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Sun Gazette: At Chili Cookoff, Democrats Launch Final Push to Election Day Print


Created:  Wednesday, September 4, 2013  6:00 am


The annual Arlington County Democratic Committee’s chili cookoff is the local political version of NASCAR’s gas-and-go final pit stop: A chance to get energized while pushing toward the final stretch of campaign season.

“Are we ready for a complete sweep?” U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) asked at the Sept. 2 event, which attracted more than 100 local Democrats to the Lyon Park Community Center to sample chili concoctions ranging from mild to wild while they compared political notes, largely about the contentious statewide races.

The chili competition was taken by Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), who won the people’s-choice award, and U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8th), whose entry (created by Peg Willingham) was adjudicated best by a panel of judges.

A record 18 teams entered the competition, including those headlined by elected officials. Meaty chili remained a favorite, but there were several vegetarian offerings, including Moran’s “animal-lovers’ chili.”

Many of those who paid to get in took a mix-and-match approach, putting several chili servings into a single bowl and trying to keep them segregated so they could determine which they liked best.

For Hope, victory proved vindication of a sorts – he had finished second in the public’s estimation at last year’s competition. Back when he was first a candidate for House of Delegates in 2009, he had won the judged portion of the competition.

While not giving away vote totals, organizers of the 2013 event said there were no blowouts in the chili balloting.

“It was close, folks. Every vote counted,” said Kim Klingler, who was one of the cochairs of the event.

Peter Owen, one of the judges, sang from a similar songbook.

“It was a very difficult decision,” Owen told competitors. “The results were close. All of you should be quite proud.”

Warner was something of a surprise visitor, but other elected officials were regulars at the chili competition. Moran, who had spent much of late August in Asia, was sporting a white beard. Also in the crowd were a number of Democrats on the Nov. 5 ballot, including County Board Vice Chairman Jay Fisette and Dels. Hope, Bob Brink, Alfonso Lopez and Rob Krupicka.

The annual Labor Day event marks the Democrats’ semi-official kickoff to the election, arriving a day before the Arlington County Civic Federation’s annual candidate forum.

Having a successful chili event “puts us on a great footing starting off this fall season,” said County Board member Mary Hynes, one of three leaders of this year’s Arlington County Democratic Committee’s Joint Campaign.

The chili event is one of three major activities sponsored each fall by the Joint Campaign, which as its name suggests coordinates among individual campaigns for office.

The chili cookoff also featured a pie-eating competition, won by political blogger Ben Tribbett, and a cupcake-decorating contest.