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Meet the candidates running for Arlington County Board

correction

An earlier version of this article reported Audrey Clement’s age as 52. She is 72. This article has been corrected.

Four candidates are competing for one seat on the Arlington County Board, a job that will require them to grapple with difficult questions related to growth, development and justice in this Northern Virginia county of about 240,000.

Takis Karantonis (D), who won a special election last year to fill the seat of the late Erik Gutshall, is running for a full term. After winning a June primary challenge, he is now facing three independent candidates: Mike Cantwell, Audrey Clement and Adam Theo.

Because board members in Arlington serve rotating, four-year terms, the seat is the only one up for election this year on the five-member board.

If elected, the winner will join other county lawmakers in reviewing design and transit plans for Amazon’s second headquarters — which is set to bring in at least 25,000 employees to the Crystal City area — and selecting members for a new civilian group tasked with oversight of police conduct.

Arlington is also embarking on its study of “missing middle” housing and preparing to rezone Langston Boulevard, two issues that are likely to further animate debates on density and affordable housing in a former bedroom community that has transformed into an urban powerhouse of its own.

Unlike their neighbors in D.C. or other Virginia localities, Arlington residents do not vote directly on the board’s chair. That title rotates through all five elected officials, each of whom presides over the body for one year.

While Democrats have maintained a majority on the board for decades, it’s not unheard of for others to break through: John Vihstadt, an independent, pulled an upset victory in 2014.

The Washington Post contacted all four candidates to ask about their backgrounds, campaigns and priorities if elected to office. The following profiles are based on candidates’ answers and have been edited for space and clarity.

Mike Cantwell (I)

Cantwell, 57, is a federal employee and civic association president who says the county must slow urbanization, rebuild its aging infrastructure and relieve crowded schools. He said he’s opposed to giving subpoena and investigatory powers to “untrained volunteers” on the civilian police review board, and he refuses endorsements from political parties or public sector unions. He lives in Yorktown.

Why are you running for county board?

I’ve led a lifetime of service, first as a naval officer and now as a community leader. Serving others is part of my identity.

What would be your top priority in elected office?

My top priority will be to bring an independent voice to the county board. We need leaders who are unconstrained by political promises or partisan ties.

What policy stances distinguish you from your opponents?

I’m a true independent and I’ve never been affiliated with a political party. If I am elected, I will focus on core service, curb rapid urbanization, support small businesses by lowering taxes and increase fiscal oversight.

Audrey Clement (I)

Clement, 72, works as a software developer and says Arlington is growing at an unsustainable pace for a county of its size. She cites her experience serving on the county’s transportation commission for the past year. She lives in Westover.

Why are you running for county board?

As an advocate of good government, I want to end one-party rule of Arlington County by electing an independent to the board.

What would be your top priority in elected office?

I will stop efforts to upzone single-family-home neighborhoods under the rubric of “missing middle” housing. I will also provide tax relief for residents and businesses.

What policy stances distinguish you from your opponents?

I am a fiscal conservative, a social liberal and staunch environmentalist. I am the only candidate who criticized Takis Karantonis for joining Arlington County Board in permitting the demolition of the historic Rouse estate and denying historic designation for the Civil War landmark site.

Takis Karantonis (D)

Karantonis, 57, is an economist and small-business microloan adviser. The former executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, he has served on county commissions related to planning and housing. Karantonis says Amazon has been keeping its promises to the community and emphasizes the importance of transit-oriented development. He lives in Columbia Heights.

Why are you running for county board?

I am running because I passionately believe in the importance of local governance. I want to shape Arlington’s future so that it works for all and leaves no one behind.

What would be your top priority in elected office?

Providing housing choices for all. Accelerating our local climate crisis response. An economic development focus on the small-business economy. Long-term planning with equitable citizen participation. Investing in public transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

What policy stances distinguish you from your opponents?

I’m not a fair-weather candidate. I first was elected during a pandemic when difficult decisions had to be made. I bring the experience and the vision in planning, economic development, housing, transportation, the environment. For everything I say, I can show the work that fuels my passion to shape our future.

Adam Theo (I)

Theo, 42, works as a communications consultant, video producer and political organizer. He points to his experience in housing activism, serving on the county’s civic federation and chairing the Libertarian party of Northern Virginia. Theo opposes subsidies for Amazon and thinks the civilian review board has been “hobbled and watered down.” He lives in Ballston.

Why are you running for county board?

I am running for county board to bring fiscal responsibility to Arlington’s government with lower taxes and better spending priorities that focus on public safety, and to fight for “missing middle” and affordable housing.

What would be your top priority in elected office?

In the first year, “missing middle” housing and housing reform. Overall, I want to prioritize public safety with smarter spending.

What policy stances distinguish you from your opponents?

I’m fiscally responsible by lowering property and business taxes and restrain spending; pro-development and major housing reform; and am a champion for civil rights, liberties and justice. This is a combination that fits Arlington perfectly, but one that no other candidate has.

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