Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington


Last Monday, Arlington Democrats held their annual Labor Day Chili Cook-off at the Lyon Park Community Center.

The cook-off, started by Arlington Treasurer Frank O’Leary twenty-five years ago, traditionally has been the kick-off for the fall campaign for whatever office happens to be up for grabs.  This happens every year in Arlington, since we have a County Board electoral system that selects one County Board member every year with every fourth year having two seats to be filled.  The election scene in Arlington is perpetual.

It was a perfect day for it – relatively cool with hardly a cloud in the sky.  Rumor had it that more than 150 people were there, and I believe it.  It was your typically eclectic Arlington crowd, ages ranging from the almost new born to – well just let it be said that I wasn’t the oldest one there.  There were a few who have been active in Arlington Democratic politics for at least fifty years.

That has always been one of the great strengths of the Arlington Democratic Party.  The leadership – and  party activists in general – has flown smoothly among generations, with younger, energetic people moving into leadership positions easily.  At least that has been the case since younger, more moderate Arlington Democrats wrested control from the aging conservative Byrd Democrats in the mid 1960’s.

The Arlington Democratic Party is probably one of the best organized local party organizations in the country – just as Arlington is nationally recognized as one of the best managed counties in the country.  This is not a coincidence. (Readers alert: The author is a classic yellow-dog Democrat.)

But back to the cook-off.

The focal point of the event is a contest among candidates, officials, and just regular Democrats as to who can whip up the very best chili.  Among the contestants: (Sheriff) Beth Arthur’s Jail House Chili; (Senator) Mary Margaret’s (Whipple) Majority Chili; Team CZ (Chris Zimmerman) Black and Red Chili; (Rep. Jim) Moran’s Liberation Chili; Sally’s (School Board member Sally Baird) No Chili Left Behind, (County Board member Barbara) Favola’s Fabulous Chili – well, you get the idea.

There are two categories of prizes.  The People’s Choice Chili is chosen by everyone at the cook-off in a completely Democratic secret ballot process.  This year’s People’s Choice Award went to County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman’s Team CZ Clack and Red Chili.  Then there are the coveted awards given by an elite three-judge panel: the Chair of the Arlington Democratic Party (Mike Lieberman) the Chair of the Arlington Young Democrats (Gordon Simonett), and last year’s People’s Choice winner, Delegate Patrick Hope.  There are a number of exotic categories for the awards, in fact the exact number of categories as there are contestants.

In other words, every contestant wins! After all, it’s The Arlington Way.

Then, of course, there were the speeches.  You can’t have a Democratic event without speeches.  The keynote was delivered by 8th District Congressman Jim Moran, who admitted that if the national election were to be held tomorrow, Democrats would lose both the House and the Senate.  But, he said, if Democrats worked very hard this fall, he was confident that that national disaster could be prevented.  The crowd cheered.

And so it went.  A great day for Arlington Democrats.


Richard Barton may be e-mailed at rbarton@towervillas.com