In a tight victory Tuesday, Democratic candidate Walter Tejada won a narrow election to the County Board seat left vacant since the death of Charles Monroe.
Turnout was the key to the special election win on March 11, with less than 20 percent of Arlington’s registered voters heading to the polls yesterday, giving Tejada a nearly 10 percent margin over Republican Mike Clancy in the final results.
The first order of business for the winner was enjoying victory. “I’m going to have a glass of orange juice,” Tejada said. “I just want to celebrate now.” But he would soon be turning his focus to Arlington politics, and promised to address fiscal responsibility and tax relief in his first months as County Board member.
It was a Team Tejada win, he said. “We ran a positive campaign. That’s the one thing I’m most proud of.”
With so few voters voting, it was also an early election night – all precincts were accounted for by 8:30 Tuesday night. But it still held something of a surprise for Arlington Democrats. “It was a bigger margin than we expected,” said Dan Steen, chair of the Arlington Democratic Committee. “We expected this to be very close, one way or the other.”
It wasn’t as close as they expected, and let the Democrats buck the trend: they had lost the most recent special elections, thanks to a heavy Republican turnout.
As election results came in, Republicans gathered at the Boulevard Woodgrill. Despite the loss, Clancy said they had a lot to look forward to.
“We are going, we are strong, we have a lot of energy and vibrancy,” he said. Instead, he urged supporters to remember the County Board and Assembly seats up for election in the autumn general elections. “Forget the loss and start focusing on November,” Clancy said.
BEFORE THE ELECTION, Steen predicted that turnout would be the defining issue on election day, and said his party was looking for about 22,000 voters to head to their polling places – about 18 percent of Arlington’s eligible voters.
“That’s right on knife’s edge of whether we win or lose,” said Steen. “If there’s not 20,000 voters, then we probably won’t win.”
At the same time the Democrats were trying to motivate voters, they were trying to combat 11th hour tactics by the Republicans. In separate mailings, the Clancy campaign said that a vote for Tejada would be a vote for high-rise, low-cost housing in North Arlington neighborhoods, and a vote for a baseball stadium in South Arlington.
“We’re trying to counter that with flyers about Metro,” Steen said.
To boot, Clancy’s campaign got support from U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-10), who called in some of his volunteers to help turnout Republican voters.
EARLY SNOW FLURRIES may have kept some voters from the polls, said Bernie Chapnick, precinct chief at Virginia Square. Flurries came during the morning rush hour, the time when many Arlington residents are most likely to vote.
“It’s been quite slow, and we’re not sure whether the weather was a major contributing factor or not.”
Just down the street at the Clarendon polling place, in Washington-Lee High School, precinct chief Boris Sanders reporter even lower turnout. Snow didn’t seem to affect turnout, he said. “It was steady. It’s just been slow, period.”