Local Commentary

Our Man In Arlington

Last Tuesday night, I made my annual trek to the place where Democrats gather to find out what is happening to them after the polls close. In the 40 years since I have been involved in Arlington politics, they have been all over the place.

For a long time, the local Arlington Democratic victory party, or wake as the case may have been, was held at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church parish house in South Arlington. A few years ago, we were ignominiously kicked out by the new bishop with only a couple of days notice. The Arlington event this year was held at Cecilia’s on Columbia Pike. A good place.

However, several of us trekked out to the McLean Hilton for the Northern Virginia victory party. The status of this event was given a boost when Governor Kaine announced that he would attend the party here rather than sponsor a statewide event in Richmond. Thus, for all intents and purposes we were the focal point of the state media on Tuesday evening.

Things were already swinging when I got there at about 8:30 p.m. It was looking good, but nothing yet had been decided. The room was dominated by a huge screen on which the statewide election turns were being projected. The food was almost gone already, but the drinks (cash bar) were in abundance. The large crowd was being entertained by a great band, The Pleasant Mountain Boys, and the back of the room was jammed with what looked like dozens of television cameras and TV correspondents.

As nice as this was, the real nerve center was nine floors up in a large suite. A statewide intelligence system was being run out of the suite, with top campaign staffers constantly on the telephone updating the official statistics that were coming in on the computers set up in one of the rooms.

This was where Governors Kaine and Warner, the leaders of the Senate and House of Delegates, and key volunteers and staff members holed up during the early part of the evening. This is where I always want to be on election night.

Finally it became clear that the election had been a successful one for the Democrats. We had picked up at least four seats in the Senate, enough to gain control after many years in the wilderness. We had also picked up three or four seats in the House of Delegates, auguring well for the 2009 House of Delegates races.

So we all poured downstairs into the main ballroom, where our leaders mounted the stage to celebrate a great victory. The two governors were ecstatic in their remarks, and well they should have been. The results mean that Governor Kaine will probably have a more cooperative General Assembly in the next two years. They also dramatize the great strength Mark Warner will have when he embarks on his probably successful campaign for the U.S. Senate next year. They also mean that Alexandria Senator Dick Saslaw will be Majority Leader next year and Arlington Senator Mary Margaret Whipple will be the Chair of the Majority Caucus and chair of a major committee. Life was sweet Tuesday night.

The, to cap it all off, I arrived home to find that every one of my candidates for Arlington County Offices had won easily. No surprise here, but it was nice just the same.

I slept well. I hope you did too.