The reelection of independent Ellen Bozman to a second four-year term on the Arlington County Board was a decisive show of approval for the policies of the majority coalition.
While the meaning of Bozman's victory may be clear, each of the three candidates' explanations of it differs considerably.
Bozman said her decisive victory capped a campaign in which issues predominated.
"We certainly had the issues on our side," said Republican-endorsed independent Sherman W. Pratt, an attorney with the Federal Communications Commission.Pratt attributed Bozman's 11 per cent margin to the finely honed and well-financed political coalition which backed her.
"Neither issues nor personalities were apparent in the vote," said political neophyte Arthur C. Vogel. According to Vogel the results simply showed that Arlington voters prefer candidated with major party affiliations. In post-election interviews both Pratt and Vogel said they would not run for office again.
"I was not looking forward with uncontrollable enthusiasm to serving on the board. It's often a thankless job," said Pratt.
Bozman ran as an independent with endorsement by both the local Democratic Party and Arlingtonians for a Better County (ABC), a politically effective nonpartism coalition. She captured 53 per cent of the vote in last week's election, a slightly higher margin than whe received four years ago in her first bid.
In 1973 Pratt ran against Bozman as an independent without Republican endorsement and took only 9 per cent of the total vote. He did considerably better this year, capturing 42 per cent.
Bozman's reelection ensures that for at least another year, political power on the five-member board will reside with a coalition of three members endorsed by the ABC-Democratic coalition. Since 1970 this coalition, which currently includes Bozman, board chairman John W. Purdy, has held a majority of seats on the board.
Bozman said that the widespread ticket-splitting of Arlington voters in the racers for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general was indicative of a propensity to consider candidates on the basis of issues.
"Obviously I picked up people voting for Dalton," she said. "Arlingtonians are used to switching (between parties). But I think the Republicans and Sherm Pratt had a very good organization this year."
"We did the best we could, but we couldn't complete with the money or tight campaign organization of the ABC," said Pratt.
Among the issues Pratt campaigned on were a decline in the quality of the school system and the lack of South Arlington representation on the board. Residents of South Arlington, which has a heavy concentration of apartments, traditionally feel ignored by the board which many claim favors North Arlington residents.
The only surprise in last week's voting was that Pratt carried the Fairlington precinct in South Arlington. That precinct has traditionally voted for the ABC candidate and helped to elect Bozman in 1973.
A number of recently renovated condominiums in Fairlington Villages have been plagued by sewer backups, and some residents, a contingent of whom faithfully attend county board meetings, have said they feel the board and county staff aren't doing enough to help them.
Pratt concluded that his campaign was severly hampered by a lack of funds. "We couldn't communicate with the voters through mass mailouts, because we didn't have the money to send enough of them," he said. Pratt said he spent about $10,000 in contrast to the $22,000 Bozman said she spent.
Vogel, a retired U. S. Information Agency division chief who spent less than $1,000 on his bid, said the results indicate voter preference for candidates with major party affiliations. "Independent voters and independent thinkers are not a congruent group," he said.
Local political leaders and all three candidates agreed that the defeat of Henry Howell, in contrast to his strong showing in the county four years ago, does not signify a conservative shift.
Judy Cloe, Arlington Democratic Party chairperson said. "All of our local Democratic candidates like Bozman won. I think a lot of people were afraid of Henry and were tired of him. He'd run three times, and it's hard to keep working for someone who keeps losing. Dalton had a good advertising campaign and looked all right."
Wholey, who supported Howell, said the results proved that "there are many conservative Democrats in Arlington and throughout the state."