A key leader of the Arlington County Republican Committee last week mused publicly whether the powers-that-be of the Arlington County Democratic Committee put their thumbs on the scale to help a School Board candidate across the finish line.
The Democratic leadership, in response, said the GOP attack line is based on a faulty supposition.
In a missive to the Republican rank-and-file sent last week by e-mail, Matthew Hurtt – communications director of the Arlington County GOP – wondered aloud about the “numerous questions that have arisen about [Arlington County Democratic Committee] officials’ engagement in tipping the scales in favor of their status-quo candidate.”
That candidate, Hurtt said, was Mary Kadera, who last month faced off against Miranda Turner in the Democrats’ School Board caucus. Kadera ended up winning the caucus with about 61 percent of the vote.
(Kadera may not exactly have been the Democratic establishment’s first choice as a successor to School Board member Monique O’Grady, who is throwing in the towel after a single term. But she emerged as the preferred choice when the only other candidate to file was Turner, who had been active in the get-back-to-class movement in Arlington and appeared to be no friend to the current School Board members, Democrats all.)
Specifically, Hurtt said the Democratic Committee’s parliamentarian, Cragg Hines, took actions that “appear to be a violation” of caucus rules by actively supporting Kadera in the caucus. Hurtt pointed to Rule 3 of the caucus rules to make the case that the party parliamentarian had a duty to stay out of the race.
“This raises a serious question: What other biased efforts did Mr. Hines participate in during the weeklong caucus?” Hurtt asked.
After a query from the Sun Gazette, the Arlington County Democratic leadership responded that Hurtt was interpreting the caucus rules incorrectly.
“The Arlington GOP’s statement contains a seriously erroneous assumption: The services of Arlington Democrats’ parliamentarian were never required during the recent School Board endorsement caucus, so no caucus rules were broken,” Democratic officials said in a statement released on behalf of party chair Jill Caiazzo.
“The process was overseen by a caucus-leadership team that included supporters of both candidates,” Caiazzo said. “It was conducted fairly and transparently, and was accessible to more voters than ever before, leading to a record-breaking number of votes cast.”
Hurtt, however, said the question about Hines’s role was just one line of inquiry into whether Democratic “party officials assist[ed] and use[d] their influence and connections to help ensure victory for the party leadership’s chosen candidate.”
“I hope others in Arlington will continue to ask questions and look more deeply into a process that seems more about protecting party insiders than selected the preferred candidate,” he said.
Democrats, meanwhile could themselves complain about those from outside the party attempting to influence the results in favor of Turner.
Because Virginia does not register voters by party affiliation, any registered voter was eligible to cast a ballot in the Demcoratic caucus, but was obligated to sign what colloquially is termed a “loyalty oath” pledging not to support any candidates opposed to Democratic candidates in November. Some boosters of Turner’s candidacy were whispering during the campaign that people should sign the oath and vote, even if they intended to support non-Democrats in the general election.
Under Virginia law, school board races officially are nonpartisan, but political parties are allowed to “endorse” candidates in lieu of formally nominating them. In a Democratic-dominated community such as Arlington, that makes the Democratic caucus the de facto election, with the general election largely irrelevant.
All five current Arlington School Board members received the Democratic endorsement prior to winning general-election victories.