The following two maps tell the story, visually, of where Republican/self-proclaimed “Independent” John Vihstadt won his Arlington County Board seat in 2014, and where he lost it on November 6, 2018.
First, check out the 2014 map, by Ben “Not Larry Sabato” Tribbett, which Vihstadt won 34,986 to 27,485 over Democrat Alan Howze. In that election, Howze only won 15 precincts, while Vihstadt won 37 precincts plus absentees and provisional ballots. Other than Glebe (which Howze won 643-358), Arlington Mill (Howze won 395-190), Four Mile Run (Howze won 433-320), Columbia (Howze won 707-623), Ashton Heights (Howze won 475-364) and Claremont (Howze won 681-535), the other nine precincts Howze won (Barcroft, Wilson, Park Lane, Rosslyn, Arlington View, Woodbury, Shirlington, Crystal Plaza, Gunston) were all very close. As for Vihstadt, he creamed Howze in far- North Arlington precincts like Thrifton (1,043-460), Madison (1,203-474), Rock Spring (1,034-492), Dominion Hills (920-589), Lexington (994-537); as well as far-South Arlington precincts like Aurora Hills (637-342) and Fairlington (841-532). Vihstadt also won Orange Line corridor precincts like Lyon Village (686-486), Lyon Park (537-475) and Ashton Heights (681-580).
This time around? Different opponent for Vihstadt, different times in the country, different candidate on the ballot for U.S. Senate, different mood in Arlington County, different campaigns…and VERY different results. The precinct results tell some interesting stories, though. For instance, where Vihstadt was strongest in 2014 (far-North Arlington), he remained very strong in 2018, winning Rock Spring again (this time 1,072-378, an even BIGGER margin than in 2014! can we say “outlier?”); winning Madison again (this time 1,228-644, a slightly lower margin – but still very solid – compared to 2014); winning Thrifton again (this time 981-586, a significantly lower margin – but still very strong – compared to 2014); winning Dominion Hills again (this time 937-736, a significantly smaller but still solid margin compared to 2014); and winning Lexington again (this time 1,031-759, a somewhat smaller – but still very strong – margin compared to 2014). Vihstadt also won far-South Arlington precincts Aurora Hills and Fairlington again, but by significantly smaller margins than in 2014. So basically, de Ferranti cut Vihstadt’s margins in the areas where Vihstadt’s strongest.
As for the Orange Line corridor precincts, they almost all went to de Ferranti this time, with one exception being Lyon Village, which went narrowly (809-792) to Vihstadt. Precincts like Rosslyn (1,069-636), Park Lane (1,430-893), Clarendon (648-571), Ballston (876-812) and Virginia Square (1,041-948) all went either strongly or more narrowly for de Ferranti, after several of them (Clarendon, Virginia Square, Ballston) went for Vihstadt in 2014. That was a big flip, obviously, and in part (almost certainly) the result of “presidential/federal voters” voting Democratic up and down the ballot. De Ferranti also creamed Vihstadt in large swaths of south Arlington, such as in Wakefield (1,214-669), Four Mile Run (877-410), Glebe (1,130-514), Campbell (946-323), Gunston (782-453), Shirlington (782-536), Barcroft (809-598), Columbia (1,291-923), Crystal Plaza (782-548), Fillmore (1,176-892) and Met Park (858-596).
Of course, the fact that Tim Kaine was busy CRUSHING Corey Stewart in Arlington by an incredible 82%-15% margin (87k-16k votes) could only have helped “downballot” Democrats Matt de Ferranti (note: I largely called this back in January). I’d also point to the fact that whatever anger existed in 2014 over the Arlington County Board’s perceived arrogance, insularity, etc. had either diffused or disappeared by 2018, in part because it’s a completely new cast of characters on the Board now, and in part because the issues that Vihstadt demagogued so effectively (“gold plated!” “extravagant!” “million-dollar whatever!”) in 2014 were no longer hot buttons or even relevant at all in 2018. Without being able to tap into anger towards the Board, and with intense anger at Trump – plus disgust at Republican U.S. Senate nominee Corey Stewart – dominating, combined with a strong Democratic candidate/campaign (including both de Ferranti and the Arlington County Democratic Committee), Vihstadt was defeated. Bye bye! 🙂