Alan Howze swept to victory in Arlington County’s Democratic caucus Saturday in a bid to replace the departing Chris Zimmerman on the Arlington County Board.

Howze, 39, a management consultant for IBM, will face John Vihstadt, a Republican running as an independent, Libertarian Evan Bernick and Janet Murphy of the Independent Green Party in a special election expected to be set for April 1 or April 8.

Howze had 52 per cent of 3,585 votes cast.

Coming in second was newcomer Cord Thomas, 31, an entrepreneur who owns Elevation Burger and formerly owned EnviroCAB taxi service. He received 1,072 votes. Peter Fallon, 49, a tax accountant and former Planning Commission chairman, got 662 votes.

The major issues in the month-long race centered on the County Board’s oversight of spending, especially the cost of the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar line and the Long Bridge Park aquatics center.

Howze and Fallon supported both projects but promised to take a close look at the finances for the aquatics center. Thomas attacked both as “frivolous” projects that will cost far more than they should.

Howze had the support of a large number of Arlington’s Democratic establishment, as well an endorsement from the teachers and a local Sierra Club.

Turnout was strong on a balmy Saturday at Kenmore Middle School, with hundreds filling the parking lot and backing up traffic on the adjacent Carlin Springs Road. Candidates and their supporters greeted incoming voters; Thomas provided free popcorn and coffee.

In the past dozen years, party caucuses for County Board openings have drawn about 2,400 to 4,300 voters. About 740 voters had cast ballots Thursday, the first day of this year’s two-day caucus.

Democrats dominate politics in Arlington County. Every elected official there is a Democrat, and the county hasn’t supported a Republican presidential candidate since 1980. The last two Republicans elected to the County Board were Mike Lane in 1999 and Ben Winslow (running as an independent) in 1993, both elected in special elections like this one.

The winner of the April special election will serve only until November, when the term expires.

Voters leaving the caucus Saturday nevertheless stressed the importance of turning out to choose the Democratic nominee.

Alan and Theresa Schweser, said they based their votes on “fiscal and transportation issues” as well as each candidate’s history of involvement in community issues.

Kenny Wright said each individual vote matters more when turnout is small.

“Since these are small elections, it essentially matters more,” Wright said as he and Brandon Estella left the polls.

“The impact of local officials is much greater than people realize,” Estella agreed.