Four local Democrats are in the running to replace Arlington County Board chairman Jay Fisette, just over a week after he announced he will not seek reelection.
Peter Fallon, Erik Gutshall, Kim Klingler and Vivek Patil are vying for the Democratic nomination to replace Fisette. The local party will hold a caucus in May to select its nominee for the November general election.
Three of the candidates addressed a packed house at the monthly meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee on Wednesday night, hosted at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington.
And the man they will replace, 20-year board veteran Fisette, said he was grateful to serve the county, having moved to Arlington in 1983. Fisette has previously said he will stay involved in public life in some other form when his term on the board expires in December.
“It has truly been a privilege to be able to represent you and Arlington over the past 20 years,” Fisette said. After his remarks, he received a standing ovation.
Gutshall is currently the chairman of the county planning commission, and lost in the Democratic primary in 2016 against incumbent board member Libby Garvey.
Gutshall praised Garvey for helping local Democrats unite after the primary, and said he is prioritizing schools, smarter growth and economic development in his campaign. Gutshall added that he will work closely with the recently-established Joint Facilities Advisory Commission that he said he lobbied for last year to develop “innovative solutions” to the county’s facility needs.
On Wednesday morning, Fisette endorsed Gutshall’s candidacy.
“For me, the board will benefit from Erik’s years of civic and community leadership, his knowledge and expertise in planning and environmental sustainability, and his experience as a small business owner and parent,” Fisette said in a statement. “Further, Erik has a strong character and serious vision for what he wants our community to be in the future. I would feel especially confident in Arlington’s future with Erik on the County Board, and I couldn’t be prouder to endorse his candidacy.”
In an accompanying statement, Gutshall praised Fisette for his leadership and said he is “humbled” to have his endorsement.
“Arlington is a better place as a result of Jay’s thoughtful, responsible and progressive leadership on the County Board,” Gutshall said. “Jay was a trailblazer in more ways than one, and his election paved the way for countless other Virginians to pursue public service. I am humbled to have Jay’s support and intend to honor his legacy by articulating a forward-looking vision for Arlington County that builds on our community’s success.”
Klingler ran in 2012 for the Democratic nomination to the County Board and currently serves as chairwoman of the county’s emergency preparedness advisory commission. She said that keeping residents safe must be the No. 1 priority, as well as making government operate more efficiently.
Further, Klingler said the county’s diversity must be preserved, including making sure that people of all income levels can afford to live in Arlington and own their own homes.
“If we truly value and promote diversity in our county and schools, we must change the way we look at affordable housing,” she said.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos told ARLnow.com Wednesday morning she is supporting Klingler’s candidacy.
Patil is a first-time County Board candidate. He moved to Arlington in 2015 and is a biotech professional entrepreneur. He said he is hopeful that the county can be an incubator for high-tech business, and suggested forward thinking like being the first jurisdiction in the country to have the infrastructure for driverless vehicles.
Patil also said he has been determined to build relationships across the county’s different neighborhoods and among different people, having canvassed for the ACDC in previous years. He said he will look to reach out to underrepresented portions of the county’s residents and help them.
“I am running because of those people,” he said. “I want to be a voice for those people. I want to take their stories to the County Board.”
Fallon was not present for the meeting due to prior commitments, but announced on his official Facebook page he will run for the nomination. Fallon has previously run in the 2012, 2014 and 2015 County Board primaries and caucuses.
On his Facebook page, Fallon wrote he “is running for the Arlington County Board to bring expertise, fairness and effective governance for every Arlingtonian.”
The Democratic caucuses for the school and county board will take place on May 9, 11 and 13 at Francis Scott Key Elementary School, Drew Model School and Washington-Lee High School, respectively. The caucuses will take the form of a so-called “firehouse primary,” in which participants arrive at a polling place, cast a secret ballot and then leave.
Also in the race, competing in November’s general election, is independent Audrey Clement. Others have until March 30 to announce their candidacies.