I’m duty-bound to congratulate Erik Gutshall for his resounding win in the Democratic “firehouse primary” for county board last week. He achieved a victory that in the past has commonly gone to those who try a second time. And his prospects for winning the seat in full in November are high.
But I must also toss in a commendation for his opponents Kim Klingler, Peter Fallon and Vivek Patil. All four put up with the scorching pea-brained attacks today’s candidates must tolerate in our troll-infected world of anonymous Internet comment sections.
The most inflammatory come in the widely read online ARLNow news blog (one dignified contributor actually posts his photo wearing a tin-foil cap), and a few from the slightly-more-civil commenters in the Sun-Gazette.
Gutshall, after winning the endorsement of the Arlington Education Association, was hit with the free opinion that the “endorsement was in exchange for Gutshall’s promise to fully fund every extravagant demand made” by Arlington Public Schools.
“Something about his face… I just want to punch it,” wrote one nicknamed reader.
“He looks like [Jay] Fisette without hair and glasses.”
“I just don’t like his last name.”
“Why not? You can rearrange the letters to spell ‘Thus gall’.”
Another Gutshall critic at least took a position. “Vote `NO’ on ‘I got the vision’ Gutshall. He has zero qualms about continuing the never-ending tax increases because he has the vision. He also wants to pack our neighborhoods with multiple-family housing whether it is apartments or townhouses.”
“As if the Chris Zimmerman endorsement was not enough,” wrote another, the Greater Greater Washington “urban-planning nerd thumbs up for Gutshall should be a big flashing red light for any Arlington taxpayer who values their wallet. Reject this turkey!”
“It’s not the voters’ fault that [Arlington Democrats’ chair] Kip Malinosky and his crew are repeatedly trying to ram him down the electorate’s throat.”
No candidate escapes unmocked: “I like Vivek, but I have to dock him points for using “DMV” to mean the Washington area, rather than the Department of Motor Vehicles. Is he running for county board, or auditioning for a role on Silicon Valley?
On Klingler: “If you want social engineering, this is the candidate for you.” Another criticized her debate-night call for staff options on Columbia Pike transit: “Perhaps you have a more thought-out answer or vision you’d like to share?”
“Anyone but Fallon,” proclaimed a contributor who “would vote for turning Arlington into a trailer park over allowing this clown in.”
Nor does the virtual mob spare incumbents. After a past debate, a commenter wrote, “Libby Garvey is worthless except when it comes to making behind-closed-door deals with special interests for Taj Mahal infrastructure that costs taxpayers hundreds of millions.”
Chimed another, “Same Old Same Old from One-Party Government that’s controlled Arlington for 35 years.”
“I guess [board incumbent John] Vihstadt went native, huh?”
“Who are you endorsing? Are there any local deceased candidates? The Columbia Gardens constituency is very important I hear.”
Inevitably, the discussion veers off topic to ad hominem attacks on the other familiar commenters. (I see why NPR and Reuters dropped their comments sections.)
Fisette has a theory that ARLNow commenters are only 10-15 people. When I asked Gutshall, he said he reads ARLNow articles but seldom the comments. “Some are thoughtful, but it’s like opening a horror show.”
Rich memories of Arlington in the 1940s came to me from Sue Clark (no relation), who moved with her parents from D.C. to N. Madison Street in 1948.
She wanted to continue at downtown’s Gordon Jr. High, so she would walk out to Lee Highway to catch the “WV&M bus into Georgetown, get off at M St. and Wisconsin Ave. and take the Capital Transit streetcar up Wisconsin Ave,” she recalled. But soon she learned she could walk across Key Bridge and pocket 30 cents a day from her transit allowance.
One snowy day in the early 1950s Clark walked all the way to Western High School and learned that school was canceled. She walked back and comforted herself with hot chocolate at the Hot Shoppes then in Rosslyn.