Home 2019 Elections Long-Time Arlington Turnout/Elections Analyst Predicts Record 22k-28k Votes in Tomorrow’s Commonwealth’s Attorney...

Long-Time Arlington Turnout/Elections Analyst Predicts Record 22k-28k Votes in Tomorrow’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Election

Frank O'Leary predicts Dem primary wins for Sen. Barbara Favola. Del. Alfonso Lopez, Commonwealth's Attorney Theo Stamos


From former Arlington County Treasurer and long-time local turnout/elections analyst Frank O’Leary. Note that he supports Theo Stamos for Commonwealth’s Attorney, so keep that in mind as you read the following analysis and commentary. Personally, I’d say the Arlington/Falls Church Commonwealth’s Attorney’s race is a Toss-Up at this point, that it could come down to how many Republicans and “Vihstadt Democrats” turn out, compared to more liberal Democrats. We’ll see tomorrow.

Down the Home Stretch

Absentee turnout in person at the Registrar’s office on Saturday greatly exceeded my expectations, as 468 eager voters cast their ballots.  That is more than double the prior record of 215 set in 2011.  Some of those appearing on the final day for absentee voting may also have been induced by the School Board Caucus occurring the same day.  This result incrementally raises my final estimate of absentee turnout to about 2,260 (plus or minus 30) which, while erasing the 2011 record of 1,590, also provides me with increased confidence that a total turnout in Arlington on the order of 23,500 is probable.  But wait!  Arlington is not the only jurisdiction voting.  We must also include our neighbor, Falls Church.

Absentee voting there has also been on a record pace for a purely local contest and it appears that about 340 absentee votes will be cast.  This translates into a remarkable 3.5% of the 9,700 active voters registered to vote, as compared to only 1.5% in Arlington, with a record total turnout likely in both jurisdictions.  Let me make a more formal statement of what I think will occur.








Falls Church








Would that I could reduce the range on the above estimates, but there are simply too many unknowns at work.  Happily, it does not appear that weather will be a factor in turnout.  As of now, the forecast indicates a sunny day with temperatures in the 70’s.  Only one question remains – who is likely to win?

This year, there are three races on the ballot in Arlington: the 31st Senate seat, the 49th House District Seat, and the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney.   Coverage and controversy in the two Arlington legislative races have been minimal and the two incumbents, respectively Senator Barbara Favola and Delegate Alfonso Lopez, should easily be retained by the voters. In Falls Church, wily veteran Senator Dick Saslaw has been challenged for his 35th District seat by two candidates.  Senator Saslaw has held the seat since 1980 and has been the Leader of the Democratic Senate Caucus since 1998.  While his race has stirred some controversy, he should easily retain his seat, while kicking up turnout.  The race for Commonwealth’s Attorney, appearing on the ballot in both Arlington and Falls Church, is another matter.

If money were the only measure of success, then Ms. Tafti would sweep the board; as she has outspent the incumbent Stamos by a factor of approximately four to one.  (Our $1,000,000 Baby?)  As I have previously stated, however, such excessive expenditures are subject to the Law of Diminishing Returns.  (If a single bucketful saturates a sponge the water from an entire swimming pool will have no further effect.)  Were there to be a direct correlation between expenditures and turnout the absentee vote would be far greater than that which has occurred (high as it is) and that super absentee turnout would be reflected in a far larger estimated total turnout, all of which would strongly imply a restless electorate and victory for Ms. Tafti.  In fact, the extraordinary expenditures of the Tafti campaign may well have had the opposite effect to that desired by producing a backlash and charges that non-local financial entities are attempting to buy the election.  (Not the Arlington Way! – Or Falls Church Way, for that matter!)

Ms. Stamos’ assets are obvious, although perhaps not as measurable: a trusted prosecutor with more than thirty years’ experience, a record of never having had a case overturned, a proven record as an experienced campaigner and vote getter (receiving more than 83% in the 2011 primary), and the advantages of incumbency.  Ms. Tafti can claim none of the above.

In the final analysis, this is a political contest and such contests are often decided by a web of elusive intangibles, heartfelt convictions and emotions, impervious to reason.  Moreover, the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney is looked upon by conservative voters in both Arlington and Falls Church as a bedrock of the community and that group responds accordingly when they feel that the status quo is threatened.  (A lesson that I painfully learned in Arlington’s first Firehouse Primary held in July 1986, when the appointed Commonwealth’s Attorney, Helen Fahey, drubbed my candidate, Brendan Feeley.)  The many charges raised by Ms. Tafti are unlikely to resonate with conservative voters in both jurisdictions, while the record of Ms. Stamos will.

Perhaps, most significantly, I have examined the Arlington voting record for the last one hundred years.  There is not a single instance in which a Democratic incumbent, elected to office, has lost when challenged in a primary.  (I lack the data for Falls Church.)  While the past is no guarantee of the future, I believe in this case it will be.  I further predict that Ms. Stamos will receive 55 percent or more of the vote in a resounding victory.  That is known as a “Landslide.”

Many Happy Returns.



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