The new chairman of the Arlington County Democratic Committee has pledged to remain “laser-focused” on winning local, state and national elections while also building bridges to groups that have been underrepresented in the local Democratic ranks.
“We must unite with the grass-roots,” attorney Jill Caiazzo said Jan. 10, after winning a two-year term to succeed Kip Malinosky as party chair.
Caiazzo, who has been active in the committee’s precinct-operations efforts and was a member of the party’s 2017 joint-campaign leadership, defeated deputy chairman Steve Baker in the race to succeed Malinosky, who stepped down after four years.
“We are fighting to elect Democrats who will make a difference. I will never stop fighting,” Caiazzo said, pledging to offer a strong work effort and boundless energy during her tenure leading the county’s dominant political party.
First up on her agenda: Democrats aim to take back the County Board seat of independent John Vihstadt and retain the School Board seat of Barbara Kanninen in November elections.
The contested election for chairman brought out a larger-than-usual contingent of Democratic rank-and-file to the committee’s monthly meeting, held in Ballston. With the exception of a race for secretary (won by Marc Beallor), all other down-ballot leadership posts were uncontested and candidates for those offices were elected unanimously.
Maggie Davis, who has risen through the ranks of Arlington Young Democrats, was elected to serve under Caiazzo as the party’s deputy chairman.
In remarks prior to the election, Baker echoed Caiazzo’s view that the local party needs to break out from what sometimes can be seen as an insular shell.
“Outreach should be a year-round dialogue, not a photo-op in October,” he said.
At the Jan. 10 organizational meeting, Democrats also filled 106 precinct-captain slots, leaving about 20 still to be filled.
“There are more in the pipeline,” precinct-operations chief Carol Fontein said of additional appointments.
Precinct captains are “the heart and soul” of party operations, said Fontein as the party saluted one of those – Madi Green – who was retiring from longtime service as one.
“There is no finer precinct captain,” Fontein said.
At the meeting, Democrats also voted unanimously and without discussion to select their County Board nominee via a state-run primary rather than a county-run caucus, should more than one candidate file. So far, only Matt de Ferranti, who kicked off his bid at the meeting, has announced plans to seek the Democratic nomination.
A year ago, the Democratic steering committee recommended that the party use a primary to select its nominee to succeed County Board member Jay Fisette. But the party rank-and-file was prodded to reject the recommendation in favor of a caucus, a decision that caused dissent among some party members, as caucuses tend to result in lower voter participation than primaries.