Arlington Sun Gazette, November 15, 2012 Political Notes……………….(part of a larger article)
GREEN PARTY GETS A BOOST FROM VOTERS, BUT CAN IT GO HIGHER?
Green Party County Board candidate Audrey Clement wasn’t catapulted into office on Nov. 6, but her double-digit showing in the race did raise the bar for future Green candidates.
While Clement’s 12.4-percent share of the vote was well below Democrat Libby Garvey (58.2 percent) and Republican Matt Wavro (28 percent), it roughly doubled the percentage of the vote Green candidates have received in previous County Board races when both Democrats and Republicans were on the ballot.
The better-than-before results for the Greens lead to two questions: Who is voting for the party’s candidates, and can the Greens take that vote percentage higher?
Conventional wisdom suggests that, barring some anomaly in a given race, Democrats in Arlington usually can count on between 57 and 63 percent of the vote in general elections, with other parties splitting the rest.
Garvey’s victory was on the lower end of that spectrum, so some of Clement’s votes probably came from disaffected Democrats. But with Republicans held to less than 30 percent of the vote in the race, Greens also may have picked up votes there, too.
“Clearly, most of my votes came from independents rather than Democrats, as Libby Garvey actually increased her margin of victory by 9 percentage points over the March special election,” said Clement, who was making her third bid in 12 months for County Board.
“I believe most of my vote came from those who are unhappy with the status quo, specifically the county’s reckless and irresponsible capital-spending program. So the question is, why the independents didn’t vote for Wavro?”
Clement said. “I think the answer lies in the uneasiness of many voters over the lack of affordable housing, and their general agreement with me that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are addressing the issue adequately.”
While their candidates’ fortunes have been trending upward, challenges facing the Arlington Green Party include the lack of significant political infrastructure and lack of “bench strength” from which the party could draw future candidates.
The Arlington Green Party largely has focused its efforts on County Board races; when there have been no Republicans challenging Democratic County Board candidates, the Green Party has won up to 32 percent of the vote. The party occasionally has supported candidates for School Board and House of Delegates.
The national Green Party did have a presidential candidate on the ballot in Virginia, but Jill Stein received just 0.23 percent of the vote statewide and just 0.31 percent in Arlington. The vote for Stein in Arlington was about one-third the total received for Libertarian Gary Johnson, representing a party that doesn’t have a significant local presence in Northern Virginia.