The Arlington County Democratic Committee plans to finalize rules for its School Board caucus in early April, with campaign filing set for shortly after and the voting itself likely to be held in early to mid-June.
And for the first time since the COVID pandemic hit, it appears the election will be conducted exclusively in-person, with no online option.
The goal is to “build a set of rules that we hope will be fair, more equitable and inclusive,” party chairman Steve Baker said in outlining what the Democratic leadership has done since early February, when the party voted to retain a caucus for selection of School Board members.
Arlington voters in November will select a successor to Barbara Kanninen, who has served on the School Board for two four-year terms but opted against seeking a new term. Like all other current School Board members, Kanninen won a Democratic caucus before winning general-election victories.
Updated rules for the caucus are expected to be approved at the Democratic meeting on April 6, with campaign filing to start then and run for approximately two weeks after.
“Now’s the time to get your campaign together,” Baker said of prospective candidates. “You’ve got three months from right now.”
The Arlington County Democratic Committee has used a caucus process to select an “endorsee” for School Board almost since the post became an elected position in the 1990s. Given the political composition of the local electorate, the caucus process effectively determines the ultimate winner; there has not been a non-Democrat on the School Board since 2007, when David Foster wrapped up eight years as a Republican-leaning independent.
The caucus process has come under fire from those who say it benefits school activists and those from largely white enclaves of the county at the expense of diversity. But in February, the Democratic steering committee voted by a 4-to-1 margin to retain it.
Last year, the committee held online voting to select its endorsee (Mary Kadera), using a $60,000 grant that will not be available this year. Baker said nothing is final, but given the costs, complexities and compressed time frame involved, it likely will be “too difficult to have online voting” for 2022.
Baker, who was elected party chair in January and immediately found himself trying to mediate factions in the caucus fight, said the goal is for constant improvement.
“It’s an ongoing process and we are working to make it better,” he said. “We’re happy to consider new things as time goes on. We’re open to hear your ideas.”
Under state law, School Board posts are officially nonpartisan and all candidates are considered independents. To get on the November 2022 ballot, candidates have until June 21 to file the appropriate campaign paperwork with local election officials.