Arlington Republicans’ Dissatisfaction Myth: The Real Risk is Low Turnout

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    ( – promoted by lowkell)

    GOP stalwarts claim Arlington is tiring of progressive Democratic rule. “Something is seriously wrong”, says Republican County Board candidate and Tea Party funder John Vihstadt.

    Vihstadt booster Libby Garvey, too, professes “deep concern” over Arlington’s direction. Likewise, unsuccessful Democratic County Board Candidate Cord Thomas claimed, “The mood of the electorate is frustration”.

    But do the actions of Arlington voters support allegations of discontent?

    Thomas’s loss in the Democratic caucus suggests active Democrats do not share these pessimistic views. But what about the broader electorate?

    Capital improvements are a focus of criticisms by Republicans and Garvey. If there were growing unease over Arlington’s investments, it could perhaps be detected in voter support for bond proposals.

    Over two decades, however, average support for biannual bond authority has held close to 75% — landslide territory.

    But what about support for Democratic County Board candidates?  

    Support for Democrats during opposed elections has fluctuated between about 50% and 75% over the past two decades. It is strongly and positively correlated with turnout. The trendline for the Democratic share of the vote is basically level, rising slightly over the twenty-year period to reach 65%. Here, too, there is no suggestion of rising dissatisfaction with progressive Democratic governance.

    Arlington Democrats do not have a lock. In low-turnout special elections in 1993 and 1999, Democrats failed to earn 50% of the vote and were defeated. In the 2012 low-turnout special election, the Democratic nominee squeaked by with a 49% plurality.

    Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. This may yet be the year for Vihstadt and Garvey’s negative message. But it cannot be said that Arlington voters to date have shown an appetite for course correction.

    Democrat Alan Howze, an impressive candidate, will be wise to work hard to energize Democrats so he can win the April 8 special election. Republican Vihstadt is well-funded and serious. Low turnout is in the interest of Garvey and the Republicans.

    Howze would also be smart to balance his image of youth and freshness with a healthy respect for Arlington’s traditional progressivism. For decades, its support among voters has in broad terms been unabated.

    • fendertweed

      I’ve lived in Arlington for 27+ yrs.  

      I consider myself a former Dem, now independent, and appalled and disgusted at the Republican party nationally and in Virginia.

      But lord, am I tired of the one-note self-congratulatory, imperious and arrogant Arlington County Board and its circle jerk references to “The Arlington Way.”

      There was such a thing at one time, I think, but now that moniker is a beard for the “Illusion of Inclusion.”

      My own personal experience with the County is that there are some good individuals who work for it but the Board and the county govt. in general seems so bent on more & more development and forcing things like inadequate parking in large new developments, that the needs of the developers trample the needs of the residents.  

      Those people who can’t park in the new buildings, for example, park in the neighborhoods nearby.  Then people who live there, who have already paid to maintain their public streets and now can’t park there, have to petition the county and then pay for a residential parking permit/zone system so they can park in front of their own house.  And they’re paying higher taxes for that pleasure.

      And then we have million dollar bus shelters that don’t work and don’t shelter anyone from the elements.

      What is “progressive” about that?!?

      Luckily we moved out of a residential parking zone a few yrs. ago to a nicer, quieter neighborhood.  But this is an example of why so many in Arlington who may not be Republicans, are disgusted with the tone-deaf arrogance of many in county government.

      I have not voted for a Dem for the Board for about 10 yrs.  The sclerotic, echo-chamber atmosphere and the lack of diversity (even with some disagreement now about things like the Columbia Pike streetcar) are unhealthy IMO.

      It would be a healthy thing to have 1 or 2 non-Dems on the board to provide some meaningful dialogue on more issues.  

    • fendertweed

      in substance, Vihstadt will get little or nothing done, he will be 1 voice in 5 and none of his more mainline Republican views will get any traction.  Given that I’d almost rather have a voice on the Board saying something — anything — in contrast to the fairly reliable amen chorus.

      And I’ve seen no compelling reason to support the Columbia Pike streetcar, I’m not buying what the county’s selling on that one.  Perhaps that’s the harvest of doubt they reap for sowing so much relative b.s. over the past few years.  

      So on one main issue I happen to agree with him (and Garvey).  A “negative” message is not necessarily “negative” because it’s wrong on the facts.  If Ms. Garvey is right on the trolley, for example, then the “negative” message on that issue is the more responsible position.  

      Even if Vihstadt wins this one based on the special election historical anomaly you mention, I think the Dem machine will wake up and roll over him at the next regular election.  It’s “The Arlington Way.” ;-o

    • amber waves

      Howze is deeply talented. Good personal story. Super politics and priorities.  His biggest weakness is not being able to articulate a single issue in which he might buck the Democratic Party’s platform.

      Vihstadt is a Nixonian/Bush/Mccain business conservative republican. He is by no means a tea-party dude.

      He has shown himself to be a consensus builder running the Agricultural taskforce superbly well. He has deep support up at Swanson and Yorktown where he and his spouse served on the PTA for years.

      The County Board is running into trouble because although it listens well and works hard, it comes across as arrogant.  E.g. Mary Hynes telling the parents fighting against unequal elementary school policies, that they are wasting their time testifying before the CB, that they are in the wrong place, and should go complain at the schoolboard.

      There is also increasing pushback from some Arlingtonians about Smart Growth. Arlington is an urban county. Those in single family homes want to keep it that way…and still want the privilege of living in the center of the Metro area.  The Smart Growth policy has brought change, that is superb for the environment…i.e. planned, appropriate urban density, that limits the number of orchards in WV from being bulldozed for mcmansions.  It comes at a cost, but the US is going to have 100 million more people in just 36 years. Some of them are coming here, and we need to plan for it. Becoming a gated county is not a sound option.

      I hope issues, like “Smart-Growth” “school budgets” “climate change” will predominate in the campaign and not attacks on characters.  Arlington is blessed to have so many sustantive candidates running.