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Thursday, December 1, 2022
ArlingtonCandidate hoping Missing Middle puts wind beneath her wings

Candidate hoping Missing Middle puts wind beneath her wings

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In what is shaping up potentially to be her most successful run for elected office over many, many tries, Audrey Clement is attempting to cast this year’s Arlington County Board race as a simple up-or-down vote on the county government’s proposed Missing Middle housing-cum-zoning changes.

“Sources I’ve heard within the Democratic Party are concerned about Democrat Matt de Ferranti’s chances of re-election, because of a groundswell of opposition to Missing Middle,” Clement said in a recent statement, before in the next sentence walking back that confidence ever so slightly.

“At the very least, they’re concerned that de Ferranti and Adam Theo, who also is plugging for Missing Middle, will split the YIMBY [‘Yes in My Back Yard’] vote,” she said.

The issue of Missing Middle – effectively eliminating single-family zoning in large swaths of the county and allowing property owners to build multiple units on parcels previously reserved for one – has implications across Northern Virginia. Regional leaders clearly are looking at the impact the controversy will have at the polls in Arlington on Nov. 8.

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Although Missing Middle has been on the radar screens of Arlington activists for several years, it didn’t seem to penetrate the consciousness of most residents until earlier this year. The county government’s own surveys suggest that residents in single-family communities are not thrilled with the prospect of an end to one-home-per-lot zoning, although support for it is higher in other parts of the county.

Few expect Clement will unseat de Ferranti – although she almost surely will outpace Theo – but the perennial candidate could well top her previous best performance, when she picked off 31.1 percent of the vote against incumbent County Board member Jay Fisette in a one-on-one battle in 2013.

During that campaign, Clement hammered Fisette (who by then had been in office for 16 years) and the all-Democratic County Board for excessive spending, ripping them for being out of touch with the needs of constituents.

As events would prove, Clement’s performance in 2013 served as the canary in the coal mine, a wake-up call for county Democrats – but one they did not heed. Their complacency cost them the following year, but more on that later.

In her early races, Clement had the support of the small Arlington Green Party, but the two later parted ways. In a case of “getting the band back together,” to borrow a “Blues Brothers” line, the Green Party this year endorsed her candidacy, largely based on her Missing Middle stance.

The Arlington County Republican Committee, which did not itself field a candidate, considered an endorsement in the race but opted against it.

Clement’s position on Missing Middle won some GOP supporters, but several of her other political positions that were at variance with Republican principles put the kibosh on any possible endorsement.

Perhaps best known for her proliferation of campaign signage – albeit signage that always adheres to rules of the county government for placement on rights-of-way – Clement is making sure that drivers and pedestrians are aware of her stance by touting an anti-Missing Middle verbiage on signs.

Clement, who holds a Ph.D. in political science, has been on the Arlington ballot every year since 2011, when she made the first of what by 2022 are now 11 bids (10 general election, one special election) for County Board.

She’s also run for School Board twice, in 2014 and 2018, apparently having decided those years to leave the County Board race to Republican-leaning independent John Vihstadt, who in 2014 shocked the Democratic establishment by winning both a special election and the subsequent general election by riding a wave of dissatisfaction over the Arlington government’s gold-plated spending, best exemplified by the $350 million proposal to build a streetcar line along 5 miles of the Columbia Pike corridor.

Vihstadt’s victories in 2014 spelled doom for the streetcar, but Donald Trump’s election in 2016 curiously enough spelled doom for Vihstadt. When he next came before voters in 2018, Arlington Democrats marshaled all their forces to defeat him, selecting the largely unknown de Ferranti as their vehicle. De Ferranti won.

One of the raps on Clement, and one that seems to get under her skin, is that she has not built a fund-raising operation over her 13 bids for office. Having seen an opening this year, she was planning at least one announced fund-raiser.

Arlington’s Democrats, however, hold a huge institutional advantage in the lead-up to elections. In addition to their pre-election efforts, Democrats aim to have each of Arlington’s 54 voting precincts staffed throughout Nov. 8, a corps of 700 who will hand out sample ballots and otherwise entreat voters to support the party’s candidates.

In what is shaping up potentially to be her most successful run for elected office over many, many tries, Audrey Clement is attempting to cast this year’s Arlington County Board race as a simple up-or-down vote on the county government’s proposed Missing Middle housing-cum-zoning changes.

“Sources I’ve heard within the Democratic Party are concerned about Democrat Matt de Ferranti’s chances of re-election, because of a groundswell of opposition to Missing Middle,” Clement said in a recent statement, before in the next sentence walking back that confidence ever so slightly.

“At the very least, they’re concerned that de Ferranti and Adam Theo, who also is plugging for Missing Middle, will split the YIMBY [‘Yes in My Back Yard’] vote,” she said.

The issue of Missing Middle – effectively eliminating single-family zoning in large swaths of the county and allowing property owners to build multiple units on parcels previously reserved for one – has implications across Northern Virginia. Regional leaders clearly are looking at the impact the controversy will have at the polls in Arlington on Nov. 8.

Although Missing Middle has been on the radar screens of Arlington activists for several years, it didn’t seem to penetrate the consciousness of most residents until earlier this year. The county government’s own surveys suggest that residents in single-family communities are not thrilled with the prospect of an end to one-home-per-lot zoning, although support for it is higher in other parts of the county.

Few expect Clement will unseat de Ferranti – although she almost surely will outpace Theo – but the perennial candidate could well top her previous best performance, when she picked off 31.1 percent of the vote against incumbent County Board member Jay Fisette in a one-on-one battle in 2013.

During that campaign, Clement hammered Fisette (who by then had been in office for 16 years) and the all-Democratic County Board for excessive spending, ripping them for being out of touch with the needs of constituents.

As events would prove, Clement’s performance in 2013 served as the canary in the coal mine, a wake-up call for county Democrats – but one they did not heed. Their complacency cost them the following year, but more on that later.

In her early races, Clement had the support of the small Arlington Green Party, but the two later parted ways. In a case of “getting the band back together,” to borrow a “Blues Brothers” line, the Green Party this year endorsed her candidacy, largely based on her Missing Middle stance.

The Arlington County Republican Committee, which did not itself field a candidate, considered an endorsement in the race but opted against it.

Clement’s position on Missing Middle won some GOP supporters, but several of her other political positions that were at variance with Republican principles put the kibosh on any possible endorsement.

Perhaps best known for her proliferation of campaign signage – albeit signage that always adheres to rules of the county government for placement on rights-of-way – Clement is making sure that drivers and pedestrians are aware of her stance by touting an anti-Missing Middle verbiage on signs.

Clement, who holds a Ph.D. in political science, has been on the Arlington ballot every year since 2011, when she made the first of what by 2022 are now 11 bids (10 general election, one special election) for County Board.

She’s also run for School Board twice, in 2014 and 2018, apparently having decided those years to leave the County Board race to Republican-leaning independent John Vihstadt, who in 2014 shocked the Democratic establishment by winning both a special election and the subsequent general election by riding a wave of dissatisfaction over the Arlington government’s gold-plated spending, best exemplified by the $350 million proposal to build a streetcar line along 5 miles of the Columbia Pike corridor.

Vihstadt’s victories in 2014 spelled doom for the streetcar, but Donald Trump’s election in 2016 curiously enough spelled doom for Vihstadt. When he next came before voters in 2018, Arlington Democrats marshaled all their forces to defeat him, selecting the largely unknown de Ferranti as their vehicle. De Ferranti won.

One of the raps on Clement, and one that seems to get under her skin, is that she has not built a fund-raising operation over her 13 bids for office. Having seen an opening this year, she was planning at least one announced fund-raiser.

Arlington’s Democrats, however, hold a huge institutional advantage in the lead-up to elections. In addition to their pre-election efforts, Democrats aim to have each of Arlington’s 54 voting precincts staffed throughout Nov. 8, a corps of 700 who will hand out sample ballots and otherwise entreat voters to support the party’s candidates.

The third candidate, Adam Theo, was largely unknown when he ran for office in the 2021 County Board race that was won by incumbent Democrat Takis Karantonis. Theo ran fourth in a field that also included Clement and Mike Cantwell, but said then that his 2021 run was merely to establish the groundwork for a 2022 return engagement.

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