In a packed county council race, independent candidates are praising a lively campaign on election night

Political signs on N. Kirkwood Road in Virginia Square (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

On the eve of Election Day, some of Arlington’s candidates are hopeful that this election cycle will bring a refresh to local politics, even as history suggests otherwise.

This year, four candidates are vying for a seat on the county board – three of them independent – and two candidates are vying for a seat on the school board.

On the county board side, Democrat incumbent Takis Karantonis is vying to retain his seat against Mike Cantwell, Audrey Clement and Adam Theo, while Mary Kadera and Major Mike Webb for the school board line up for the seat of outgoing member Monique O’Grady.

In particular, independent candidates for the county council say the filled-in independent board could be a good thing for the local discourse. Karantonis was not available to respond to a request for comment.

“The independent candidates brought new ideas and fresh perspectives to this year’s election,” Cantwell said. “Arlington voters want change. They know instinctively that a party government is bad for democracy and bad for Arlington. They want to vote for someone who is free from party political ties and conflicts of interest.”

Adam Theo also praised the relationship between four candidates and a county council seat.

“I hope to see each race in the future be so competitive and hopefully even more diverse,” he said. “I am well aware that despite the competitiveness, unfortunately all four candidates are white people in the middle class. Although there are some good political differences among us … we could have even more differences in political solutions with greater gender, racial, ethnic and religious diversity in our candidates. “

But multi-year candidate Audrey Clement was more pessimistic.

“While I’m impressed with the professionalism of Arlington’s electoral operations, I’m deeply disappointed that the vast majority of voters are fixated on one thing – the blue ballot,” Clement said. “That voters will not consider an alternative to the machine of the current Democratic Party guarantees corrupt government and still escalating taxes in the foreseeable future.”

Independent and Republican candidates are typically knocked out resounding in the Arlington election, favoring established Democrats. Last year, 80.7% of voters voted for Joe Biden and 71.6% voted for incumbent Democrat Libby Garvey. Karantonis itself won its special election in 2020 in a landslide and also won the Democratic primary in June by a two-thirds majority.

Despite Arlington’s deep blue streak, Clement praised “the robust attendance at the six virtual candidate debates” she attended.

Clement also responded to the recent controversy over misrepresentation of her age in a Washington Post candidate questionnaire comparing age discrimination to racial discrimination 50 years ago.

“I maintain that all persons over the age of 40 are in a federally designated ‘protected class’ that prevents discrimination against them on the grounds of age,” she said. “This means that they cannot be forced to disclose their age except for an overall governmental purpose.”

Overall, the independents say they are happy with the campaign they led.

“I always told the truth and treated everyone with respect,” Cantwell said. “Because I am a true independent, I listened to all the voters, not just the voters on Team Blue or Team Red.”

Theo says he did not set tough exceptions for himself this year as he was focused on warming up for debates and presenting himself to voters. He says this year prepared him for future races as he hopes to repeat the 2014 disruption that gave John Vihstadt a seat on the county board.

“I have now configured everything I need for a future run in 2023 or 2022,” he said. “I’m entering a future race, better positioned and prepared than any other independent candidate since John Vihstadt in 2014, I think.”

Meanwhile, education is an increasingly popular political issue in Arlington and across Virginia. The division has penetrated deeper into local school politics in Arlington, says Democrat-approved school board candidate Mary Kadera.

“To some extent, public education has always been political, but this year more than others,” she said. Her opponent, Mike Webb, was not available for comment.

This year, school choice, school curriculum and COVID-19 safety measures, such as mask requirements, have made education a hot-button issue in Virginia elections, she says.

“Local school board races are party-political under Virginia law, but that does not mean local school districts are not affected by education policies and investments made at the state and federal levels,” she said. “I hope all voters will examine the graduates’ education platforms carefully because it is such an important time for our students and staff who need our full support as the schools have reopened and we are doing the important work of recovering. “

Meanwhile, voters will also be able to vote for or against about $ 86 million in local government bonds.

On the county side, it includes components of the county’s three-year capital improvement program, adopted in July 2021, and focuses on transportation, local parks and local infrastructure spending. On the school side, an Arlington Public Schools bond measure that would pay for renovations of existing and construction of new school infrastructure as part of its capital improvement program.

The school bond includes $ 11.6 million in building renovations and kitchen renovations at Campbell, Drew, Randolph, Long Branch and Hoffman-Boston Elementary Schools, as well as Swanson and Kenmore Middle Schools and the Langston High School Continuation Program.

It also includes the second phase of $ 11.4 million of the new The Heights building.

“I’m pleased to see that this year’s school commitment includes important funding for safer entrances to our schools, improvements to more school kitchens, and improvements in accessibility in The Heights building for students with disabilities,” Kadera said.

The total number of early polls was 40,219 from Sunday, according to Arlington’s poll panel, which was last updated today (Monday). That’s more than three times what they were at the last gubernatorial election until November 7, 2017: 12,480.

In total, as of Sunday, 27,790 people voted early and in person, and 12,429 people submitted postal votes.

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