Arlington County polls closed at 7 pm, results should be coming in shortly (unlike in DC, where they take hours for no apparent reason – heh). Here’s a bit of background to provide context.
*The last Arlington County Board special election was held in March 2012. Democrat Libby Garvey won that race with 7,025 votes (49.17%) over Republican Mark Kelly (6,211 votes, or 43.47%) and Green Party candidate Audrey Clement (1,007 votes, or 7.04%). That’s a total of 14,243 votes, and a margin of victory for the Democratic candidate of just 814 votes.
*You can see the precinct-level results here for that 2012 special election. As you’ll quickly notice, even in deep-“blue” Arlington, special elections can be very close, in part because “federal voters” tend to turn out in much lower numbers, which overwhelmingly hurts Democrats. Also note that in special elections, there are several Arlington precincts (e.g., Aurora Hills, Crystal City, Madison) that have a Republican lean to them. Strong Democratic precincts include Abingdon, Glebe, and Virginia Square. We’ll definitely keep an eye on those as results come in…
*By most accounts, turnout today was fairly low, but we’ll see soon enough. At the precinct I volunteered at (Virginia Square) for a couple hours, turnout seemed to be running very close to what it was in the 2012 special election. All else being equal, I’d expect higher turnout to help the Democratic candidate (in this case Howze), while lower turnout should help the Republican candidate (in this case Vihstadt, who has claimed to be an “independent” or even “fusion candidate” – yeah, whatever).
UPDATE 9:18 pm: I just got back from the party at Whitlow’s for Alan Howze. Video coming later…or maybe tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, the final results are: Vihstadt 12,656 (57%)-Howze 9,107 (41%). Also, Janet Murphy of the Independent Green Party got 250 votes (1.1%, and Independent Stephen Holbrook got 161 votes (0.7%).
UPDATE 7:58 pm: My instant analysis of this is what I’ve been telling people for months, pretty much. First, the “energy” has been far more on the anti-streetcar, anti-aquatic-center, anti-County Board side. Second, this is in large part the result of a serious failure over the past few years by the board (and other leaders in Arlington) to communicate clearly and to not come across as (the oft-heard-combo) “insular, arrogant, and uncommunicative.” Third, Vihstadt et al. ran a strong campaign; even if it was fundamentally dishonest, it tapped into real anger and frustration out there effectively, and in politics, that’s ultimately what matters. Fourth, I’d say that Alan Howze is a smart, level-headed guy who would make an excellent board member, but he was in an extremely tough position given the aforementioned. The main thing I wish he’d done differently would have been to call out Vihstadt’s dishonesty more directly, and also to tell voters that he “got it” regarding their anger at the Board on a variety of issues (e.g., I think Howze could have really spoken up about the outrageous assessments in Clarendon, what the deal was with that and why the Board had provided no transparency on that, weeks after the story broke on ArlNow). Anyway, enough for now…other than to report that with 47/53 precincts reporting, it’s currently County Board member-elect Vihstadt 11,451-Howze 8,393. Oh, and can we NOT assume that Howze will win in November? Thank you. 🙂
UPDATE 7:53 pm: With 44/53 precincts reporting, it’s now Vihstadt 9,648-Howze 7,052. By the way, so much for Frank O’Leary’s turnout model (it had predicted 30k-33k turnout; it looks like we’re actually getting maybe 20k).
UPDATE 7:43 pm: With 39/53 precincts reporting, it’s now Vihstadt 8,850-Howze 6,518. I’d say this one’s done, stick a fork in it. (One good thing: at least the bad results came in quickly and didn’t drag on for hours, as in DC the other day! LOL)
UPDATE 7:34 pm: With 24/53 precincts reporting, it’s now Vihstadt 5,382-Howze 4,161. Really really not looking good now for the “blue team.” 🙁
UPDATE 7:27 pm: With 9/53 precincts reporting, it’s now Vihstadt 1,228-Howze 1,005. Not good.
UPDATE 7:21 pm: The first two precincts reporting in are a bit concerning, as Howze won Monroe by a smaller margin than Garvey won it in 2012, and Vihstadt won Crystal City by a wider margin than Mark Kelly won it in 2012. Current total: Vihstadt 207-Howze 167.