Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

A couple of musings on Arlington politics:

The recent announcement that Virginia Senate President John Chichester is retiring may not auger well for Arlington and Northern Virginia.

Chichester is the most powerful moderate Republican in the Virginia Senate, who has fought against fiscally irresponsible conservative Republicans since the fiscally disastrous Gilmore years. He joined with Governor Warner to pull the state out of the Gilmore morass, leading a hardy band of moderate Republicans joining with the minority Democrats in the Senate.

He was less successful in this year’s General Assembly (though the battle is not over yet – wait until the “veto” session next month). My guess is that Chichester just did not feel like doing battle any more, after a very distinguished twenty-nine years as a state senator.

Chichester’s announcement follows close on the heels a similar announcement by State Senator Russell Potts, another fiscally sane moderate Republican. And, we are also losing Delegate Vince Callahan from Fairfax County, one of the great moderate Republicans and chair of the House of Delegates Appropriations Commiittee who was and effective champion for Northern Virginia, notably George Mason University and funding for the arts.

These retirements make it essential that Democrats regain control of the Virginia State Senate.

Arlington and the rest of Northern Virginia have a critical interest in the outcome of November’s general election. For more years than I care to count, Northern Virginia has been remarkably short-changed in state financial support for crucial programs such as education, health care, and now, transportation. In a nutshell, Northern Virginia has been forced to pay for the bulk of these programs, while sending huge sums downstate, a relatively small percentage of which is returned.

Some of this is to be expected, of course, since we are by far the richest region in the state. But we need to draw the line, when a highly discriminatory fiscal policy begins to endanger the very economic powerhouse that has funded much of the rest of the state. The myopic transportation legislation supported by the General Assembly’s conservative Republicans will do just that, fail to provide an adequately funded transportation system which is essential for the future economic health of Northern Virginia.

In my youth, it was called throwing out the baby with the bathwater.


Your Man in Arlington’s sub theme that Arlington is at the center of the political, cultural, and social universe was underscored once again – by Hilary Clinton’s campaign, no less.

Last Thursday, Arlington Democratic stalwarts Alida Black and Judy Beck hosted a briefing at their house outlining the polling, strategy, and messages for the Clinton for President campaign. But this wasn’t your regular local campaign event. The briefers were at the top of Clinton’s national campaign – Ellen Malcolm, major campaign advisor and founder of Emily’s list, and Mark Penn, head of PR firm Burston-Marstellar and the chief Clinton pollster. James Carville was going to be there, but had to bow out at the last minute. I can’t say any more about the meeting – don’t want to give away anything to Clinton’s opponents. Besides, I too had to bow out at the last minute.

Earlier, it was announced that the national Clinton campaign headquarters would be right here in Ballston. The old Immigration and Naturalization building on Fairfax Drive is now being prepared for occupancy.

I bet there will a permanent “Bill watch” stationed across the street.

It’s great to live in Arlington!