Is the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) too powerful a gatekeeper for Arlington School Board races?
Not surprisingly, the view depends on which side of the fence one is standing.
The issue came up at the Sept. 8 Arlington County Civic Federation debate for School Board, which featured two Democratic endorsees (Cristina Diaz-Torres and David Priddy) and one independent (Symone Walker).
“The ACDC process is, in my view, is disenfranchising,” said Walker.
The process “is designed not to put the needs of children first,” but rather to maintain a Democratic oligarchy in elected office, she said.
Under state law, School Board seats in Virginia are officially nonpartisan. Political parties are allowed to endorse candidates (but not formally nominate them). For years, ACDC has held springtime caucuses to pick its endorsees, who then run in tandem with other Democrats up and down the ballot.
(The last person other than a Democratic endorsee elected to the School Board was Republican David Foster, who defeated Democratic endorsee Sharon Davis in a razor-thin race in 1999 and then in 2003 won a comfortable re-election over Democratic endorsee Larry Fishtahler, who basically was left to fend for himself by the Democratic power structure that year.)
Despite her criticism of the ACDC process, Walker this year initially announced plans to seek the party’s endorsement. She dropped out after questions were raised about whether her doing so would represent a violation of the federal Hatch Act.
Not particularly surprisingly, the Democratic endorsees defended the Democratic endorsement process.
• “They are an endorsement like any other – just one of many,” Diaz-Torres said. “That is how this works.”
• “I’m not going to denounce the process – that’s how you get elected in Arlington,” said Priddy, saying candidates had to have an “understanding how to play the game.”
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