Arlington Democrats voted last night to nominate candidates for the two County Board seats up for election this fall so they won't be grouped with Republican-supported independents on the November ballot.
The two candidates were not selected formally last night because of a technical error in advertising the meeting. However, Richard A. Buffum, a retired CIA foreign affairs analyst, and Albert C. Eisenberg, government affairs directors of the American Institute of Architects, are the only two people expected to seek the nominations.
The vote at the mass meeting was 157 to 89 in favor of nominating candidates--rather than endorsing candidates who would then run independently--despite impassioned pleas from some speakers who stressed that independent candidates could draw support from county residents who are federal employes and barred from working for party nominees.
As Democrat nominees, however, the candidates will be on the ballot line with a long list of incumbents in a county that has voted heavily Democratic in recent years. In the past three years, Democratic nominees and one endorsee have won the County Board elections and now control three of the five board seats.
Voters said they were swayed by arguments that their candidates could be confused with the 10 Republicans running for various offices, including two Republican-backed candidates for the County Board candidates who are to be selected tonight.
Buffum previously had said that he would prefer to run as an independent, while Eisenberg had indicated he wanted to be a Democratic nominee.
Because last night's meeting was advertised only six days in advance--rather than the required seven days--Democratic Committee Chairperson Sharon Davis said that there would have to be another mass meeting June 1 if anyone else seeks the party's nomination for a County Board seat.
If there is no contest for the two nominations, Davis said, she, as head of the party, can declare Buffum and Eisenberg the party's nominees. Eisenberg is Davis' husband.
In speeches to last night's meeting, Buffum and Eisenberg attacked Republican claims that the GOP should retain its two seats on the County Board to maintain political balance.
Calling the argument "a feeble Republican whine," Buffum said that "in the abstract theorizing of political scientists, this argument might cause some heads to nod sagely. But in the real world, we know that what makes Arlington government act responsibly is not the presence of an obstructionist, fumbling opposition, but the character, experience and sense of purpose of each individual member of the board."
The two have been endorsed by the Arlingtonians for a Better County, a self-described nonpartisan organization with a long history of endorsing Democrats who ran as independents for the County Board. Cornelia Motheral and Tom Hall, president and past president of the ABC, spoke in favor of an endorsement last night, emphasizing its importance to their organization and to federal employes who want to participate in local government.