Arlington democrats kicked back after the polls closed Tuesday night at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse on Columbia Pike to watch the returns projected onto the bar’s gargantuan movie screen. Cheers rose from the audience as results from the East Coast showed Sen. John Kerry in an early lead in the electoral vote but hushed as President George W. Bush closed the gap with a wide sea of red states in the rest of the country.
In Arlington, Bush took only 31.34 percent of the vote while Kerry won 67.57 percent.
The crowd also cheered County Board Chairwoman Barbara Favola. Favola’s campaign took 72.12 percent of the vote, with 27.12 percent belonging to Republican challenger F. Landey Patton.
“I want to contribute to implementing our affordable housing guidelines and find a dedicated source of revenue for Metro,” Favola said. “Those are my main things for the coming term.”
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D) won 61.75 percent of votes in Arlington, six percent fewer than the Kerry-Edwards campaign but far more than Republican challenger Lisa Marie Cheney, who took 34 percent. Independent Jim Hurysz won 3.95 percent.
In the race for the Arlington School Board, the incumbents kept their seats. Frank Wilson had 32.96 percent of the vote. According to county polling results, his fellow incumbent Libby Garvey took 38.84 percent. Challenger William Barker maintained 19.50 percent of the vote. Shaun Wheldon held only 8.09 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, she said, 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.
“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., the networks called the race in Virginia a Bush victory. Yet despite the loss, Democrats still see a shift in Virginia’s political atmosphere thanks to thousands of newly registered voters and newfound supporters. Kerry won in Arlington, the City of Alexandria and Fairfax County. Other urban areas of Virginia supported Kerry, including Richmond, Norfolk and Roanoke.
“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 Del. Adam Ebbin (D-49) 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.”