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Jaime Areizaga-Soto Campaigns Hard for Virginia Democrats

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This really makes me proud to have supported Jaime Areizaga-Soto for State Senate. Despite his loss in the August 23rd primary, Jaime isn't moping or licking his wounds. Instead, he's spending his weekends working his butt off to help fellow Democrats all around Virginia. According to Jaime:
After a great day yesterday door-knocking for Sen. Puller, Dr. Lateef, Supervisor Princippi and future Del. Esteban Garces in Prince William County, I drove 4hrs to Roanoke this morning to introduce Sen. Edward Edwards at the Latino Festival and volunteer through Tuesday. Go Democrats!

That's impressive, especially given that a lot of candidates SAY that even if they lose they'll continue fighting hard to elect Democrats, but rarely follow through once the primaries are over. In this case, though, Jaime Areizaga-Soto is a man of his word. Gracias, mi amigo -- keep up the great work!

Arlington Candidate Forum Thursday As Campaigns Heat Up in Final Few...

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Given the love lukewarm feelings intense dislike between these candidates, as well as the fact that we're really starting to come down the home stretch of this campaign (the primary is August 23), the upcoming candidate forum in Arlington promises to be intense. I mean, I realize that primaries almost always get heated, but it's amazing to me how much animosity has built up in just a couple months between: a) the Stephanie Clifford and Alfonso Lopez campaigns in the 49th House of Delegates district; and b) the Barbara Favola and Jaime Areizaga-Soto campaigns in the 31st State Senate district. I mean, from everything I'm hearing, these campaigns really, really don't like each other.

Speaking of the 31st State Senate district race, see this ArlNow article for a quick update of how low it's sunk. Basically, the latest is that Barbara Favola is attacking Jaime Areizaga-Soto for being a successful attorney and having worked on a variety of international energy transmission agreements. Of course, Favola does NOT provide any broader context, such as what Areizaga-Soto did exactly, what level he was at in the law firms, what his role was, etc. I know, details, details, such as whether Jaime might actually have worked hard to make these deals more environmentally friendly than they would have been otherwise?

Personally, I have 17 years of experience working on international energy issues at the U.S. Energy Information Administration, so I think it's fair to say I'm pretty familiar with the issues regarding economic development, rapidly increasing energy demand, and the urgent need for environmental protection in energy projects like the ones Jaime Areizaga-Soto worked on. Which is why I asked Jaime about these projects the first time we sat down for a serious meeting, and several times since then. Now, I could be wrong, but based on my conversations with Jaime, I'm convinced that he understands all of this. The question is, when the Favola campaign took Jaime's resume and used it, completely out of context, to attack him, did they do so knowing that it was fundamentally misleading? Did they do so anyway, doing whatever it takes to win this election?

Anyway, I sure hope that debate moderators on Thursday will ask about the conduct of this campaign, and not just ask bland questions about the candidates' well-known/oft-repeated positions on the issues (which anyone can see by checking their websites, or their interviews with Blue Virginia, etc.). At this point in the campaign, it's time to "cut to the chase," as the saying goes, and hear from the candidates as clearly as possible two things: 1) why we should vote for them; 2) why we should NOT vote for their opponent. Isn't that what elections are all about, after all?

Endorsement: Jaime Areizaga-Soto for State Senate

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As always, in making an endorsement in a contested, Democratic primary, there are two main considerations. First, why one candidate? Second, why not the other?  In this endorsement of Jaime Areizaga-Soto for State Senate from the 31st district (Arlington, McLean, Great Falls, eastern Loudoun County), I'm going to focus mostly on the positives, as he himself has been doing in his campaign. Don't believe that? Well, so far I've received numerous (15?) mailers from the Areizaga-Soto campaign, and of those, I'd say that 80% or so were purely positive. The other 20% were "negative" in the sense that they brought up unpleasant, but nonetheless relevant and important, issues about his opponent. We'll get to that a bit later.

But first, why Jaime Areizaga-Soto? First, by every indication -- my conversations with him, his extensive Blue Virginia interview, his speeches and comments at debates and forums -- Jaime is clearly a strong, passionate progressive, committed to: LGBT equality, environmental protection, high-quality education, fairness and opportunity, and progressive tax reform, among other issues.

Second, Jaime is clearly a favorite of Blue Virginia readers (and progressive activists generally), having won our BV poll by a huge, 76%-24%, margin. As the editor and founder of this blog, as well as an active member of the progressive Virginia community since 2005, that means something to me.

30th, 31st Senate District Candidates Debate at Arlington County Democratic Committee

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I just got back from the 30th and 31st State Senate District debates at the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) meeting in Ballston. I've got a ton of video, which will take a while to process. I've also got some thoughts on the debates. In the meantime, here are Miles Grant's tweets from the debate, which I largely agree with:

*"Content of opening statement from @JAreizagaSoto is carbon copy of his announcement speech, but not as well delivered."
*"Opener from @BarbaraFavola was fine but also boilerplate. Save the bay, etc."
*"Opener + 2 questions go by + @JAreizagaSoto still hasn't said 1 difference with @BarbaraFavola."
*"Question on redistricting - neither @JAreizagaSoto nor @BarbaraFavola criticizes atrocious process. Weak."
*"You know it's an exciting @ArlingtonDems debate when I'm RTing a dog in the middle of it."
*"'This can't just be about moving more cars. It has to be about moving more people.' - @JAreizagaSoto. Also calls for gas tax hike."
*"@BarbaraFavola calls for 1 cent gas tax hike. That'll fix everything."
*"Favola vs. Areizaga-Soto not really a debate, more a forum. Probably a draw. Missed chance for Jaime to draw distinctions."
*"Best opening statement of either debate was @RobKrupicka. @LibbyGarvey also really good"
*"@LibbyGarvey on offshore oil drilling: "How short-sighted can we get?"
*"@AdamEbbin calls for ending mountaintop removal coal mining."
*"@AdamEbbin only 1 in either debate to say words "Dick Saslaw". Everyone says they're bold, he's only one to actually BE bold so far"
*"@RobKrupicka criticizes estate tax repeal but doesn't say it was @TimKaine who signed it"
*"ZOMG someone pointed out a difference! Libby jabs Rob on BRAC, though not by name."
*"All 3 candidates in [30th] were more impressive than either candidate in [31st]."
*"RT @dannybarefoot: @RobKrupicka called out @AdamEbbin for voting to repeal the estate tax"

For now, I'd just add that I thought that the format of the debate, and also the questions asked (mostly bland, not pointed, nothing about the hot-buttons that are flying around the campaigns' mailers and in the press), were not especially conducive to fostering a give-and-take between the candidates.  

More on the "flip"

Chap Petersen Endorses Jaime Areizaga-Soto

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I find it fascinating that many of the same people who supported Jim Webb over Harris Miller in 2006 are also supporting Jaime Areizaga-Soto over Barbara Favola in 2011 [NOTE: one significant exception is Jay Fisette, who serves with Favola on the County Board]. At the same time, many of the same friends of corporate/real estate interests who supported Miller in 2006 are supporting Favola in 2011. Hmmmm.
Senator Chap Petersen endorses Jaime Areizaga-Soto for State Senate
Senator Petersen describes Areizaga-Soto as hard worker and passionate advocate

FAIRFAX, VA. - Today the Jaime Areizaga-Soto for State Senate campaign announced the endorsement of Fairfax Democratic Senator Chap Peterson.

"Having worked with Jaime in Richmond and Northern Virginia, I know that he is a hard worker and a passionate advocate for the community," said Petersen. "He represents a new generation of Virginians seeking leadership positions in the Commonwealth. That is something the Democratic Party needs."

Senator Petersen represents the 34th District in the Virginia State Senate. His district includes portions of Fairfax County.

"Chap has been a strong fighter for Fairfax," said Areizaga-Soto. "I will fight for Fairfax with the same vigor and passion."

UPDATE: Check out this strong endorsement for Jaime by Fairfax County Democratic Committee Sully District Volunteer of the Year in 2008, Shane Grannum. Here's the conclusion (bolding added by me for emphasis):
...Unfortunately, Caren Merrick is a strong candidate who will have the Republican freight train behind her to trash Favola's record.

That is exactly why this is Jaime Areizaga-Soto's moment to take local politics by storm and use his unique experiences as a political appointee and Lt. Colonel. That is exactly why Democrats - Progressive, moderate, and otherwise - need to band together. Because in January, it isn't really going to matter whether Favola or Areizaga-Soto is the candidate:  it's going to matter whether we have a Democrat to keep the Republicans in the Governor's Mansion and General Assembly from passing whirlwind pieces of legislation that will uproot this Commonwealth for good. We need someone who can and will win, and for that reason, Jaime is our man.

Del. Scott Surovell Endorses Jaime Areizaga-Soto for State Senate

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A strong endorsement of 31st State Senate Disrict candidate Jaime Areizaga-Soto from my friend and fellow progressive, Del. Scott Surovell. Given how much I respect Scott and share his values, this one means a lot more to me than most endorsements do.
ARLINGTON, VA. - Today the Jaime Areizaga-Soto for State Senate campaign announced the endorsement of State Delegate and Former Chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee Scott Surovell.

"We need Jaime in Richmond taking on the backwards policies of Cuccinelli and standing up for progressive priorities," said Surovell.  "Jaime will be a strong voice for Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun and we need him fighting in Richmond."

"Fairfax County and Loudoun County represent 43% of the 31st Senate District that have needs that are unique from Arlington County.  Jaime will fight for the Fairfax County and Loudoun County areas of the 31st District with as much vigor as the Arlington County precincts," said Surovell.  

Delegate Surovell also cited Jaime Areizaga-Soto's experience and perspective in his endorsement decision.  "He represents a new generation of leadership in Northern Virginia that brings a fresh perspective to Virginia's problems.  Jaime also has experience in Richmond having worked at Senator Whipple's side for the last two years. He knows what it takes to work with people from around the state who have different perspectives in order to get things accomplished for his constituents."  

BV Exclusive Interview: 31st State Senate Candidate Jaime Areizaga-Soto Answers Our...

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Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview Barbara Favola, one of two candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 31st State Senate district (Arlington, McLean, Great Falls, eastern Loudoun County). Today, I present my interview with the other Democratic candidate, Lt. Col. Jaime Areizaga-Soto, in this race. Among other things, Jaime has some strong words for Barbara Favola, including calling for her to either resign from the County Board or return developer money immediately. Areizaga-Soto also responds to Favola's charge that he was not really a "senior advisor" to Senator Whipple, and asserts strongly that he "will not support Phil Puckett or any candidate that is not a progressive for Caucus Chair." There's lots more, check it out! Also, thanks to both 31st State Senate district candidates for answering our questions, albeit in slightly different formats and non-simultaneously (due mainly to scheduling issues).

1. First, can you please briefly tell Blue Virginia readers what your top three reasons are for running for State Senate in the 31st district, and also specifically why you believe you'd make the best choice - both in terms of electability this November and as a Senator in Richmond - for Democratic voters in the primary with your opponent?

Since 2009 we have seen abortion rights under fire, gay rights stifled and education funding slashed. Ken Cuccinelli even sued to stop the President's healthcare reform legislation. Enough is enough. I want to fight back against the extremism that has taken over our Commonwealth. That's why I am running for State Senate -- to fight for our Democratic values. In terms of electability, Democrats win when we offer a stark contrast to Republicans; I offer the starkest contrast to Caren Merrick. I will hold her accountable for her extreme anti-choice, anti-equality positions, as well as her support for funding policies that will undermine our public schools.

2. With Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple retiring, the Senate Democratic Caucus chair position will be opening up.  One possible successor to Sen. Whipple is Deputy Caucus Chair Phil Puckett.  If you're elected to the State Senate, would you support Phil Puckett or would you support someone else for Senate Democratic Caucus Chair?  In general, would you ever support an anti-choice, or anti-progressive in any other way, Democrat for Caucus Chair?

I will not support Phil Puckett or any candidate that is not a progressive for Caucus Chair. I was surprised to hear my opponent would not rule it out. Phil Puckett holds positions on choice, equality, and the environment that are out of sync with our Democratic values. I will always stand up for a woman's right to choose and for a clean environment - including in intra-party battles for leadership. Any Democrat in this district that won't make the same commitment is not well-representing the 31st.

31st State Senate District Democratic Candidates Speak at Business Forum

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See here for my report on the 49th House of Delegates district and here for the 30th State Senate district forums held yesterday morning in Falls Church by the Northern Virginia Democratic Business Council. Last but not least, here's the 31st State Senate district forum, with Democratic candidates Barbara Favola and Jaime Areizaga-Soto.

In his remarks, Areizaga-Soto talked about his background (Attorney, business, Obama administration, JAG, policy advisor to Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple). According to Areizaga-Soto, we need representation to "stand up to the extremism and demagoguery we see every day in Richmond." We also need transportation solutions, including a "dedicated source to fund them." "I believe everyone should have the opportunity for a world-class education...the opportunity to succeed and thrive." He promised to fight the "narrow-mindedness that threatens progress." "I want to go to Richmond and fight for our Democratic values."

Barbara Favola said she's running for two reasons: 1) her long career in local government (14 years on the Arlington County Board) and her local perspective; 2) she wants Richmond to be more progressive, more compassionate. She talked about the many successes we've had in Arlington, including connecting land use and transportation decisions ("that mindset I think will serve us very well in Richmond"). She believes we need to invest more in K-12 and higher education. She called for a dedicated funding stream for education. She noted her work on behalf of the environment and her endorsements by "Sen. Saslaw, Sen. Whipple, Sen. Howell, Sharon Bulova, David Poisson and others."

P.S. I haven't endorsed in this race, but am watching it closely and hope to do so in coming weeks. By the way, the primary elections in all these races will be on August 23.

Could Democrats Lose the 31st State Senate District?

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It's a rare occasion that I agree with the pro-Republican Arlington Sun Gazette, but today is one of those occasions. The subject of this rare event is whether Democrats could lose the normally super-"blue" 31st State Senate district.
It is not panic time yet, but Northern Virginia Democrats may come to rue the state Senate redistricting plan, at least as far as the 31st state Senate seat goes. In redrawing that district, they may tried to be more clever than they should have been.

[...]

...if [Arlington County Board member Barbara] Favola makes it through to become the party nominee, she's going to have to explain a whole lot of Arlington County Board actions over the past decade and a half. It's going to be painful to watch her try to tell residents of Lansdowne in Loudoun County (part of the new Mighty 31st) why the Arlington board has been so adamant against widening I-66, just for starters.

Even worse, the Republicans have a super-wealthy candidate (I've heard hundreds of millions of dollars) who could cause major problems in a district that's now significantly less "blue" than it used to be. Her name is Caren Merrick, and as I look at her website, three things jump out at me: 1) she's a woman (obviously), which largely neutralizes Barbara Favola's argument that people should vote for her to replace another woman, retiring State Senator Mary Margaret Whipple; 2) Merrick's website makes her seem like an entrepreneurial, pro-business moderate/"soccer mom," nothing hard-edged or right-wing at all; and 3) she's active and engaged in all aspects of social media (blog, Twitter, Facebook). All of those are good things for a candidate to have, as is being a multi-millionaire.

The question is whether, as Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey argues, "The Democrats in the state Senate may have made a seminal mistake in redrawing their boundaries to move Merrick, a McLean resident, from the 32nd District into the new 31st," as Merrick "has the money, the contacts and the drive to make a serious chase of it." I don't know, but I'm very concerned. And that's the case no matter who the Democrats' nominee ends up being.

I'm even more concerned about potentially losing the (formerly super-"blue") 31st district if Democrats end up nominating someone who has never won a truly competitive primary or general election in her political career. In June 1995, for instance, Barbara Favola lost a primary to Paul Ferguson (3,747-2,705). In June 1997, she lost a primary to Jay Fisette (4,739-3,903). Favola finally won a special election in November 1997 to fill James Hunter's unexpired term (Hunter fell seriously ill in 1997 and passed away in 1998) against Republican Ben Winslow (28,005-16,900). In that election, Favola was aided by being downballot from Don Beyer (D), who was busy crushing Jim Gilmore in Arlington by 12,500 votes (30,736-18,252). Since then, Favola's faced only token opposition.

Given this electoral record, the question is electability: can Barbara Favola compete effectively against a potentially dynamite opponent like Caren Merrick, in a district that's only in the 56% Democratic range, with an off-off-year election in which most people aren't paying attention (or are on vacation)?  Just to be clear, this is a concern that's not specific to any one candidate. However, it would be comforting to know that Democrats had the strongest possible nominee to put up against a Republican candidate with the potential appeal - and financial resources - of Caren Merrick. Personally, I'm not (yet) convinced we'll have that with Barbara Favola. That's just one of the numerous reasons I believe we should have a competitive primary for this nomination, not Dick Saslaw's heavy-handed efforts to "clear the field."