Arlington democrats kicked back after the polls closed Tuesday night at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse on Columbia Pike to watch the returns via NBC News projected onto the bar’s gargantuan movie screen. Cheers rose from the audience as results showed Sen. John Kerry in an early lead in the electoral vote, but hushed somewhat as President George W. Bush began to close the gap.
The crowd also cheered County Board Chairwoman Barbara Favola. As of 8:30 p.m., Favola’s campaign held 70 percent of the vote, the remaining 30 percent belonging to Republican challenger F. Landey Patton.
“This time, I want to contribute to implementing our affordable housing guidelines and find a dedicated source of revenue for Metro,” she said. “Those are my main things for the coming term.”
In the race for the Arlington School Board, incumbent Frank Wilson had taken 33.3 percent of the vote as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, county polling results showed, while fellow incumbent Libby Garvey held the lead with 38.83 percent. Challenger William Barker maintained 19.73 percent of the vote, and Shaun Wheldon held only 7.66 percent.
Wilson said he and the board will face a serious gap in student achievement among Arlington students. “There is always the major issue of student achievement,” he said. “That’s something that remains under my radar but we have got to do more to meet the needs of youngsters at an early age when it comes to reading. If we can raise the level at which they read, we can raise their level of academic achievement.”
On the school district’s financial plans, he added that “capital is always important but we’re in the business of educating kids, not of being a construction company.”
Student achievement can also be fostered through special academic programs according to Garvey.
“We can do more in terms of internships and mentorship,” she said. “We really want to show students how the things they are learning in class relates to the outside world and that’s something we’re working on.”
Yet the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind Act has hindered the work of teachers and caused confusion among parents, an issue the board will have to likely face again in the coming years, she said.
“The No Child Left Behind Act has the same goals of the Arlington School system only we had them first,” she said. “The standards create all this confusion among parents as to what makes a good school. It puts the hardest burden on the schools with the most challenges.”
By 9 p.m., NBC News called the race in Virginia a Bush victory. But despite the loss, Democrats still see a shift in Virginia’s political atmosphere thanks to thousands of newly registered voters and newfound supporters.
“Win or lose, either way it has to be a win here in Virginia,” said Karen Darner, who served as a delegate in the Virginia Assembly for 13 years.
County Board member Walter Tejada credited Latino voters, a growing a base of support for Virginia Democrats, as a significant sign of the party’s progress.
“I was pleased to be surprised by the high number of new voters, many of them Latino,” he said.
Eight out of every 10 Latinos eligible to vote in Arlington, he added, are now registered.
Virginia delegate Adam Ebbin of the 49th district was also on hand. Ebbin toured three polling places during the day and said the state should look at new ways to expand options for voters who want to avoid taking time out of the day to come to polling places.
“I was amazed at the patience of the people waiting in line, sometimes for two hours,” he said. “I thinks it’s great that they’re willing to wait like that to vote but I don’t think they should have to do it.”