For obvious reasons, the more watched of the two special elections to take place on the 19th of August will be the State Senate election in Southwest Virginia. Control of the State Senate depends upon that outcome. However, the other race – for a House of Delegate seat in northern Arlington and (mostly) McLean – could provide an upset, thanks in no small part to Governor McAuliffe himself.
Late last week, the Guv decided to offer a financial lifeline to the problematic (and very controversial) Arlington trolley (Washington Post):
Virginia will increase state funding for the controversial Columbia Pike streetcar project by up to $65 million, the state transportation chief told officials in Arlington and Fairfax counties this week, allowing the streetcar line to be built at least a year faster and without federal funds.
Reaction to this has largely agreed with Norm Leahy‘s: “A less charitable view would say that the Governor’s office has done a solid for its folks in Arlington…” Except it’s not that simple.
The Columbia Pike trolley was a symbol of government incompetence and arrogance when John Vihstadt used it to break the Democrats’ monopoly on the County Board in last spring’s special election, and just in case anyone thought the issue had died down…(back to the WaPo):
Vihstadt said the state rushed to respond to the funding request that Fisette and Bulova made a month ago. “Had the Commonwealth done its homework, it would have learned that a modified form of bus rapid transit could be implemented much more cheaply, more quickly, with greater regional connectivity,” Vihstadt said in a statement.
So how would this impact the 48th District special election? Well, for starters, the trolley would parallel Columbia Pike, which runs through southern Arlington. The 48th, by contrast, is anchored in northern Arlington, which would suffer the costs of the trolley without the benefits. Lest you, dear reader, think I’m reading too much into this, I went through the election data from the April special election, and found the following.
- Overall results: Vihstadt (I, R-endorsed) 57%, Howze (D) 41%
- Precincts in 48th District: Vihstadt 65%, Howze 35%
In fact, Vihstadt’s advantage in the 48th was nearly triple that outside it (55%-43%).
Meanwhile, Republican nominee David Foster “said his first order of business if elected would be to introduce legislation allowing voters in Arlington to hold a referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar project” (Inside Nova).
In other words, Governor T-Mac just dumped $65 million worth of fuel on a fire that has already burned local Democrats, and that Foster is making a key issue in the campaign.
Keep a close eye on northern Arlington, folks.
Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon