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In olden times, impregnable impediments to political success were called castles, and they dotted the landscape of Europe.

In Arlington these days, those fortresses are high-rise apartments and condominiums.

And the Arlington County Democratic Committee is formulating plans to get inside them during the 2021 election cycle.

Mid-rise and high-rise living represents a large swath of the Arlington population, and “many of them are inaccessible to outside groups,” said Carol Fontein, who heads the robust precinct-operations efforts of Arlington Democrats.

As a result, the party aims to recruit those living in multi-family complexes to help with outreach – within the limits set by owners of the properties.

“We’re not going to sneak in and drop things on people’s doormats if that’s not allowed,” Fontein said.

Democrats’ efforts at scaling the walls (figuratively) of apartment and condo buildings have paid off in the recent years. Many of those living there previously had been voters in major elections but paid no heed to off-year races for Arlington local offices. The reaction to the rise of Donald Trump changed that: County Democrats in 2018 were able to oust independent County Board member John Vihstadt using many of those occasional voters; had the electorate of 2018 been the same as that of 2014 – representing mostly those in single-family neighborhoods – Vihstadt probably would have won a second term.

Although Democrats currently are in firm control of the national, state and local political apparatus, the pendulum will inevitably swing against the party. In Arlington, Democrats are hoping to use superior organizational skills to maintain supremacy.

“We’re really trying to get more people involved,” said Maggie Davis, the party’s deputy chair, holding out the prospect of a fun time ahead.

“Virginia has some of the most exciting politics around in 2021,” she said.

Fontein’s job within the party hierarchy is to ensure that the 126 Democratic precinct-captain slots (spread across 54 precincts) are filled.

Fontein said the party needs “a strong team that can maximize Democrat turnout.”

As she sometimes does, Fontein trotted out a quote from former President Harry Truman (after first semi-apologizing for his bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945). Truman is reported to have said that having been a precinct captain was the most important political post he ever had held.

The party needs to “get out every single last vote,” Fontein said. “If we lose Governor’s Mansion or statehouse, it could be years before we get them back.”

(3) comments


I picked up a copy of the Alexandria Times a few months ago from a vending box in Alexandria. It's on-line at alextimes dot com. Refreshing to see what good local journalism is like.

Audrey Clement

With commentators like McCaffrey, ACDC has its own house organ.


The pendulum won't swing against Arlington Democrats. Rather, Arlington will become more and more like Hong Kong.

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