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Thursday, December 8, 2022
ArlingtonGOP opts against endorsing anyone in County Board race

GOP opts against endorsing anyone in County Board race

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They thought about it. They talked about it. But in the end, for a variety of reasons, members of the Arlington County Republican Committee opted against endorsing either of the independents on the Nov. 8 County Board ballot.

“The committee does not want to take a position,” GOP communications chair Matthew Hurtt said after discussions held during the committee’s Sept. 27 meeting.

An earlier poll of committee members conducted online found a majority of respondents wanting to endorse, but split among Audrey Clement, Adam Theo and having no opinion on which. (Democratic incumbent Matt de Ferranti was not given as an option in the online poll of party rank-and-file.)

If they’d been forced into a choice, the committee probably would have gone with Clement, whose opposition to the county government’s proposed Missing Middle zoning changes has won her some support among conservative voters.

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And she certainly has name recognition among activists, having been running for various local offices continuously for more than a decade.

“I am certain if I ask everyone in this room, they have voted for Audrey at least once,” Hurtt said. “She’s a very smart woman who’s very versed in local issues.”

Hurtt said Clement had planned to attend the meeting, but opted out, pleading illness. Theo, who positions himself as a progressive-libertarian, was not interested in the GOP nod, Hurtt said.

Arlington Republicans in recent years have had difficulty fielding credible candidates for local office, including County Board. And as is the case nearly every year, the party’s leadership says candidate recruitment is at the top of its to-do list for the subsequent year.

“Let’s start working on that now,” party chair Lori Urban said. “Next year, we have a lot of candidates we have to run.”

Indeed: The 2023 Arlington ballot will include five constitutional offices, three House of Delegates seats, two state Senate seats, two County Board seats and a School Board seat. (A partridge in a pear tree will be thrown in at no additional charge.)

“Image voters having a Republican on the [2023] ballot all the way down,” Hurtt said. “It would be very exciting.”

Having candidates would gin up interest among Republican and conservative voters who often feel shut out in a community where Democrats hold a substantial majority.

“There are more Republicans in Arlington than you think,” said Urban, who was elected party chair late last year.

At the Sept. 27 meeting, Republicans also opted to take no position on the School Board battle, which includes Democratic endorsee Bethany Sutton and independent James “Vell” Rives squaring off for the seat being vacated by two-term incumbent Democrat Barbara Kanninen.

All elected offices in Arlington – County Board, School Board, constitutional offices and legislative posts – are held by Democrats. The last to break that monopoly was John Vihstadt, a Republican-leaning independent who was elected to the County Board in 2014 but was defeated by de Ferranti in 2018.

Vihstadt isn’t on the ballot this year, but Mark Kelly, a former County Board candidate and one-time GOP chair at the local and district levels, said he is among those planning on writing in his name anyway.

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