Unless the Virginia Supreme Court intervenes – and soon – it appears that Arlington Democrats will have no option but to select their nominee for the County Board special election in the next two days, with only a very small group of folks (around 260 Arlington County Democratic Committee members) being eligible to vote. Clearly, this is not an ideal situation, particularly given that the Democratic nominee is highly likely to be elected on July 7 as the next Arlington County Board member, effectively representing 230,000 people, and replacing the great Erik Gutshall, who resigned in early April and then tragically died several weeks ago after a short battle with brain cancer. So anyway, let’s hope the Virginia Supreme Court intervenes and postpones the election, as Arlington County and the Arlington Democrats have requested.
In short, if the nominee is decided this week, most of us – myself included – won’t be able to vote. However, we still can express our views, given that the First Amendment remains in effect, last I checked. 😉 So…here’s who I *would* vote for – Takis Karantonis – if I *could* vote, and why that’s the case.
So why Takis? Several reasons.
- He’s the right person specifically to replace Erik Gutshall’s skillset. Perhaps it’s not surprising, given that Takis previously managed Erik’s County Board campaign, that the two men would be in sync philosophically and, in many ways, temperamentally. Strong progressives and environmentalists? Check. Policy wonks? Check. People who understand and care deeply about smart planning, strong local governance, citizen engagement, urbanism, etc.? Check. Friendly, approachable, inclusive, caring personalities? Check. In short, if you liked Erik Gutshall, as I very much did, you’re almost certainly going to like Takis Karantonis as well. But more importantly, Takis’ skillset – and particularly his deep knowledge of planning, Arlington government, etc. – correspond the closest, of all the candidates running, to what we lost with Erik Gutshall’s untimely and tragic death.
- Among the endorsements for Takis (such as Arlington/Falls Church Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, Arlington School Board member Nancy Van Doren, former Arlington County Board members Jay Fisette, Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman, etc.), see below for why former Arlington County Board member Mary Hynes believes Takis will make the best County Board member at this time. Hynes specifically mentions Takis’ “thought leadership on environmental sustainability as president of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (now Eco Arlington), on affordable housing as vice-chair of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, and an hands-on practitioner of entrepreneurial economic development as CPRO’s Executive Director for many years and now as the head of micro-lending at the Ethiopian Community Development Council, a long-time Arlington non-profit.” Takis also “served on the Transit Committee and has been a tireless advocate for dependable, affordable transit for years.” And, last but not least: “His advocacy for new Americans is enriched by his own background as an immigrant who speaks 8 languages. What better time than now to have a County Board Member who can speak DIRECTLY with those who may be most affected by the pandemic?”
Bottom line: It’s going to be almost impossible to replace Erik Gutshall on the Arlington County Board, but if anyone can come close to doing so, I believe it’s Takis Karantonis. I encourage everyone who is able to vote – whether it’s the 260 Arlington County Democratic Committee members this week, or possibly a lot more Arlington Democrats later this year if (hopefully) the Virginia Supreme Court intervenes – to cast their ballot for Takis Karantonis.
P.S. See here for Takis’ responses to the Alliance for Housing Solutions questionnaire, and note the depth and breadth of his knowledge on this issue.
P.P.S. Arlington Democratic politico Jarrod Nagurka, who has worked on a bunch of campaigns – Patrick Hope for Congress, Rip Sullivan for Delegate, Christian Dorsey for County Board; as well as for House Minority Leader David Toscano in 2015 and as a “super volunteer” for Erik Gutshall’s County Board campaigns – also is endorsing Takis Karantonis. Here’s Jarrod’s statement:
“I first met Takis on Erik’s campaign. As someone who has worked on political campaigns in the past, I find it is easy to spot when a campaign staffer is pouring their heart into a race because they truly believe in the candidate’s message. That was Takis. From early morning emails to late night meetings, Takis gave everything he had to elect Erik because he believed in Erik’s vision for housing affordability, scaling up the County’s environmental and sustainability initiatives, ensuring transportation solutions that meet the needs of all Arlingtonians, and never shying away from public engagement and dialogue, even when it meant having tough conversations. Erik is irreplaceable on the Board. He was affable. He was kind-hearted. He was smart. And he cared. I believe that the one person uniquely positioned and able to pick up the torch and carry forward Erik’s priorities and legacy is Takis Karantonis. This election—understandably so given the short timeline—will be decided by Arlington County Democratic Committee leaders and activists. I urge them to vote for Takis to continue to implement Erik’s vision for the remainder of his term. Should other candidates wish to run in the 2021 primary then they can, and should, do so. However, for the final 20 months of Erik’s term, Takis Karantonis is the right choice to fill Erik’s seat and has the experience, know-how, and passion to make us all proud.”
Dear Democratic Friend,
I’m writing to you today to urge you to give your first vote in the online caucus to Takis Karantonis. I’m sorry to be doing this as an email. Thank you for understanding that there is simply not enough time to call each of you personally.
My experience as a County Board member has led me to conclude that Takis is the right person to step into the terrible loss of Erik and the only person in the race who can hit the ground running on Day 1. I’ve worked with Takis for many years on many issues and I know he’s ready.
Takis has been in Arlington’s trenches for many years – providing thought leadership on environmental sustainability as president of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (now Eco Arlington), on affordable housing as vice-chair of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, and an hands-on practitioner of entrepreneurial economic development as CPRO’s Executive Director for many years and now as the head of micro-lending at the Ethiopian Community Development Council, a long-time Arlington non-profit. He’s served on the Transit Committee and has been a tireless advocate for dependable, affordable transit for years. He’s also been an active precinct captain in Arlington Dems and led Erik’s campaign. He’s a planner who understands and has experience with budgets and, most importantly, has deep familiarity with Arlington’s current budget.
His advocacy for new Americans is enriched by his own background as an immigrant who speaks 8 languages. What better time than now to have a County Board Member who can speak DIRECTLY with those who may be most affected by the pandemic?
If you wish to talk about this I can be reached at xxx-xxx-xxxx. Thank you in advance for the seriousness of purpose that I know each of you is giving to this difficult decision. While I believe Takis is the best qualified, if you have reached a different conclusion, please make Takis your second choice.
No one wants to be where we are today. I commend you for your service to our community.
All the best