Unlike many in the other, lesser world of local media, the Sun Gazette has stayed true to issuing political endorsements. (Credit to the Falls Church News-Press, which while not quite on our wavelength on most issues, is another that has maintained the practice.)
Our reasoning for keeping the tradition alive is clear: Voters deserve to hear the views of an organization that watches candidates a whole lot more intimately than do most others, and over time has discerned their virtues and their vices.
Should anyone cast a ballot based on one endorsement? Of course not. But are they valuable in providing background material for a final decision? You bet your bippy, to quote a long-ago catchphrase.
Alas, when it comes to the Arlington County Board race, this is going to be a tough call, at least based on last week’s Arlington County Civic Federation debate among the three contenders on the ballot.
In fairness, all three were fine – there were no major unforced errors, and prodded by questions that focused on major issues such as Missing Middle zoning, their comments showcased significant differences that will be of importance to voters as minds are made up.
But we weren’t blown away, for the following reasons:
• Incumbent Democrat Matt de Ferranti got a little flustered under flak coming on Missing Middle from both his left (Adam Theo) and sort of his right (Audrey Clement). It’s easier to be a challenger, as de Ferranti was four years ago, than an incumbent. De Ferranti’s other challenge, like some politicians we have known through the years, is that he wants to be liked by the broad swath of the public, therefore doesn’t want to irk them with strongly-staked-out positions. As a result, he’s trying to tack to what he sees as the middle of the road on the Missing Middle issue, which while it would seem to satisfy few in this contentious matter, also would not alienate enough people to imperil his chances for victory.
• Challenger-for-life Audrey Clement finally has an issue on which she can pile up some votes (she’s against Missing Middle, as are an increasing number of Arlingtonians). But as always, she refuses to build a campaign infrastructure or raise the funds to actually get her message out to those voters. For her, 2022 will go down as a wasted opportunity.
• The other challenger, Adam Theo, goes the other direction on Missing Middle – he seemingly wants a free-for-all, the widest array of options, no matter the consequences – and there will be consequences, including unintentional ones. Nice guy, interesting positions on some issues, but that’s not going to win him the Sun Gazette’s endorsement this time around.
So it’s down to de Ferranti vs. Clement on the endorsement-o-meter. Memo to the finalists: We’re going to weigh in on the race early in October, so sharpen your messaging in coming debates and give us the best you’ve got.
A political endorsement may not count for much, but it counts for something. Years back, one Arlington political titan complained that the Sun Gazette endorsement of him/her that year hadn’t been glowing enough.
“Want us to take it back in the next edition?” we retorted, and the candidate was wise enough to never mention it again.