Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

Last Saturday, I left the Arlington nest and went to Alexandria to canvass for Mark Warner and the rest of the Democratic ticket.

I canvassed a neighborhood consisting mostly of three-story town houses, with entrances at street level. This is almost perfection for experienced canvassers – very few steps to climb and entrances very close together, requiring a minimum of physical effort.

It was a gorgeous balmy day: good for canvassing, but not so good for finding people at home, particularly in this neighborhood which consisted largely of young professionals whose social life pulls them out of the house as much as possible. Of the 45 houses on my route, thirty had no one at home. I found later that that was about par for the course that day, but the organizers were very happy with the number of people we actually managed to talk with.

The purpose of this canvass, and the dozens of others taking place all over Northern Virginia on Saturday, was not so much to convince people to vote for our candidates but to identify our voters and use the information to assure they go to the polls next November.

This is highly sophisticated political strategy and is reflective of the fact that Democrats are organizing early for probably the hardest fought national campaign in recent memory, certainly in Virginia.

It would be indiscrete for me to reveal the results of my canvass. Suffice it to say that on the basis of this admittedly unscientific sample I predict that Barack Obama will carry Arlington and Alexandria by at least 70 percent of the vote. Mark Warner and Jim Moran will do even better than that, with Warner leading the ticket. McCain and Gilmore barely registered on the meter and most were unaware that Moran had any opposition at all.

Given my political leanings, I hope things stay that way.


Sunday, we went to a wonderful reception at the Barcroft Community center honoring Karen Darner upon her retirement from the Arlington school system. A distinguished speech pathologist in the school system, Karen defines the very essence of civic leadership in Arlington. She was a long time member of Virginia’s House of Delegates, just as a starter. She has played major leadership roles in an almost dizzying array of civic organizations and activities including fair housing, the Arlington Street People Assistance Network (ASPAN), Arlington’s Committee of 100, American Association of University Women, the League of Women Voters, to name just a few. More than fifty stars, each containing a civic activity or award, covered the walls of the community center.

And of course, everyone was there. I have seldom attended an event with such a diverse group of leaders from all segments of Arlington’s political and civic life.

Karen’s “retirement” does not mean that she will fade away. She isn’t the type. She will be front and center in Arlington for the foreseeable future. But it was good to celebrate a great community leader and a thoroughly nice person just the same.