Two Democrats announced their candidacy for the 49th District delegate seat left vacant by the retirement of 13-year Assembly veteran Karen Darner.

Andres Tobar, 57, an Arlington resident and longtime civic activist, announced on March 12 that he would seek the Democratic nomination to run for the seat representing South Arlington, North Alexandria and Falls Church.

At the same time, Michael Graham, currently vice chair of the Planning Commission, said he too would seek the nomination in the 49th.

Darner has said she will endorse Tobar in the race for the Democratic nomination, which will be decided in a June 11 primary. The winner will then begin the run-up to the Nov. 11 general elections.

Darner announced her retirement last month. That was followed shortly thereafter by state Del. James Almand (D-47) announcing that he too would not seek reelection in November. Both came on the heels of a retirement announcement from County Revenue Commissioner Charlotte Cleary (D).

With the death of County Board Chair Charles Monroe in January, it means four slots on the November ballot will come without any real incumbent, which could make things easier for Republican candidates.

But matters became more complicated last week with the special election victory of Democrat Walter Tejada to replace Monroe. Tejada beat out Republican candidate Mike Clancy, despite a history of Republican victories in special elections.

With the special election and the open seats, this is an especially busy year in local elections, said Dan Steen, chair of the Arlington Democratic Committee.

?We go right into primary window,? he said. ?We have a 90-day window until the next election. Then there?s another four months to the general election. There?s no let up for anybody involved.?


With national coverage of claims of clergy sexual abuse on the airwaves, several local lay Catholics wanted to do something.

A group of them formed a local chapter Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) to support abuse victims while supporting priests of integrity and seeking out structural change within the church. VOTF was created in Boston in response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis last year.

"I felt that as a lifelong Catholic, that there wasn't nearly enough attention being paid to the people abused themselves," said Bill Casey of Alexandria, one of the founding members of the local northern Virginia chapter.

This chapter of Voice of the Faithful will hold a workshop on the abuse crisis on Saturday, March 22 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Dunn Loring Firehouse hall, 2148 Gallows Road, Vienna. The workshop, sponsored by the local chapters of SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) and VOTF, will address ways to reach out to area abuse victims. The workshop will also have counselors on hand from Healing Voices Incorporated, a Frederick, Md.-based group made up of Catholic therapists.

VOTF began meeting at the Dolley Madison Library in McLean last October, to hear from abuse survivors and therapists. The almost 50 members come from parishes all over the northern Virginia area, including Springfield, Burke, Reston and Falls Church.

"The change that we in the church want is more involvement of the lay people," said Evelyn Mercantini of Reston, one of the founding members of VOTF's local chapter.

The Arlington Diocese, which covers parishes and Catholic schools from all over northern Virginia, is currently reviewing its policies regarding sexual abuse, said Diocese communications director Linda Shovlain.

The Diocese also hopes to set up an advisory board and a safe environment program for its schoolchildren, to help them know what's appropriate behavior.

"Let's see if we can do this better, and that's the attitude here," Shovlain said.

Casey suggested several ideas for the Arlington Diocese to work with VOTF and SNAP, including sending a letter to pastors inviting parishioners to step forward so they can get help, taking up a collection for SNAP, hosting listening sessions and appointing one or more survivors to the Diocese review board.

For more information about VOTF, call 703-568-3438 or go to For SNAP, go to


Rosslyn residents will soon be staying informed of local news, whether they like it or not. County board members voted Saturday, March 15 to approve a request from WJLA-TV, Channel 7, to mount a television screen and news ticker outside their offices at 1000 and 1100 Wilson Boulevard.

The screen will measure about 10-by-12 feet and will show all of WJLA?s news broadcasts. Between those programs, WJLA officials say they will show a mixture of public service announcements and content from their affiliate station, News Channel 8.

Planning Commissioner Carrie Johnson raised concerns over the plan and called the screen ?intrusive.? Board members expressed concern over commercials, which will remain in news broadcasts, and pledged to review the plan in six months.