Alan Howze. Photo from the candidate’s website.

This Thursday and Saturday, Arlington voters who consider themselves Democrats will vote for a nominee to replace Chris Zimmerman on the county board. Greater Greater Washington recommends voting for Alan Howze, followed by Peter Fallon, in the instant runoff vote.

The Arlington Democrats use a “firehouse caucus” to choose their nominees. Anyone can vote in it who is a registered voter and who is willing to sign a pledge basically saying he or she is a Democrat and will not support a candidate other than the Democratic nominee.

Voters can cast their votes on Thursday night, January 30, from 7-9 pm at Francis Scott Key Elementary School, or Saturday, February 1 from 11 am to 7 pm at Kenmore Middle School. Three candidates are vying for the nomination: Alan Howze, Peter Fallon, and Cord Thomas.

It’s an instant runoff election, which means voters can rank their choices, and if their first choice gets eliminated for having the fewest votes, their vote still counts toward the second (and so on, but with only 3 candidates, there are at most 2 rounds).

Arlington has more than one policy issue, but the fact is that this race is turning largely on one: the Columbia Pike Streetcar. 4 of 5 members of the County Board strongly support the project, but there is a very active contingent of people in the county who want to stop the streetcar. They helped elect Libby Garvey in 2012, who has fiercely railed against the streetcar in office.

Streetcar opponents would like to expand their caucus to two, and are backing Cord Thomas, who formerly co-founded Envirocab and now co-owns Elevation Burger. Thomas initially kept quiet about the streetcar, but more recently came out against the project. To the extent party affiliation is important, it’s also somewhat unclear if Thomas is or has been a Democrat.

Both Alan Howze and Peter Fallon say they will support the community’s plans to improve transit along Columbia Pike by supplementing the existing buses with streetcars. This investment in the community dovetails with the existing Columbia Pike development plans, which include a significant contribution to affordable housing that will only be possible if high-quality transit attracts developers. Additionally, the increased density that will come as part of the plan will only be possible if the new residents are able to get where they’re going without getting in their cars.

Alan Howze worked for former Virginia Congressman Rick Boucher and Governor Mark Warner. He impressed Michael Perkins when he ran (unsuccessfully) for an open seat in the House of Delegates in 2009. Howze has a strong position paper on the streetcar, where he clearly lays out the economic and environmental benefits. That helped him win the Sierra Club’s endorsement.

Peter Fallon has experience working with the county government, most recently on the Planning Commission. The planning commission is one of the most challenging appointed positions in the county, and his experience with the process and history of Arlington’s plans and decisions is and would be a great asset to the community.

In our poll of contributors, all of our Virginia residents who voted said that they like both Howze and Fallon, but all felt the scale tips in favor of Howze based on his public statements at events and in response to questionnaires like the one from Arlington Streetcar Now.

While it is a close call between the two, both are clearly better for Arlington than Thomas. Therefore, we encourage Arlington voters who identify as Democrats to cast their votes for Howze first and Fallon second, or for those who prefer Fallon, vote for Fallon first and Howze second, on Thursday night or Saturday.

The winner will compete against independents and candidates of other parties in the special election, whose date has not yet been set. The winner of that contest will also have to run for re-election in November.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington, written by one or more contributors. Active regular contributors and editors voted on endorsements, and any endorsement reflects a strong majority or greater in favor of endorsing the candidate.