Garvey quits Arlington Democratic leadership over endorsement of Vihstadt over Howze

Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey — under fire by her own party for supporting the election of a non-Democrat to the board — resigned from the party’s leadership committee in a closed-door meeting Monday night.

Her resignation, which the leadership had sought, does not remove Garvey from the Democratic Party or the County Board, where her current term runs until 2016. But it means she will not be able to participate in the committee’s strategy discussions or access its lists of local Democrats and contributors.

Party leaders said she had to leave the committee because of her endorsement of independent John Vihstadt over Democratic nominee Alan Howze in a recent County Board election. Party rules say no committee members or officers can “publicly support, endorse, or assist any candidate opposed to a Democratic nominee.”

Garvey publicly supported Vihstadt, who beat Howze by a wide margin. She donated $1,000 to his campaign and sent out seven mass e-mails in support of his candidacy.

“She absolutely is entitled to her own opinion,” said party chairman Kip Malinosky. “The Democratic Party is a big tent for a reason. But there is one red line [to be a party leader], and that is party support.”

[Read: Vihstadt’s victory a wake-up call for Democrats]

Garvey and Vihstadt both oppose the planned Columbia Pike streetcar, and they are critical of the county’s spending on other capital projects, as well.

In submitting her resignation, Garvey said in an interview Tuesday, she criticized some of her board colleagues and told about 150 members of the Arlington Democratic Committee that the group should be concerned about how the County Board was making decisions and conducting itself, instead of worrying about who she was endorsing.

“The party has a lot of work to do,” Garvey said. “I certainly wish them well. I think — I know — there were people in that room who voted for John [Vihstadt]. Isn’t it funny that one of the largest, most important issues we have is the streetcar, and we’re not supposed to talk about it?”

[Read: Arlington board assesses Democrat’s defeat]

Garvey was sanguine about the impact her statements will have on her political future. “It’s a long time until the [2016] election,” she said. “This is a a democracy. Doing the right thing has always worked out pretty well for me, so far.”

Patricia Sullivan seeks out news about Alexandria and Arlington County for the Washington Post.
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