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Votes

Dorsey to Challenge Zimmerman for Nomination

Running as "progressive Democrat," Arlington resident will challenge Board Chair for spot on November ballot.

In a meeting of Arlington Democrats last week, Christian Dorsey announced that he would mount a campaign to run as candidate for the County Board.

Dorsey will face Chris Zimmerman, the current County Board chair, in a May primary. The challenger admitted that a campaign against the current county board chair is a daunting task. But both prospective candidates welcomed the chance to compete for the Democratic nomination to the County Board seat up for election in November.

Dorsey said this week that his campaign would focus on shortcomings of recent board votes. The board has approved too much on development, he said, and not enough affordable housing.

In recent years, Dorsey said, he has been troubled by a shift in definitions: Affordable housing now is "not only housing for low-income wage earners, but for those considered middle class."

If he wins the Democratic nomination, Dorsey said, his platform would center on ways to make Arlington homes available to middle-class county employees, programs similar to "Live Where You Work" legislation passed this month by the General Assembly.

<b>Directs Reading Connection</b>

<bt>Dorsey, 30, grew up in Atlantic City, N.J., moving to the Washington area to attend Georgetown. After graduation, he moved to Arlington, and has lived here since.

Dorsey said he knows the problem of finding affordable housing firsthand – he and his girlfriend are renters themselves. He has also seen the problem at its most extreme, as the director of The Reading Connection, a literacy organization for children in homeless shelters.

Recent Board actions have been skewed, centered on issues that are not "pressing needs for the community," he said.

For an example, he looked to Zimmerman’s Jan. 1 speech outlining his priorities as board chair, including a move to preserve the county’s tree canopy. "I don’t disagree with that," Dorsey said. "But we lost 10 percent of the tree canopy over 50 years. We lost a quarter of our affordable housing stock over the last 10 years."

<b>Zimmerman Responds</b>

<bt>As a kind of response, Zimmerman also pointed to his New Year’s Day speech, when he also stressed concern for the county’s affordable housing stock. "I’m a big advocate of [affordable housing]," he said, "so I look forward to talking about it" during the primary campaign.

But he said he did not consider the campaign a run against Dorsey. "My challenge is to bring my message to the people of Arlington, it doesn’t matter who else is competing," Zimmerman said. "I always look at it as something I have to prove. It’s not my seat [on the board], it’s the people of Arlington’s."

Zimmerman said he had been immersed in board work, but both men said they looked forward to a series of community debates, if dates could be confirmed.