Libby Garvey won the special election to the County Board on Tuesday in a nail-biter, at least by Arlington standards. What did we learn?
First, there is an increasingly vocal segment of the electorate in Arlington that is against the Board’s streetcar+bus plan for Columbia Pike. After all, Republican Mark Kelley and Green Party candidate Audrey Clement were firmly anti-trolley, and they scored over 50% of the vote combined. Even the winner, Ms Garvey, ran in the Democratic caucus as a trolley skeptic (and won handily over other pro-trolley opponents like Melissa Bondi).
Second, the Green Party is very far away from representing a viable, left-wing alternative to the Arlington Democrats. Ms Clement had terrible fundraising. And while she opposed the trolley, she failed to articulate a clear alternative vision for the future of public transportation in the County.
Third, there appears to be a surging amount of disgust with the current Board Members. Their handpicked candidates lost in the caucus. Ms Garvey ran on a unique platform in the caucus – the experienced outsider, skeptical of the Board’s decisions – and won handily. Despite that stance, over half of yesterday’s voters voted for candidates running on strong anti-Board platforms.
Fourth, for advocates of better bicycle infrastructure, we remain a fringe movement in Arlington: none of the candidates mentioned this in their platforms. Without electoral change, unfortunately, the future of cycling as a viable means to get around the County will remain a dream, especially for bike riders along Columbia Pike.
Finally, despite the criticism leveled here, the candidates ran a far more substantive campaign than is common in Arlington. In the last general election, Mr Tejada and Ms Hynes ran campaigns devoid of substance, relying on the local Democratic machine to return them to their offices. Ideally, the talking-points based campaigns of Mr Tejada and Ms Hynes won’t make the grade in the future. While we can hope that the campaigns can continue to get better (as can the media coverage), Mr Kelly, Ms Clement, and Ms Garvey all deserve to be thanked by the citizenry for their campaigns and their willingness to serve.