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Friday, February 3, 2023
Editor’s NotebookEditor’s Notebook: Challengers, could we hear a roar?

Editor’s Notebook: Challengers, could we hear a roar?

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Tonight’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting could bring a final round of candidate announcements, since the days leading up to the June 8 primary are getting short and there are a couple of contenders who have not yet made the requisite stop in front of the Democratic rank-and-file.

And for those candidates taking on incumbent Democrats in the primary (there are a number), remember kindly Uncle Scotty’s dictum: If you don’t make clear in your kickoff remarks **why** the incumbent is not making the grade and needs to be replaced (by you, presumably), kindly Uncle Scotty will make note of the omission in coverage.

Obviously, candidates are eager to put their best foot forward and spread a message of sunshine and lollipops (a Lesley Gore reference for those of you playing along at home; see the video below). But for those taking on entrenched incumbents, whether for County Board or House of Delegates, simply saying “vote for me” is seldom sufficient. There have to be reasons to displace the incumbents, and challengers have to enunciate them, at least in my jaded political playbook.

Quoting a line from, among other places, “Cannonball Run”: “If you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly.” Quoting a line from my Aunt Julie, a high-school cheerleader back in the day: “Rah-rah ree, kick ’em in the knee; rah-rah ruts, kick ’em in the … other knee.” (Oh, you saucy Jersey cheerleaders, we know what you meant!)


Am I expecting any of those who might be doing kickoffs tonight to get all grizzly and start pointing out the flaws in their intra-party opponents? I am not. Most challengers just don’t have it in them. Which is why most challengers fall short.

I am not the world’s biggest fan of Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (nothing personal, mind you), but give her credit: When she launched her bid to knock off Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos back in the spring of 2019, she made clear how vociferously she disagreed with the incumbent in some areas. That, along with a whooooooooooole lot of outside money, helped propel her to victory in the Democratic primary.

It’ll be interesting what comes out of the Democratic confab tonight, and not just on the candidate announcement-front.

ALSO ON THE CANDIDATE FRONT: A Republican has filed to challenge Del. Rip Sullivan (D-McLean-Arlington), although when, last week, I went to try and figure out who he was and what themes he was planning to run on, the search turned up empty. (And then other things got in the way, but I will get back to it.)

Not going to be a close race – the Ripper has that district locked down. But Virginia Republicans seem to have worked hard recruit candidates, even if for kamikaze runs like this one, while Democrats themselves have recruited contenders for red districts downstate. Not necessarily a bad strategy, given how tight the battle for control of the lower house of the legislature might be. Why give the other party a free ride?

  • Scott McCaffrey
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