Following earlier acrimonious debates when his opponent admitted he’d “crossed the line,” Arlington Circuit Court Clerk candidate Paul Ferguson, a veteran of 12 years on the Arlington County Board, complemented his novice challenger for his decorum Monday in a debate at the Lyons Village Community Center.
The clerk position, held the last 30 years by David Bell, serves the City of Falls Church in addition to Arlington, and both Ferguson and Mark Kelly have spent a lot of time campaigning in both jurisdictions.
In Monday’s debate, Kelly conceded that “maybe I leaned too far into the negative before,” in reference to earlier debates. “I’m trying to find a way to talk about a sitting office-holder’s record.”
He was challenged by both Peter Rousselot and Michael Gardner, chairs of the Arlington County and City of Falls Church Democratic Committees, respectively, to take a “positive campaigning only” pledge.
He later added, “A couple remarks at the last debate probably crossed the line. I will not cast aspersions on my opponent’s character, and will only talk about his record.”
While the clerk position in service of the Arlington Circuit Court is not partisan, the partisan distinctions between Ferguson, who got his start in politics supporting Democratic candidates, and Kelly are no secret.
Kelly, who graduated from the Regent University School of Law founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson, once a Republican presidential candidate, worked six years as the chief of staff for Republican Congressman Jim Ryun from Kansas.
Both Ferguson and Kelly agreed that technological improvements are needed in the clerk’s office, and both hailed Bell’s tenure there. Both will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.