Katie Cristol speaks at Leadership Center for Excellence event

Arlington County Board Chairman Katie Cristol speaks at a Leadership Center for Excellence event held Jan. 18, 2018 at Founders Hall on the Arlington campus of George Mason University. (Leadership Center for Excellence photo)

It appears the battle over Arlington’s taxation of country clubs, which was resolved earlier in the year, may spill over into the 2019 election season.

Katie Cristol, who is in the last days of service as Arlington County Board chairman, on Dec. 4 announced her support for Dan Helmer, a Democrat seeking to unseat Del. Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax).

Hugo was one of the prime movers behind legislation that would have forced the Arlington government to dramatically lessen its real-estate assessments on Washington Golf & Country Club and Army Navy Country Club.

Hugo “is more concerned with tax cuts for Arlington golf courses than providing health care or transportation solutions to his constituents,” Cristol said in a statement released by the Helmer campaign.

Hugo is the lone remaining Republican in the Fairfax County delegation to the House of Delegates. Democrat Donte Tanner came within about 100 votes of knocking off Hugo in 2017, a year that saw massive Democratic victories in the General Assembly.

Hugo’s district, which includes portions of Fairfax and Prince William counties, long has been considered a Republican stronghold, but is seen as a potential pickup for Democrats in 2019 if the party concentrates significant firepower in its effort to oust the incumbent.

Helmer earlier this year unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-10th). Jennifer Wexton, who won the Democratic primary, went on to defeat Comstock and will take office in January.

Helmer finished a distant fourth in that primary, but was able to pull the spotlight away from more established candidates through the use of aggressive advertising and social-media techniques.

During the 2018 General Assembly session, Hugo pushed for legislation that would have forced the Arlington government to scale back its assessments on the two country clubs to levels of taxation imposed by other Northern Virginia jurisdiction. He noted that Army Navy and Washington Golf had a combined tax bill as large as the next 11 clubs in Northern Virginia.

“What we have here is a question of equity,” Hugo said at the time.

Legislation to tie Arlington’s hands passed the state Senate and House of Delegates and landed on Gov. Northam’s desk. Northam vetoed the bill, but in his veto message made it clear he expected the county government to come to an accommodation with the clubs.

With that threat hanging over them, Arlington leaders caved, cutting the clubs’ tax bills and reducing some previous years’ payments that had been in limbo while the matter was litigated in the courts and hashed out in the legislature.

 All five Arlington County Board members supported the local government’s position on assessing clubs at the higher rate, but as the issue dragged on last spring, they began to tiptoe away from the issue. In an April 20 statement, Cristol contended that assessment decisions are in the hands of the assessor (who works for County Manager Mark Schwartz), not elected officials.

Cristol, who was first elected in 2015, rotated in as County Board chairman last January and will hand the gavel over to current vice chairman Christian Dorsey at the start of 2019. Like a number of Arlington elected officials, she is seen as having aspirations to move up the political food chain if the opportunity arises.

(12) comments


Doesn't she have better things to do...like try to close a projected $78 million budget gap in Arlington FY 20 Budget?

Allen Muchnick

Do you mean the budget gap due in considerable part to Del. Hugo's successful effort to cut about 30% of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority's funding in Virginia's Metrorail capital funding bill and would have been even larger if Del. Hugo's county club tax break bill had been enacted?


Isn't this the same bill which passed with bi-partisan supermajorities in both chambers? Seems like even Democrats reacted poorly to over-the-top tax assessments.


Transportation? Transit ridership in Arlington is decreasing. Arlington Board of Supervisors constantly approves new alternatives to MetroRail, Metrobus, and Arlington's circulator bus service ART (which is becoming very expensive). How much longer should state legislators subsidize transit services that are constantly losing riders?

Allen Muchnick

To my knowledge, the Commonwealth does not subsidize Metrorail operations; it is only helping to fund capital rehabilitation and expansion projects. By diverting the transient occupancy tax and the real estate grantors tax away from

Allen Muchnick

....the Northern Virginia regional transportation funding pool (70% went to NVTA, 30% went to NoVA localities), Del. Hugo removed a large chunk of transportation funding from Arlington and other NoVA localities.


A HUGE amount goes to WMATA from several sources for inside-the-beltway rail and bus transit that constantly loses riders. See Scott McCaffrey's report on December 4th in this blog and the Arlington Board of Supervisors Consent Agenda for December 15th (Consent Agenda Item 16), which by-the-way is off limits for public comment.


Rather than going after legislators who don't live in Arlington, go after Scott McCaffrey who does live in Arlington for revealing in this news blog this week that Metrorail, Metrobus, and local bus transit inside-the-beltway continue to lose riders.

Allen Muchnick

I prepare to go after just the ONE individual who continues to post comments here under multiple aliases, such as "Charles", "CJE", and "jna", but why should anyone criticize Scott McCaffrey for truthfully reporting the news?

Allen Muchnick

I meant to write "prefer", not "prepare". Perhaps that was a Freudian slip--one reason I read these comments is to see how much distorted venom ONE particular Arlingtonian can get away with anonymously posting here under MULTIPLE aliases. Sad!


My name is Charles and I also live in Arlington. What's outrageous is a Democratic activist from PW County gets to trash Arlington residents for commenting on matters of interest to us. As if Arlington Independents aren't trashed enough by the Arlington Democratic Party that's controlled Arlington for going in 40-years.

Allen Muchnick


You are the one who regularly "trashes" others here. All I've done is point out that you are doing that DECEPTIVELY by posting your comments here under MULTIPLE FALSE IDENTITIES. When you finally stop that asinine practice, I'll no longer point that out.

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