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Fresh Off Of Win, New Arlington County Board Member Prepares For November

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Arlington County Board Member-elect John Vihstadt, left, greeted supporters during his victory party Tuesday night.
Michael Pope/WAMU
Arlington County Board Member-elect John Vihstadt, left, greeted supporters during his victory party Tuesday night.

Voters in Arlington may have just elected a new County Board member in a special election, but the winner of that election will now have to stand for election again in November.

John Vihstadt will be sworn-in as the newest member of the Arlington County Board this afternoon. But he won't have long to celebrate — this November, he'll face Alan Howze, the same candidate he beat in a special election earlier this week.

"November will be an uphill effort, just as this victory was an uphill effort. But the fact that we won by such a convincing margin gives me a great optimism that we will be able to hold on in the fall," he says.

Vihstadt won 57 percent of the vote against Democratic candidate in the heavily Democratic Arlington County. Campaign manager Eric Brescia says Vihstadt will need to build the same coalition he put together to win the special election.

"We had the Republican Party endorsement, the Green Party endorsement. We had a whole bunch of prominent Democrats, current and former elected officials. The firefighters union endorsed him. Basically we had a very broad coalition," he says.

Democrats say that might not be enough to win in a general election, when many more Democrats will be at the polls to vote for Mark Warner in the Senate race against Republican Ed Gillespie.

Party officials say they'll be at the polls handing out sample ballots encouraging them to vote the Democratic slate. County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, a Democrat, says he remembers losing his first campaign in a special election only to win in the next general.

"So I have a little bit of empathy for my good friend Alan Howze, and I know that he will be back in November. Until then we will work really hard and well with John Vihstadt on the County Board," he says.

Turnout for the special election earlier this week was at 16 percent of registered voters. But Arlington Registrar Linda Lindberg says she expects the turnout this November to be closer to 50 percent of registered voters.

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