Comeback King in Arlington

Comeback King in Arlington

Gutshall and O’Grady win Democratic nomination for County Board and endorsement for School Board.

Voters pass through a gauntlet of campaign supporters in Washington-Lee High School on May 12.

Voters pass through a gauntlet of campaign supporters in Washington-Lee High School on May 12. Photo by Vernon Miles.


Erik Gutshall


County Board candidate supporters gather at the entrance to Washington-Lee High School on May 12.

One year after losing the Democratic nomination for County Board, Erik Gutshall has emerged from a party caucus as the Democratic candidate in November’s County Board election to replace County Board Chair Jay Fisette. Fisette and much of Arlington’s Democratic leadership had thrown their support behind Gutshall during the campaign. Over a three-day caucus, from May 11 to May 13, voters supported Fisette’s handpicked successor.

The caucus was divided into rounds, with voters ordering their selections from first choice to fourth. After each round, the candidate with the least votes would be eliminated and those voters’ ballots would be given to the next candidate. Gutshall led with 2,877 in the first round, followed by Kim Klingler with 1,116 and Vivek Patil with 986. Peter Fallon was eliminated in the first round with 945 votes. Gutshall received 332 of those votes, the most of any of the other candidates, which pushed his lead into a majority with 3,209 votes.

Judith Desplechin was one of the voters turning out to support Gutshall at the May 13 caucus. Desplechin, a Columbia Pike resident, said that years after its cancellation she was still sore about losing the streetcar. She voted for Gutshall, but said she was still unsure of her vote and was upset how vague each of the candidates were in the “issues” section of their website.

Among voters leaving the polls, many said they were happy with the selection of candidates available. Most voters said their opinions on candidates were formed by those who visited their homes or those their neighbors had been vocally supporting.

In the School Board race, Monique O’Grady managed to take the Democratic endorsement from James Lander, the incumbent School Board member. O’Grady and Lander were close in the first round, with O’Grady having 2,743 votes and Lander with 2,119 votes, but after Maura McMahon was eliminated for the second round, O’Grady’s lead swelled to 3,441 while Lander had 2,336.

Voters at the May 13 caucus said they wanted fresh faces on the School Board.

“I was interested in seeing new leadership in the schools,” said Carole Russo. “Capacity is a top issue of mine. I’m also not a fan of block scheduling and I don’t want to see it snuck in under our noses.

Arlington County Democratic Chairman Kip Malinosky said the last time the Democrats had hosted a caucus was in 2014, when 1,800 voters showed up. In the 2017 primary, 5,973 voters turned out to vote.

“More candidates, more voters,” said Malinosky, saying that more campaigns help spread the word and mobilize more residents to come out and vote.

So far, only Gutshall and independent Audrey Clement have announced their candidacy for County Board in the November election. The filing deadline for independent and non-primary party nominees is June 13.