In his years as a state legislator, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington-Fairfax) has been a staunch devotee of the progressive Democratic playbook on virtually every issue.
And yet in the current political environment, he finds himself assailed by his prospective successor as a shill for corporate interests who is barely visible in the district.
“Now is the time for Arlington to elect a delegate connected to the people,” Karishma Mehta said in a May 2 candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Arlington and other groups.
Lopez is beholden to an “economic system that allows the very rich to get richer,” said Mehta, a pre-school teacher who skews relatively far left on the political spectrum, even by the standards of today’s Democratic Party.
“This is not the time to go small,” she said, promising to be “a progressive woman in office who can get things done.”
Lopez, who had the chance to go first with opening statements during the online event, pre-empted the line of attack with a pre-buttal rather than an after-the-fact rebuttal.
“We need a delegate with experience,” he said. “The issues before us are too important to settle for anything less.”
“I’ve been a champion for our values in Richmond,” Lopez said, pointed to 150 of his measures that have been signed into law. “Politics is about improving people’s lives; there’s nothing in the world as rewarding as helping someone.”
Mehta has achieved attention in the online world of progressive organizations nationwide, which has allowed her to raise more funds than most long-shot challengers. But her fund-raising comes largely outside the 49th District, which leads to questions whether that support will translate to votes in the June 8 primary.
And it’s not as if Lopez is inexperienced at batting back challenges. Two years ago, he received one from Arlington NAACP chairman Julius “J.D.” Spain Sr., but when the votes were tallied, Lopez walked away with a convincing win in the Democratic primary. (Spain this time out has endorsed Lopez.)
The 49th District is centered on the Columbia Pike corridor of South Arlington, and includes some adjacent areas of Fairfax County. While Arlington County Republican Committee chairman Andrew Loposser says the GOP has been in talks with a prospective general-election candidate, the district is more or less a Democratic fortress.
Co-sponsors of the May 2 forum were the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy; Northern Virginia alumnae chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; Arlington branch of the American Association of University Women; and the National Council of Negro Women/Northern Virginia.