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Sun Gazette: At Kiwanis Event, Oysters Come With a Side Order of Politicking Print

BY Scott McCaffrey

Created:  Monday, November 7, 2011 7:31AM

Kiwanis_Oyster_RoastDel. Patrick Hope, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Arlington, is unopposed for re-election to the 47th House of Delegates seat. Hope, at left, is shown with Anna Necheles and Kevin Appel. (Photos by Scott McCaffrey)



County Board candidates and others on the Nov. 8 ballot got in a final weekend of politicking with appearances at the Kiwanis Club of Arlington’s 40th annual Oyster Feast and Pig Roast, held Nov. 5 at American Service Center in Ballston.

Greeting the estimated 600 people in attendance, those vying for office also had a chance to reflect on what they’ve heard from constituents during the campaign.

“Housing and transportation continue to be very high on people’s lists,” said County Board Vice Chairman Mary Hynes, who with her Democratic colleague Walter Tejada is seeking re-election.

So, too, were the ongoing “tensions between development and neighborhoods,” Hynes said, along with concern that county planning processes – such as for East Falls Church’s redevelopment – “took a really long time.”

“People wonder why it’s taking so long,” she said.

Hynes has served four years on the board, while Tejada has served eight. They are being challenged this year by Green Party candidate Audrey Clement.

Clement has taken the all-Democratic County Board to task for being in the pockets of developers, and said the public seems to feel the same way.

“There’s much more support for gradual development than for what I describe as hyper-development,” said Clement, making her first bid for office.

Clement said voters she talks to who live along Columbia Pike have deep misgivings about the proposed streetcar project, and that the public has expressed a desire for “much more aggressive”recycling policies.

“There’s more support than you might think for environmental initiatives,” she said.

Conventional wisdom suggests candidates other than the county’s dominant Democrats have their best chance at winning during off-year elections like those this year, but Clement said she hasn’t seen a groundswell of public interest in the campaign.

“I think a lot of the voters are apathetic,” she sighed.

Tejada countered that those voters who are engaged have a good grasp of what’s going on.

“I’ve been very impressed with the well-informed citizenry,” he said. “They know about the issues.”

Like Hynes and Clement, Tejada suggested there are concerns about county spending. He said he’d heard from constituents about the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar, the Artisphere arts center and Long Bridge Park – three very big-ticket items.

Tejada said he also has heard concerns about the potential for big-box retailers inundating the county, and about development in general.

But, he said, Arlingtonians seem to be in a generally good mood.

“It’s been mostly compliments,” Tejada said of interaction with the public – adding quickly that “I don’t want to deliver a message of complacency. We are working hard.”

Also on hand at the Kiwanis event was Caren Merrick, the Republican nominee for the 31st state Senate District, who later in the evening was joined by her Democratic opponent, Barbara Favola. Merrick had on hand Jim Cheng, Virginia’s secretary of commerce and trade, helping to mix and mingle.

Others on the ballot who showed up to greet prospective voters included School Board Chairman Abby Raphael, state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd), Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), Sheriff Beth Arthur and Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy. Also on hand were Theo Stamos, who is unopposed for election as commonwealth’s attorney, and Alfonso Lopez, who is unopposed in the 49th House of Delegates District race.

Even former politicians find the event a good chance to get out and see their one-time constituents, as the event brought out former state Sen. Edward Holland and Dels. Albert Eisenberg and Jack Melnick. State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (D-31st), who is retiring, continued to work the crowd even after many other political leaders headed inside for food or departed into the night.