Is The Balance Of Political Power In Arlington Actually Shifting?

Anyone who follows politics in Arlington County knows about the relative political earthquake that was triggered by John Vihstadt’s reelection to a full term as a member of the Arlington County Board. He’s the first non-Democrat elected to the board since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Worse yet, from the perspective of the Democratic junta that’s run the county forever, he’s encouraged “rogue” Democrat board member Libby Garvey to stand up to them more often on issues of fiscal sanity.

From their perspective, and that of the Washington Post, this is disastrous, and of course, motivated by classism and racism. (‘Shocker.’, says the average VV reader.) If one white elephant can be killed, the whole herd that the current board majority, led by Chairman Jay Fisette,  shepherds could be in danger. It would seem that years of arrogance and condescension may come to bite Democrats even in deep-blue Arlington. But the real question is: Is this only the beginning of a larger shift in Arlington politics?

The other two members of the Democratic junta board majority, Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada, are both up for reelection in 2015, and going into Election Day a few weeks ago, they were worried. There was scuttlebutt that Hynes might not run for reelection if Vihstadt defeated Alan Howze, the same man he bested in the special election a few months ago to fill the board vacancy. Now that has come to pass, and Fisette and Hynes (over Tejada’s temper tantrum) have decided to give up on the vaunted streetcar project.

What happens this coming year? The rumor among the Arlington GOP is that Mike McMenamin may challenge Hynes or Tejada, and he garnered the best result of any Republican candidate for county board in Arlington in decades in 2007, so he would represent a great threat to either. Democratic activists have admitted to this author and others that they “don’t have a deep bench” if Hynes retires from the board. And not to put too fine a point on it, but Walter Tejada is not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, as evidenced by his intransigence in the face of rejection by Arlington voters on the streetcar. Will a second strong candidate be recruited to run alongside McMenamin? All the anti-junta alliance has to do is win one of the two races, and that person can form a governing majority with Garvey and Vihstadt, which would be a nightmare for the Dem establishment in Arlington. And if both Hynes and Tejada go down… batten down the hatches. It look to be an interesting year in Arlington politics, for the first time in a long time. And that’s a great thing.