to live and we have good candidates,” said St. Agnes voter Sarah Devoe this morning. “I’ve been surprised with the commonwealth’s attorney race; it’s not really a race I think of as being competitive. There’s been a lot of TV and print ads. There are two strong candidates.”

Stamos’ record in office and Tafti’s proposed criminal justice reforms have split support among local attorneys and sparked conversations about police brutality and the county’s discovery policy in criminal cases.

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Morning Notes

Polls Open for Democratic Primary — All Arlington voters can vote in today’s Democratic primary. Polls are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. You can find your polling place and other information on the state elections website. [Twitter]

Politico Profiles Prosecutor Primary — “One sign that this era of agitated civic life is not merely a reflection of Donald Trump or Twitter is that the agitation has penetrated, of all places, into Arlington County, Virginia. In normal times, Arlington politics are polite and consensus-driven, almost proudly dull.” [Politico]

Clarendon Street Closed for Construction — “Through mid-August: North Edgewood Street closed between Clarendon and Wilson boulevards due to construction. Absolutely no impact on Whole Foods organic produce or imported cheese selection.” [Twitter]

Trade Group Moving to Ballston — “The Infectious Diseases Society of America announced today that it will be relocating its headquarters to 4040 Wilson Boulevard in the Ballston Quarter area of Arlington, Va., a hub of advanced research learning, technology and science in the Washington, D.C. metro area.  The Society has been at its current location at 1300 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington since 2006.” [PR Newswire]

How Glass Is Being Recycled — “Ever wonder where your glass goes? If you properly recycle it in Northern Virginia these days, it gets crushed into sand and turned into construction material… ABC7 recently took a trip to Fairfax County’s I-95 landfill in Lorton, where we found a glass graveyard and a big blue machine.” [WJLA]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Total fundraising in the heated race for Arlington and Falls Church’s top prosecutor is nearing an unprecedented $1 million as the June 11 primary approaches.

Commonwealth’s Attorney candidate Parisa Dehghani-Tafti raised $604,682 between April 1 and May 30, in large part due to one political action committee (PAC), according to new campaign finance filings.

The Justice and Public Safety PAC, which is funded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, previously donated to Tafti’s campaign and paid for her social media videos. In the latest filing period it made a total of $515,492.28 in donations, including $190,000 in cash and $325,492.28 in in-kind contributions.

After spending $189,000 on a TV ad buy, and racking up other expenses, Tafti’s campaign reported ending the quarter with $57,255 in its coffers.

Theo Stamos’ campaign, on the other hand, reported closing out May 30 with $22,077 left in its war chest, after raising $55,426 and spending $133,999 in total.

All told, the incumbent raised $161,760 for her 2019 re-election bid compared to the $743,604 Tafti raised to unseat her.

The combined sum of $905,364 from both candidates dwarfs the money raised in the state’s other commonwealth’s attorney races.

“I think our voters are going to see through this effort from all this outside money,” Stamos told ARLnow today (Tuesday.) “It’s so unprecedented for it to be happening in Arlington.” 

When asked if her challenger’s large fundraising haul affected her chances of keeping her seat, Stamos said she thought residents will end up voting for someone they’ve known for years over Tafti who has, “absolutely no experience, who is not prepared for the job, and who has quite honestly run a fundamentally dishonest campaign.”

Tafti said in a press release earlier today that she was “proud” the campaign has continued, “to garner the support of not just small dollar donations but also that of local and national organizations that will help maintain enthusiasm and engagement” in the election.

In the press release, the progressive campaigner also highlighted $39,000 in cash contributions from individuals and the endorsements she’s received, saying: “Simply put, this level of local support for a challenger is unprecedented in a local primary election where the incumbent has not ever faced a robust primary challenge. What it shows is that community leaders and ordinary citizens understand the office is in dire need of reform.”

Two other PACS also donated to Tafti’s campaign this past quarter.

Racial justice-focused New Majority Virginia PAC donated $31,545 to Tafti’s campaign last month, and Real Justice PAC, which was co-founded by civil rights activist Shaun King donates to progressive prosecutor candidates nationwide, contributed $5,814.

Other notable donations to Tafti’s campaign include:

  • $1,350 in combined donations from four local private defense lawyers. Three of the lawyers (Terry Adams, Edward Ungvarsky, and Christopher Leibig) previously signed a letter opposing Stamos. The fourth lawyer-donor (Mark Rochon) did not sign the letter.
  • $1,000 from former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who has publicly endorsed Tafti’s campaign.
  • $150 from former Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman.

For Stamos, some notable donations included:

  • $1,162 from former independent County Board member John Vihstadt, whose unsuccessful bid for re-election Stamos supported despite displeasure from her Democratic colleagues. The figure includes a $912 in-kind contribution from Vihstadt’s campaign committee.
  • $651 from former Arlington School Board member Noah Simon
  • $500 from theater labor union I.A.T.S.E. Local 22

Next week’s primary will determine which Democratic candidate progresses to the November general election. Voters can cast their votes between 6 a.m. to 7 p.m on Tuesday, June 11.

Candidates from other parties may declare their intention to enter the race after the primary election. If no other candidates runs, the winner of next week’s primary election will most likely win the general election.

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Arlington County’s Election Board asked residents to vote on a new design for its 2019 “I Voted” sticker and they responded, picking the winner by a slim, two-vote margin.

Election officials, in partnership with the Arlington Artists Alliance and Arlington Public Library, solicited votes on the county website earlier this month. Voters cast their votes for five different designs over four rounds of voting.

John Musco’s design, “Shout It From the Skyline,” received 543 votes in the final round, edging out Anna Radjou’s “Voting, the Language of Arlington’s Diversity,” which received 541 votes.

The winning “Skyline” sticker will be distributed to voters who vote at the polls on Nov. 5.

Because the final voting was so close, election officials decided the second-place design will be given to voters who cast in-person absentee votes. Absentee voting for the November general election begins on Sept. 20.

Arlington first-grader Mira Shomali’s design, “The Arlington Stars and Stripes,” received an honorable mention. Her design will be adapted as a new Future Voter sticker, which will be given to kids accompanying their parents to the polls.

The county is currently in the run-up to a primary election, which decides the candidates for the November election.

Images via Arlington County

 

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Morning Notes

‘I Voted’ Sticker Design Competition — “The Arlington Electoral Board is teaming up with the Arlington Artists Alliance and the county library system on its first-ever ‘I Voted’ decal competition. Modeled on a similar effort in New York City, the contest encourages Arlington residents to submit designs for the decal that will be distributed to voters on Election Day and used in a variety of outreach campaigns.” [InsideNova]

Crystal City Startup Implodes — “One of Trustify’s investors is asking Delaware’s Chancery Court to appoint a receiver to oversee the company, claiming in court documents that founder and CEO Danny Boice ‘misappropriated Trustify corporate funds for personal use’ and effectively abandoned the business.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington No. 1 for Working Moms — Arlington is the No. 1 best “city” for working moms, according to a new study. “Women in Arlington earn a median salary of $76,438, and the pay gap is narrower than the U.S. average,” the study notes. [Haven Life]

Local Gov’t Contractor Makes Acquisition — Clarendon-based By Light Professional IT Services LLC yesterday “announced the acquisition of [Tysons-based] Phacil, Inc., a diversified software, cybersecurity, systems engineering and managed services provider to the US Government. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.” [PR Newswire]

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Morning Notes

First Incumbent Voted Out in 21st Century — Democrats had few negative things to say about County Board member John Vihstadt during the past few months of campaigning, but voters nonetheless decided to vote him out of office last night, a relatively rare event in Arlington. Per the Sun Gazette: “The last County Board incumbent to be defeated for re-election was Mike Lane, a Republican who in the spring of 1999 won a special election for the seat of Al Eisenberg (who took a post in the Clinton administration) but later that year was defeated by Democrat Charles Monroe.” [InsideNova]

O’Leary Nailed It — Former Arlington County Treasurer (and amatuer election prognosticator) Frank O’Leary was spot on on his analysis of how yesterday’s local voting would shake out. O’Leary “opined that if the Arlington electorate was so large that 100,000 votes were cast for County Board, Democrat Matt de Ferranti would win with about 53 percent of the vote. Presto: Arlington voters indeed cast just over 100,000 votes in that race, and de Ferranti ended up with 53 percent, according to unofficial results.” [InsideNova]

Other Reasons Why Crystal City is Good for Amazon — Should Amazon announce Crystal City as the destination for a major new office campus — despite the disappearance of an event tent that seemed like it might be intended for such an announcement — there are a number of reasons why the neighborhood likely won over Amazon execs. One reason not as widely discussed: Crystal City is already a high-density, mixed-use neighborhood with a relatively small residential population and a long-term plan for more density. In other words, it’s a big green light for Amazon to build out the HQ2 of its dreams, without having to worry much about the NIMBYism that might delay plans elsewhere. [Brookings]

Progress on the Pike for IdidoIdido’s Coffee Social House is getting closer to its opening along the Columbia Pike corridor. This week the cafe filed a Virginia ABC permit application to serve beer and wine.

Questions About Local Nonprofit — A new report is questioning why Bethesda-based nonprofit Alley Cat Allies felt the need to buy two residential properties in Arlington. [Chronicle of Philanthropy]

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(Updated at 11:15 p.m.) Democrat Matt de Ferranti has knocked off independent incumbent John Vihstadt in the race for County Board, restoring the Board to unified Democratic control for the first time since 2014.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, de Ferranti captured a 53 percent to 46 percent victory over Vihstadt, a difference of about 7,000 votes.

The difficulty of the electoral math for Vihstadt, amid heavy Democratic turnout, was apparent since the first precincts reported. De Ferranti was leading in three of the first four. In 2014, Vihstadt won each of the four districts in his general election race against Alan Howze.

Arlington Democrats had eyed Vihstadt’s seat on the Board ever since his surprise victories four years ago, when he bested Alan Howze in both a special election and general election, becoming the first non-Democrat to sit on the Board since 1999.

“This a reflection of where we’ve come as a party… we heard the message of 2014,” de Ferranti told ARLnow amidst a jubilant crowd of Democrats at William Jeffrey’s Tavern on Columbia Pike Tuesday night. “And I think we have to be humble enough to acknowledge that the national mood didn’t hurt.”

De Ferranti, a lawyer and advocate for Native American education, argued that he had an optimistic and forward-looking vision for the county’s future that stood in stark contrast to Vihstadt’s record. He contended that the incumbent hadn’t done enough to address the county’s persistently high office vacancy rate, and that Vihstadt was overly focused on saying ‘no’ to ambitious projects rather than pursuing an agenda with vision.

Vihstadt, meanwhile, pledged to continue to provide some balance to the Board’s Democratic majority and to work to manage the county’s growth responsibly. Vihstadt did not, however, have a singular project to rail against this year, as he did the Columbia Pike Street Car four years ago. The independent’s victory was widely seen as a rebuke to that project specifically and the Board’s Democratic majority more generally.

Still, the two contenders largely agreed on most pressing issues facing the county. However, de Ferranti separated himself a bit by adopting a friendlier stance toward Amazon’s potential arrival in Arlington, and by setting goals for the county like ending child hunger by 2022 and shifting to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2035.

De Ferranti won despite being out-raised by Vihstadt in the race for campaign cash, but he benefitted from support from three of his fellow Democrats on the Board — Libby Garvey endorsed Vihstadt once again — and a variety of statewide politicians.

This was de Ferranti’s first run for elected office. He won a two-way primary against fellow newcomer Chanda Choun back in June.

School Board member Barbara Kanninen also won a second term, ensuring that Democratically endorsed candidates will maintain unified control of the Board once more.

Kanninen, an economist, bested independent Audrey Clement by a margin of 68 percent to about 30 percent. Clement and Kanninen last squared off in 2014, when Kanninen first joined the Board.

The race is nominally nonpartisan, but county Democrats have now twice backed Kanninen for office, and she spent the past year serving as Board chair, which rotates among the five members.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back to work,” Kanninen told ARLnow. “I think it shows that people know we’re working hard as a Board and we care about our kids.”

Kanninen ran on traditional issues impacting the school system, like her support for mental health resources for students and improving teacher retention through consistent pay increases, but Clement worked to focus the race on the Board’s decision to change the name of Washington-Lee High School. Opponents of the name change charged that Kanninen spearheaded the effort, and threw their support behind Clement.

Yet the independent fell short once more, in what was her eighth unsuccessful bid for local office in Arlington.

Kanninen was unopposed in the race for the Democratic nomination this year.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District) also cruised to re-election over Republican Thomas Oh, earning his third term in Congress.

Beyer, Virginia’s former lieutenant governor and the owner of several local car dealerships, dominated with nearly 79 percent of the vote to Oh’s 20 percent. The 8th District, which includes Arlington and parts of Alexandria, is one of the most Democratic in the country, last electing a Republican in 1988.

Oh charged that Beyer has been unresponsive to his constituents since taking over for longtime Rep. Jim Moran, and ran on a moderate platform that was decidedly different from other Republicans around the state. But Beyer countered that he’d been an effective representative for the district, noting his focus on environmental issues in particular during his time in Congress.

All four bond referenda easily earned approval from Arlington voters, with none earning less than 73 percent of the vote. U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) also cruised to a 15-point victory over Republican Corey Stewart, with his race called as soon as polls closed.

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(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Voting is in full swing around Arlington for the midterm elections, and election officials are reporting plenty of lines and enthusiasm at polling places around the county.

As of noon, the county’s election office reported seeing 40 percent of its just over 149,000 registered voters cast ballots. That figure includes only in-person voting today, according to general registrar Linda Lindberg.

In general, Lindberg says that number is a bit higher than the county would expect for a non-presidential year. For comparison, Arlington recorded about 31 percent turnout by the middle of the day a year ago, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.

“We usually have a burst in the morning, and the difference has been that burst was a bit longer this year,” Lindberg told ARLnow. “We definitely have a sense we’re getting people at the polls who don’t vote regularly. We always have that issue for presidential elections, but not usually for the midterms.”

Lindberg added that turnout may well be even stronger, but there are plenty of absentee ballots for her staffers to count as well.

The Virginia Square polling place, located on George Mason University’s campus, certainly saw robust turnout this morning. Aimee Bosse, the precinct’s elections chief, told ARLnow that the polling place saw a rush of about 50 to 100 people as soon as polls opened this morning, with a line wrapping around the lobby and running out the door.

“This has been really busy,” Bosse said. She’s expecting another afternoon rush around 3:30 p.m. or so.

One voter at the polling place, Alexei Monsarrat, said that the whole operation was “perfectly well organized,” despite the high interest.

He added that he voted for Democrats up and down the ballot and is hoping that the party regains control of both the House and Senate to rebuke President Donald Trump. Monsarrat even brought along his 8-year-old son, Asher, to let him see the process.

“Obviously I’m very excited to vote today,” Monsarrat said. “I’m looking for a change… I’m a straight democratic voter.”

Aaron Webb, elections chief at the Rosslyn Gateway polling place (1911 Fort Myer Drive), added that his location has seen lines up to 30 minutes long so far today.

Others also reported unusually long lines at precincts elsewhere around the county on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/Politidope/status/1059783001184317441

Lindberg says there haven’t been any major issues at polling places, outside of some puddles making it a bit hard to reach the polls. But as the rain subsides, and maintenance workers get a chance to mop up, she’s not predicting any major issues.

In fact, Lindberg says she’s heard the more concerning reports today about the behavior of voters themselves. She notes that her office has received some complaints about voters being “less than friendly” to some members of the foreign press covering Arlington’s elections, particularly those from Middle Eastern countries.

“They’re just trying to do their jobs and report, so it’s unfortunate to hear,” Lindberg said.

Races on the ballot for Arlington voters this year include the U.S. Senate contest between Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Republican Corey Stewart and the 8th District Congressional seat pitting Democratic Rep. Don Beyer against Republican Thomas Oh. In local races, voters will choose between incumbent independent John Vihstadt and Democrat Matt de Ferranti for County Board and independent Audrey Clement and incumbent Barbara Kanninen, who was endorsed by county Democrats, for School Board.

A variety of bond measures and two constitutional questions will also be on the ballot. The county website features full sample ballots, and details on where to vote.

Catherine Douglas Moran contributed reporting

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Morning Notes

Polls Are Open — Voting in Arlington started at 6 a.m. this morning and will continue until 7 p.m. Don’t be surprised to see TV crews at local polling places: a number of international news outlets will be on hand to document democracy in action in Arlington. [Twitter, Twitter]

HQ2 Driving Real Estate Interest — Real estate agents are seeing increased interest in Arlington and Alexandria as a result of the increasingly-likely prospect of Amazon’s HQ2 (or, at least, a portion of it) coming to the area. Crystal City residents, meanwhile, are both excited and apprehensive about the tech and e-commerce giant moving into the neighborhood. [Washington Business Journal, WJLA]

Rain Causes Swollen Four Mile Run — Heavy rain Monday morning caused flooding along Four Mile Run. Floodwaters blocked the Four Mile Run Trail for part of the day. [Twitter]

Green Valley Pharmacy May Reopen — The Green Valley Pharmacy, a long-time local business serving the Nauck community, may be revived by the family of its late founder, Leonard “Doc” Muse. “”We [hope] to restore the exterior to the way it looked when my grandfather opened it in the 1950s,” said Muse’s grandson. [Arlington Magazine]

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