Home 2019 Elections Video: Arlington County Board Challenger Erik Gutshall on Offense Against Incumbent Libby...

Video: Arlington County Board Challenger Erik Gutshall on Offense Against Incumbent Libby Garvey in First Debate


Last night, the Arlington Young Democrats hosted the first 2016 debate for Arlington County Board. Incumbent Libby Garvey is up for reelection, and is being challenged by Democrat Erik Gutshall (the primary will be held on June 14). If you haven’t been following Arlington politics, it’s worth reminding everyone that Garvey, a long-time School Board member elected to the County Board in 2012, in late 2013 endorsed a Republican, John Vihstadt, for County Board to fill the seat being vacated by long-time incumbent Chris Zimmerman (D). Garvey actively campaigned and fundraised for Vihstadt against the Democratic nominee, Alan Howze, helping contribute to Howze’s defeat by Vihstadt. In addition, Garvey vociferously opposed the Columbia Pike streetcar project after initially saying she supported it (then later opposing it) when she ran in 2012. The problem isn’t so much that Garvey opposed the streetcar, but HOW she did so, with utterly false claims about “Bus Rapid Transit” (not possible on Columbia Pike) and how the streetcar supposedly would take money from “core services” (false, as the streetcar money was dedicated, NOT fungible). In May 2014, Garvey resigned from the Arlington County Democratic Committee, before an expected vote to expel her. Now, with not a small amount of chutzpah, Garvey is back yet again running for the Democratic nomination. Amazing.

Meanwhile, Erik Gutshall is running as a real Democrat and a progressive, while incumbent Libby Garvey refuses to even say that she’ll back Democrats or act like a progressive. More importantly, Gutshall has a clear vision for Arlington’s future, thinks boldly about the challenges we face, communicates his ideas effectively and clearly, and has experience in a variety of areas — business, the Planning Commission, Doorways for Women and Families, president of his civic association, Transportation Commission member, etc., that Garvey can’t even come close to.

In sum, this is a very simple choice for Arlington Democrats on June 14 — time for a real Democrat and smart, fresh ideas on the Arlington County Board, by nominating Erik Gutshall.

With that, here’s video (in order of what I thought was interesting, not chronological) from last night’s Arlington Young Democrats debate. (Note: I agree with Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey that both candidates failed to really go for the “political jugular” last night, and also that there were some “cringe-worthy moments”  — particularly by Garvey, but also by Gutshall when he blanked on the final item in his list of progressive values. I’dd add that there were also a bunch of evasions, half truths and downright falsehoods by Garvey. And yes, the event went on too long, but the questions were all solid, with the exception of the doughnut question (WTF???).

First, here’s Erik Gutshall’s opening statement, in which he stresses that “we have to plan for our future…long-term strategic investments…we have got to make an investment in a 21st century transportation system…it’s unacceptable that Ms. Garvey has sat on the sidelines for the last 18 months without a plan for Columbia Pike.” He also emphasized housing affordability, “and cutting $8.2 million from the Affordable Housing Investment Fund as Ms. Garvey has proposed is not the way to do that.”

Next, here’s a question on whether the candidate will pledge to support Democrats going forward. Garvey refused to make the pledge, giving a ridiculous answer about “gather[ing] the best information” and making “the best decision based on what is the right thing to do…for the people of Arlington.” She also (mis)quoted Hillary Clinton about what a Democrat is about, still dodging the core question about whether she will be a loyal Democrat going forward (which she certainly hasn’t been previously). That, of course, is laughably absurd for someone who claims to be a Democrat and who is seeking the Democratic nomination. I’m sorry, but if you can’t even make that simple pledge, ACDC should automatically disqualify you from consideration for their endorsement. For his part, Gutshall got a big round of applause with his statement, “I’m going to make this real easy, absolutely, 100%, unequivocally I will support the Democrat, period!” Gutshall added that “it IS about values,” but it’s not just the values of the candidate, but the “values of the party.” He noted that Garvey refused to support Rip Sullivan (D) when he was running for House of Delegates against a Republican, even though the Republican Party in Richmond has “run amok with crazy legislation that violates women’s rights, and to say that you’re going to exercise some value judgment, is to me just not responsible leadership.” Gutshall also pledged not to take money from current or former Republican elected official and urged Garvey to do the same. Gutshall added that it’s fine to work across the aisle, but that “at the time of election, that’s when the future is on the line, that’s when our values are on the line, and unequivocally I’m a Democrat; I’m a Democrat probably from the day I was born and I’ll be a Democrat until the day I die, guarantee it!”

Now, check out Erik Gutshall ripping Libby Garvey for voting, effectively, to widen I-66 in Arlington. Gutshall said his stance on I-66 expansion is that “it should not have had to happen.” Gutshall added that Arlington has emphasized, and should continue to emphasize, moving people via transit rather than investing “in asphalt.” “I would not have voted against the original compromise that would have DELAYED widening on I-66 for at least 5 years to allow multimodal improvements…to give them a chance to work, and Ms. Garvey did vote against that, so now we have immediate widening of I-66.” Garvey tried to rebut this, claiming for some strange reason that the compromise was a “pig in the poke.” She also said “we were losing” so she turned to “soft power” (huh?), and that she wants to build on top of I-66 (good luck with that). Gutshall then rebutted Garvey, saying it’s “very clear” what the situation was. “The region was behind the original compromise that would have delayed widening.” “Also…the [nonpartisan, unbiased] county attorney said that that proposal…was designed to protect the best interests of Arlington County, so I don’t know where the ‘pig in the poke’ is,” but there’s no reason for Garvey to have voted the way she did.

In a question on school overcrowding in Arlington and why the School Board didn’t see this coming years ago, Gutshall noted that Garvey – who was on the School Board (including as Chair) for many years – should probably go first, since she should know the answer to this question. Gutshall said we are “far too reactionary” and that it’s “high time we get out in front,” be “proactive” where we are “looking down the road.” According to Garvey, she’s been “talking about this for a long time…but I haven’t had the votes.” (note: that line about not having the votes was a common refrain by Garvey during the evening — I counted at least three times she used that line — and one which Gutshall hit her for later).

In Erik Gutshall’s closing statement, he said that Arlington is at a turning point in its history, after decades of “great planning and progressive values.” Today, “it’s time to define…what is the new vision…are we going to be double down on what’s served us well, which is long-term strategic investment and good, solid planning or are we going to turn inward and…make excuses for the next generation of why we…weren’t bold enough” to tackle our challenges. Gutshall said Garvey keeps using the excuse of not having the votes (although she was happy to work with her “Republican friends”), but that’s just a failure of leadership/inability to “find solutions…in the job that she had.”

In this question on government transparency, Gutshall said “what is most troubling right now is the news yesterday that our County Board just adopted this idea of a blue-ribbon, ad hoc panel, as if somehow this magical 6-person panel is going to now go back and look at all of our priorities in the county…this came forward on a Tuesday afternoon, recessed session of the County Board, with no notice despite assurances that from now on there would be at least 48-hour notice…That’s not how you improve transparency, that’s not how you win back the trust of people so that we can move forward together, that’s just more game playing and more divisiveness, and I think we’ve had enough of it in Arlington, I think we’re ready to turn the page.” AMEN!

In response to a question on whether Arlington should be welcoming to Syrian refugees, Gutshall said this raises the question of “what is the soul of Arlington.” He said we have always been a very welcoming community, “so of course we would want to welcome in the refugees.” Gutshall referred to “some” (not sure exactly who he was referring to — Vihstadt? Garvey? other?) who claim that Arlington is “already too full,” that “we can’t afford to do more.” He said “this kind of rhetoric is counterproductive” and compared it to Donald Trump’s and Ted Cruz’s rhetoric, and said he doesn’t want to see “that kind of sentiment take hold here in Arlington.” “This election is what are the key values we are going to hold onto here in Arlington, and are we going to be an open and inclusive kind of place where it would go without saying that OF COURSE we’d welcome some Syrian refugees here, or would it have to be a battle?” BTW, what on earth is Garvey talking about when she claims, “if we want to know about terror cells that might be here now…who better can help us find those cells than somebody from the Middle East?” Really???

Question on aquatic center – Gutshall strongly supports it for “quality of life” and also drawing in employers who fill our office space who pay our taxes which makes all the great things about Arlington possible.

Here, Gutshall explains what makes him the real progressive in this race. “Progress comes by investing in the future, and right now we have rhetoric…that says that we should turn and look inward, and that we can’t afford… to meet these challenges that we face…The progressive stands up and says the way that we’re going to meet those challenges is by holding true to our values of diversity, inclusiveness, sustainability…and prosperity…We live by those values and we invest in those values and that’s how we have this wonderful community that we share.”

Gutshall has an idea for Garvey on housing affordability — the “missing middle” of housing that’s affordable for people of middle income, neither super-high density nor super-low density, but in between.

What makes you different? Garvey emphasizes her many years of experience on the School Board and the County Board. Yet again, she refuses to take responsibility and instead claims she didn’t “have the votes” as a lame excuse for not getting stuff done. Ugh. Gutshall says he has experience building a successful small business, and it’s been 20 years since small business has been represented on the County Board. Gutshall took a shot at Garvey about how “name dropping gets you nowhere,” but it’s about “do you get things done, and that’s one of the qualities I bring.”

Gutshall says there is “a group of people that sometimes goes unseen…and that’s homeless children, and they do exist in Arlington, even if we…don’t realize that they’re there.”

Gutshall says he’s hired and promoted people regardless of their sexual orientation. Garvey talks about being a Quaker which held gay marriages for years before the Supreme Court ruling.

Gutshall said it’s not about “my” plans but “OUR” plans to revitalize the west end of Columbia Pike. Gutshall noted that we had a plan that was developed over “decades” that “had buy-in for the community, and was unfortunately undermined when the transit was pulled for it.” (of course, Garvey refuses to take any responsibility for that) Gutshall also advocated for increased funding for Arlington’s planning division.

Gutshall argues for a dedicated source of revenue and a regional solution for Metro. Garvey rambled about her appearance on the Kojo Nnamdi Show and how Gerry Connolly interrupted her. She also bashed “very poor management” at Metro.

Question on the availability of rape kits. Gutshall asked, “at one point do we hold our leadership accountable, because at what point has it been brought up enough and enough and enough and things are not getting done and not getting fixed?” It’s time to “get the problem solved!”

Idiotic doughnuts question. Gutshall said he likes that Sugar Shack is “locally owned and operated by former Delegate Rob Krupicka.”

Gutshall says Arlington County isn’t helpful enough to small businesses, that “they are very geared towards the types of businesses that are going to fill office buildings.”

Gutshall says that it doesn’t appear that Arlington’s meal tax has put Arlington’s highly successful restaurants at a disadvantage. Gutshall hits Garvey: “Sometimes flexibility is just another word for ‘give developers whatever they want,’ and what I would say is if developers left to their own devices would create great places, then Tysons Corner would be a great place.”

Also, here are Garvey’s opening and closing statements. According to Garvey, the County Board is one big happy family and yet again quotes Hillary Clinton (this time she reads it) about “actually helping people.” Except that several of her decisions and actions have hurt Arlington badly. This is what voters need to decide on June 14; I urge them to vote for Erik Gutshall!

P.S. When I hear Libby talk, I often think of the jazz song “One Note Samba,” and particularly the lines: “There’s so many people who can talk. And talk and talk and just say nothing, Or nearly nothing.” LOL


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