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Sun Gazette: Community Guide: Arlington has seen political whirlwinds in 2014 Print


Created:  Wednesday, September 17, 2014  12:00PM


[The annual Sun Gazette Community Guide will be published in conjunction with the Sept. 25 edition. This is one of the articles from the guide.]

You need a scorecard to keep track of all the surprise comings-and-goings among Arlington’s political establishment in 2014. And we have one for you:

Rep. Moran Announces Retirement: The decision of U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8th) to retire at the end of 2014 from the seat he had held since 1991 set off something of a feeding frenzy among potential successors.

Once the field for the June Democratic primary settled, it became a race of Don Beyer – former lieutenant governor and U.S. ambassador to Switzerland – against the rest of the pack.

Beyer ran a cautious campaign during primary season, made no unforced errors and capitalized on an advantage in money and name recognition to cruise to victory in the winner-take-all primary. Given the demographics of the 8th District, he should have no problem retaining the seat for the Democrats in the Nov. 4 election.

In what shaped up as a battle for second place, Del. Patrick Hope (D-48th) took tops among the Democratic combatants in a field that included several legislators and the mayor of Alexandria.

Zimmerman Departure Sets Up Special Election: County Board member Chris Zimmerman had about a year left in his term when he announced that he would resign early to take a job in the private sector. Zimmerman, a Democrat, had held the seat for nearly two decades.

Due to the timing of Zimmerman’s departure, the special election was set for April. Three Democrats emerged to run for the seat, with Alan Howze winning the party caucus. He went on to face off against John Vihstadt, who had ties to the county Republican establishment but ran what he called a “fusion” campaign, bringing together a coalition of Republicans, Green Party members and some disaffected Democrats.

With voters clearly irked at the spending priorities of the County Board, and apparently sending a message about the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar, Vihstadt romped to victory in the special election. He became the first non-Democrat on the County Board since Mike Lane’s brief stint in 1999.

Because the filing deadline for the general election came before the special election, Howze was the only Democrat to file and won the nomination by default. He and Vihstadt are going head-to-head again this fall, with odds likely favoring Howze due to the composition of the electorate that will turn out for federal races on Nov. 4.

Baird Announces She Won’t Seek Third Term: School Board member Sally Baird announced in January that she would not seek a third four-year term, leaving the door ajar for a succession battle among fellow Democrats.

Three candidates emerged to seek the Arlington Democratic endorsement. In a race that went to a second ballot under the relatively new instant-runoff procedure adopted by county Democrats, Barbara Kanninen narrowly defeated Nancy Van Doren for the party’s nomination.

Kanninen, who narrowly missed knocking off incumbent School Board member James Lander a year before in a similar caucus, heads into the general election the odds-on favorite against Audrey Clement. Clement has run for office four times before, all as the Green Party nominee for County Board; she is running as an independent for School Board.

Baird then surprised the community by departing office in August. Her seat will remain unfilled until a winner is elected and sworn in.

Simon’s Departure Leads to School Board Special Election: School Board member Noah Simon surprised some by announcing in July that he would resign the seat he had held for 18 months in order to spend more time with his children. Simon’s wife, Kedron, had lost a battle with cancer in December 2013.

Simon’s resignation set up a special election that was slated to run in conjunction with the Nov. 4 general election. The result is not in doubt, as Nancy Van Doren was the only candidate to file either for the Arlington County Democratic Committee endorsement or for the election itself.

School Board members in September appointed Van Doren to Simon’s seat so she could participate in deliberations before the election. When factoring in her upcoming special-election victory, Van Doren will serve the remainder of Simon’s term, which runs through 2016.

Treasurer Calls It a Career After 30 Years in Office: Treasurer Frank O’Leary had served in office since first winning election in 1983, and some expected he would hang in at least until he became the longest-serving elected official in Arlington history, which would have happened in 2015.

But O’Leary opted for retirement midway through his eighth term, and in July, his chief deputy, Carla de la Pava, was sworn into office as his successor. De la Pava had served as No. 2 in the office for six years.

O’Leary’s resignation set up yet another special election, to be held in conjunction with the general election, but as in Van Doren’s case, no one came forward to challenge de la Pava. As a result, she will fill out the remainder of O’Leary’s term, then run again in 2015.

Brink’s Departure Leads to Special Election: It perhaps wasn’t a complete surprise when Del. Bob Brink (D-48th) announced in June that he’d be resigning the seat he’d held for 17 years and joining the McAuliffe administration. Veteran legislators often take senior posts in Richmond toward the end of their tenure, and Brink would likely have remained in the minority party in the House of Delegates had he stuck it out there.

House Speaker William Howell called the special election for mid-August, which gave political parties but a few days to hold their nominating processes for the district that includes portions of Arlington and McLean.

Democrats chose Rip Sullivan, a lawyer from McLean, from a field of six (all the others were from Arlington). Republicans went with former Arlington School Board member David Foster, the only candidate to seek the GOP nod.

The result was one-sided, with Sullivan winning every precinct in the district. He was sworn in on Sept. 12, in time to take part in the General Assembly’s fall special session, and will fill out the remainder of Brink’s term, which runs through the end of 2015.