Arlington Sun Gazette
Green Party Candidate Thinks Odds Are Better This Year
by SCOTT McCAFFREY, Staff Writer
(Created: Thursday, April 12, 2007 5:49 AM EDT)
Last November, Josh Ruebner finished third in the balloting for County Board. This year, he needs to finish in the top two to make history and become the first Green Party candidate elected to public office in Virginia.
Although he concedes the odds remain long, Ruebner says this year he has a better chance at bucking them.
“It’s going to be an uphill battle,” Ruebner said in a recent interview. “This year, I have a much better shot of winning. I always kind of viewed this as a multi-year process.”
Every fourth year – including 2007 – Arlington’s quirky County Board election cycle puts two of the five board seats on the ballot. Although past history has favored Democrats, outside-the-party contenders are seen as having the best chance of picking up board seats when there are two seats in play.
In order to finish in the top two come November, Ruebner will need to score more votes than at least two of the following likely challengers:
* Current County Board Vice Chairman Walter Tejada, who, if re-elected, is set to make history himself next year in becoming Virginia’s highest-ranking Latino elected official, when he ascends to the board chairmanship.
* Former School Board Chairman Mary Hynes, who has proven to be a formidable vote-getter in three countywide races, and who will seek the seat of current County Board Chairman Paul Ferguson.
* And Republican Mike McMenamin, who like Ruebner was on the ballot against Democrat Chris Zimmerman last year, and who received five times the votes of Ruebner.
It’s possible that other candidates will also turn up. Political parties have until early June to submit their slates of candidates.
Ruebner received about 5 percent of the vote in last year’s three-way board race, spending about $5,000 in the process. This year, he is hoping the national Green Party will pony up some campaign cash, so he can get his message out to more prospective supporters.
Even entrenched Democrats conceded last year that Ruebner had good political instincts and a certain flair on the stump. But he showed little mastery of the details of local government, a shortcoming that was exploited by Zimmerman throughout the campaign.
“I’ve been boning up on the issues,” Ruebner said. “Last year, I wasn’t able to propose specific policy positions. Now, I’ll have policy alternatives that could be pursued.”
Arlington’s formal campaign season kicks off the with Arlington County Civic Federation debate, held the day after Labor Day in early September. Ruebner also plans to start campaigning earlier, saying he will “kick it into high gear” and “hit the ground running” by June.
“I really think it’s doable to win,” he said. “Last year, I didn’t.”
The local Green Party has attempted to field additional candidates for local office this year, but so far has not found any. In addition to County Board, local races on the ballot in November include a single School Board seat, the five constitutional offices and state legislative seats.