Republican Caren Merrick has to be feeling pretty good about her chances in Virginia’s District 31 Senate race.
After all, Merrick quietly sat on the sidelines all summer watching Democratic rivals Barbara Favola and Jaime Areizaga-Soto engage in one of the most mean-spirited — and expensive —state Senate primaries in recent memory.
Favola, an Arlington County Board member, earned more than 70 percent of the vote against Areizaga-Soto in Tuesday’s primary, but she might pay a high price for that win on Nov. 8.
Northern Virginia voters have a long history of rejecting candidates who choose negativity as opposed to substance, and Favola has become the region’s poster child for slick, negative campaign mailers and phone calls.
Throughout July and August, glossy mailer after glossy mailer arrived in District 31 mailboxes with pictures of Areizaga-Soto surrounded by words like “Polluter” and “Disaster.” Favola’s campaign also set up a website trying to play up Areizaga-Soto’s connection to oil company Petrobas in an attempt to discredit him on environmental issues.
He returned the favor with at least two harsh mailers of his own, including one that said “Barbara Favola’s Vote is up for Sale.” In a post on his website, Areizaga-Soto highlighted a $2,500 donation Favola received from the owner of a towing company a few days before the Board of Supervisors voted to increase towing fees in Arlington.
When pressed about the tone of her campaign leading up to Tuesday’s primary, Favola called the race “robust” and “lively,” and said it would have little impact on November’s general election.
If history is our guide, she might be in for a rude awakening.
With so many critical issues facing residents of the 31st District — transportation, education and jobs among them — running a campaign that dedicated 75 percent of its focus and energy on personal attacks is more than a little disappointing.
The average McLean or Great Falls voter surely would have preferred hearing Favola address potential solutions to $18 tolls and 90-minute commutes than how her opponent destroyed the Amazon rain forest and crippled the U.S. economy from his law office in Washington, D.C.
At a 31st District debate earlier this month, Arlington resident Betsy Wildhack might have summed things up best during the debate’s question-and-answer session.
“I have to say to both of you, I am disgusted and appalled by this campaign,” Wildhack said. “I don’t understand how you all can present this as the best the party has to offer, with these constant negative attacks. How in the world will any of you beat [Republican 31st District candidate] Caren Merrick when you have laid out her campaign against both of you?”
Voters here simply want their public officials to address issues that impact their daily lives.
The hope here is that District 31 residents hear a lot more about those issues in the next two months than they did during the past two.