I got back about an hour ago from the Cherrydale (Arlington) Citizens Association debate at the volunteer fire station. The two debates I watched were: 1) Democrat Mary Hynes vs. Green Party candidate Audrey Clement for Arlington County Board; and 2) Democrat Barbara Favola vs. Republican Caren Merrick for State Senate. I’m uploading video to YouTube now, and hopefully will have it in the morning, intertubes willing. 😉 For now, just a few observations.
1. It was packed, standing room only (see photo on the “flip”), with the State Senate race clearly drawing the overwhelming proportion of passion and partisans.
2. I’d say that the crowd probably favored Favola, but certainly not by an overwhelming margin. Clearly, Caren Merrick encouraged her supporters to turn out (or perhaps they’re more motivated/better organized than Favola’s supporters?) and they did.
3. The debate between Favola and Merrick revealed stark differences between the candidates; that is, if and when anyone could manage to pin Merrick – who dodged, weaved, and avoided straight answers for the entire 1/2 hour – down on anything. Still, it’s clear that Merrick is a right winger on social issues (e.g, anti-choice, anti-LGBT equality, pro-gun), and also a standard-issue anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-government conservative in every other way. In contrast, Barbara Favola is clearly an Arlington Democrat in every sense of that phrase (and to me, that’s a very good thing).
4. Merrick’s certainly polished, but to be blunt, she’s also a Class A b.s.’er (I wouldn’t buy a used car from this woman, but she’d probably convince a lot of people to do so!). Of course, in politics, being a polished, slick b.s.’er can get you far, as long as people don’t see through it or find you overly smarmy. We’ll see how it works out for Merrick, who is as slick (I’d say smarmy, even insufferable, as she spews out typical right-wing blather about the glories of the market and evils of government) as they come.
5. Favola’s definitely NOT slick, but she’s clearly far more in tune with the 31st district on issue after issue, from a woman’s right to choose to GLBT equality to raising revenues to pay for transportation improvements to her attitude towards government to…pretty much everything. On election day, this fundamental fact should carry her to victory, notwithstanding Merrick’s significant cash advantage.
6. Finally, just a note about the County Board race (see photo on the “flip”). I thought that incumbent Mary Hynes (D) did fine, no stumbles or mistakes, which is what a hugely favored incumbent should do in a debate with an underfunded opponent. Green Party candidate Audrey Clement went after Hynes fairly aggressively, and articulately, on Arlington’s growth policies, on the priorities of the County Board (which Clement views as misguided), and on the influence of real estate developers on the Board. We’ll see if any of that resonates on November 8, but I didn’t sense a groundswell at the forum tonight.