Early vote totals up in runoff; gay candidate says anti-gay tactics ‘falling on deaf ears’
TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
ARLINGTON — Conventional wisdom says that turnout in a runoff election will be lower than in the general election. But if early vote numbers are any indication, voters in Arlington’s District 5 are defying conventional wisdom.
And Chris Hightower thinks that’s a good sign.
Hightower is the gay man challenging incumbent Lana Wolff for the District 5 seat on Arlington’s City Council. Hightower came out on top of the five-candidate heap in the May 14 general election, with 39 percent of the vote. Wolff, first elected to the council in 2003, earned a place in the runoff with 35 percent of the vote.
In the May 14 general election, District 5 voters cast 1,179 early ballots, including mail-in ballots. Of those early votes, 42 percent went to Hightower, compared to 34 percent to Wolff.
Early voting for the runoff ended Tuesday, June 14, with a total of 1,196 ballots, including mail-in ballots, cast, Hightower said.
Hightower, who if he is elected would be Arlington’s first openly gay council member, said this week that he has concentrated his runoff campaign efforts on keeping his supporters motivated and on getting them back out to the polls for a second time. And he said he thinks the high early vote turnout means he has accomplished his goal.
“We feel good,” Hightower said Wednesday, June 15. “I think the early vote shows we’ve got a lot of motivated voters out there.”
Hightower said that there are a number of “hot-button” issues drawing voters back to the poll, including the city’s thoroughfare development plan and a hike and bike plan now under consideration.
But, he added, he thinks voters’ desire for new representation is the biggest draw.
“It’s been awhile since we had any real change at city hall, and the voters are ready for it now,” Hightower said.
Although none of the other four candidates in the general election tried to make an issue of Hightower’s sexual orientation, the candidate did find himself the target of anti-gay campaigning by at least one Arlington resident.
“It happened in the general election campaign, and it continued into the runoff,” Hightower said. “I guess that kind of thing is probably typical of politics in general. But we’re just keeping our head down and keeping on talking about the real issues, the things the voters care about. And I think [the anti-gay tactics] are falling on deaf ears.
“The personal attacks just aren’t getting it any more,” he continued. “Voters in municipal elections are smart. They are concerned about the real issues, things like good streets, cutting down on crime and keeping the city safe, creating and keeping good neighbors. Those kinds of personal attacks just aren’t getting any traction with the voters.”
Hightower added, “People care about the issues. People are ready for a change, and we have given them something to vote for.”
Polls in Arlington will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.