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Editorial: Parsing the Arlington County Board race (so far)

Candidates offer differing visions for where community should be headed

Early voting – we old fogeys still call it “absentee voting” – has been under way in the June 20 Democratic primary for almost three weeks now, although we presume many voters have yet to truly zero in on the races on the ballot in Arlington.

We hope they will get informed before casting their votes, since a number of the contests – including for County Board, sheriff and commonwealth’s attorney – are populated by candidates holding very distinct views.

In the County Board race, six are vying for the seats being left open by the retirements of Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey.

It’s unlikely, though not impossible, we will issue more specific endorsements in this race in coming weeks. But having watched the race play out, we feel confident giving voters the following thoughts about the candidates:

• If residents are looking for a continuation of the policies moving Arlington toward a fully urbanized community, then Maureen Coffey could be the best choice. She seems to be the logical successor to urbanizer-in-chief Katie Cristol, although Coffey might want to borrow a page from the Cristol playbook of eight years ago and embark on a charm offensive, which helps to win over voters.

• J.D. Spain Sr. brings to the campaign a solid community résumé including recently concluded service leading the Arlington NAACP. He’s picked up plenty of support from unions, which is a tad concerning (in the past, those unions have come looking for a return on investment from local candidates they have supported, and generally gotten it). But he also often has stood out as a voice of reasoned maturity in debates.

• As she did when running as an independent three summers ago in the special election to fill the vacancy left by the death of Erik Gutshall, Susan Cunningham touts her extensive community involvement, which is a plus. But at the same time, and just like the 2020 race, she gets so far into the weeds in discussing issues that it’s hard to divine exactly where she wants to take the county. Sharpening and streamlining her message would work wonders.

• If one is an opponent of the Missing Middle housing policy enacted by the County Board (largely over the will of the community) earlier this year, then Natalie Roy would seem to be the preferred option. Roy has real-world experience both professionally (as a Realtor) and in civic life. She clearly is hitching her political star to her opposition to Missing Middle policies, which is going to cost her votes in some areas even as it aids her in others.

• If voters are looking for someone who straddles a middle ground, then Tony Weaver represents a reasonable option among the pack – not too much of an insider, but generally in sync with the more urban direction for Arlington espoused by many current leaders. We just wish he, and others, would be able to enunciate how they plan to pay for all the policy positions they favor.

• Jonathan Dromgoole seems a fine person and has staked out positions that would resonate with most Democratic-primary voters, although we think he might do with a little more seasoning before being tapped for County Board service. But with ranked-choice voting, you just never know how things are going to shake out.