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Some weeks ago, we opined that it was a shame that – in a country of 330 million people – our choices for president boiled down to two out-of-touch old men better suited to running for leadership of a Florida senior-citizens condo.
(We did get one letter to the editor on the subject, asking us not to lump America’s seniors in with the likes of Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Fair point.)
When it comes to the 2020 Arlington County Board race, we face a similar, though not identical, problem.
If the race between Democratic incumbent Libby Garvey and independent challenger Audrey Clement feels familiar, it’s because the two have run against each other three times before.
And, as has been the case in the past, Clement will score some points in debates but in the end never will come close; Garvey may not be universally loved by Democratic insiders, but the party sample ballot will carry her through.
Clement in some ways is savvy, and is at her best when pointing out when the emperor has no clothes, such as her dissection of the county government’s weak housing policy – one that is falling short in preserving affordable units and now has focused on a “missing middle” plan clearly designed to increase density (and the flow of real-estate taxes) without doing much to address affordability.
But any Clement candidacy suffers from two fatal flaws: She has run so often, her campaigns have become background noise, tuned out by the voters; and her political views, while sometimes on target, are scattershot. Depending on the issue, she is coming at the Democratic oligarchy from the left, from the right, from the middle, and sometimes from outer space.
Garvey, like Clement, at this point is effectively running for the sake of running. Except, in her case, it’s running for the sake of being elected and thence holding elected office for the sake of holding elected office, while occasionally rotating into the County Board chairmanship.
Have there been any out-of-the-box proposals from Garvey since she worked to scuttle the streetcar and overpriced bus stops lo those many years ago? As President Eisenhower said when asked whether Vice President Richard Nixon had contributed any ideas to his administration: Give us a week and we might come up with one.
Garvey has not covered herself in glory during COVID (nor has the county-government leadership in general). Our local government often is too timid when it needs to be bold, yet conversely too aggressive when it should be cautious. And, as Clement points out, government leaders proclaim their fealty to the progressive playbook, but seldom take tangible steps to advance said cause.
This weakness makes us yearn for the days of the likes of Chris Zimmerman (who may keel over when he hears that praise from us). He was able to lead the County Board – not always in the direction we wanted to see, but at least to keep it moving forward toward a purpose. There’s been little of that for years, and while the sclerotic thinking of late is not entirely Garvey’s fault, she is on the ballot.
Maybe something will happen in coming weeks to lead us toward an endorsement of either Garvey or Clement. But perhaps not; leftover sometimes are delicious, but in this case, it’s a rather bland array of options.