“Weak field.” That’s how, back in 1990, the recently deposed Margaret Thatcher dismissed the three contenders who were fighting it out to become her successor as Conservative Party leader and, by extension, prime minister of the United Kingdom.
The same might be said for the foursome now vying for the two open seats on the Arlington County Board. While hope springs eternal that the eventual winners (and we can be pretty sure they will be Democrats Maureen Coffey and Susan Cunningham) will rise to the occasion, this is one of the weaker County Board fields in decades.
It’s not just us saying that; Arlington’s entire politicocracy seems to feel the same way. Off the record, of course.
Who are the contenders? Here you go:
• Republican Juan Carlos Fierro: Seems like a fine guy, but he basically arrived out of nowhere and started from scratch coming up with points of view on key topics impacting Arlington these days. Even when reading from prepared notes, he at times seems like a Ouija board – you never know can be sure where the needle is going to land.
• Perennial independent Audrey Clement: At a certain point, the electorate has zoned out owing to her (too) many runs for office and a public persona that frequently comes across as dour Debbie Downer even though, one-on-one with the public, Clement can be personable and spirited. If she couldn’t do better than 30 percent of the vote last year, when winds of community discontent were in her favor, we doubt she has a viable route to election in 2023.
• Democrat Cunningham: Not since Ann Miller and Shirley Temple in the 1930s have we seen so much cheerful and exuberant tap-dancing, as Cunningham tries to avoid being pinned down to a specific point of view (not unlike her run in a 2020 special election as an independent). On the plus side, she does have the best résumé of civic involvement and works to foster a culture of conciliation. But oh, how we in some ways pine for the likes of Chris Zimmerman or Al Eisenberg, local leaders who told you where they stood and, if you didn’t like it, boo hoo hoo for you. The good ol’ days!
• Democrat Coffey: It seems she aspires to be the next Katie Cristol, a mix of youthful exuberance and unwavering progressive policy positions, with an eye to moving up the politcal food chain. But Cristol is an odd choice for a spirit animal, as her tenure on the County Board did not live up to the community’s expectations and her own ambitious aspirations. Despite occasionally taking semi-independent stances on issues, Coffey already has been co-opted into Arlington’s Democratic political machine, owing her spot on the ballot to some ethically questionable toying with election methods by County Board members. And once inside the Arlington Democratic establishment’s tent, one does not bite the hand that feeds one.
As you can see, we’re not overly enamored with the options. That said, we’re also not going to take the easy way out. If voters have to pick, so do we.
Endorsement #1? We’ll give Susan Cunningham the edge over Maureen Coffey, although like many we’d prefer to have had Natalie Roy (who got the royal screwgie via the way the ranked-choice primary was conducted) as one of the Democratic options on the table. Absent that, we go with Cunningham.
Endorsement #2? Hard as some may find it believe, we’d make the argument for Audrey Clement, who would, if nothing else, shake things up and, to borrow a phrase, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. And few are more comfortable (perhaps “self-satisfied” is the right phrase) than the current County Board.
Click here for endorsements for state Senate.
Click here for endorsements for House of Delegates.
Click here for endorsements for constitutional offices.