Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington


Last Thursday, Arlington Delegate Patrick Hope kicked off yet another campaign season at a reception at the home of Betsy Wildhack and Susie Doyel. Not the 2010 season, though. This was a kickoff to the 2011 season! We have no time to rest in Arlington politics.

And while we are at it, we were probably witnessing an opening gambit in the 2013 statewide election for Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General. The principal speaker at the Hope event was Delegate Ward Armstrong, who is the Minority Leader of the Virginia House of Delegates. Armstrong also drove up all the way from Martinsville last month for Arlington Democrats’ fabled Labor Day picnic. And my sources say he is doing the same thing all over the state. Think he may be running for statewide office? Governor is my bet, though as a lawyer he might be looking at Attorney General too.

Next years’ election for House of Delegates will be significantly impacted by the redistricting required by the decennial census, the process for which is beginning now. Census results indicate that several seats will be shifted to Northern Virginia, probably to the benefit of the Democrats – and certainly to the benefit of Northern Virginia in general.

There was a mood of cautious optimism at the Hope event; at least as far as next year’s General Assembly races are concerned. There is little chance that Hope will have any trouble next year, particularly since any redistricting that Hope may experience will probably make his district even more Democratic. But, as this early fundraiser shows, Hope is taking nothing for granted.

Cautious optimism was not the mood at the monthly Democratic breakfast last Saturday at the Bear Rock Café in Shirlington. While there was a general assumption that Arlington would remain fairly solidly in the Democratic fold, there was concern that Democrats were in great danger all across the country – to the point that they might lose control of both the House and Senate. That was the message given by Congressman Jim Moran, the speaker at the event. Moran even indicated that his own solid base might be eroding because of the general political malaise that seems to be spreading all over the country.

Moran’s speech was a strong call to arms. He urged us all to hit the streets, knock on doors, make phone calls and generally do all the retail politics things that Arlington Democrats are usually very good at. He said that many of the new young Democrats who came out en masse in the 2008 presidential election need to be motivated again – and as it stands right now, they are not.

Nationally, this year’s election promises to be one of the most significant in a generation regardless of who wins or loses. And, as emphasized at the two events, no one can afford to sit on their hands if they feel strongly about the direction the country is going – either pro or con. For a political junkie, it will be almost mesmerizing to watch, I think.

The Bartons are off now for a week of travelling through New England for an Autumn Leaf Watch! We will also observe the political trends to give a full report on the state of the nation when we return. It should be interesting.


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