Arlington County Board member J. Walter Tejada (D) said Wednesday that he won’t run for reelection, vacating the seat he has held for a dozen years and creating the potential for a wide-open primary race in early summer.
Tejada, who is perhaps the most liberal member of the Democratic majority on the board, said in an interview that he felt it was time to move on, although he would not say whether he has any firm plans. He said he expects to continue on the board through the end of the year.
“I don’t intend to cause a special election,” he said. “I intend to complete my obligation to the voters by serving a full term.”
A special election last spring, called after the resignation of former board member Chris Zimmerman, resulted in the election of John Vihstadt (I), the first non-Democrat in 15 years to win an Arlington County Board election. Vihstadt was reelected to a full four-year term in November.
Board Chairman Mary Hynes (D) is up for election in November. Hynes said this month that she will announce in February whether she will run again. She was in Richmond on Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.
Arlington County Democratic Committee Chairman Kip Malinosky said that a primary will probably be June 9. If so, candidates of either party can file for the race until March 26. Independents have until primary day to officially file for the office.
At least four Democrats have expressed interest, and Malinosky said the Democrats would have four or five debates this spring. Some will probably make their intentions public at the party’s monthly meeting Feb. 4.
Arlington GOP chairman Matt Wavro said Republicans have “had a lot of conversations, but we haven’t had anyone decide to make the plunge just yet.” If more than one Republican emerges, the party probably would select its candidate by caucus, Wavro said.
Tejada said he has turned down “some wonderful opportunities [for jobs] in the past couple of years,” and he is proud of being an “unapologetic progressive.”
He notified Malinosky of his decision in a letter Wednesday afternoon and posted it on his Facebook page. In it, he said he will continue “ensuring that the least privileged are heard, protecting our safety net, fighting for affordable housing, and providing a voice for many who frequently go voiceless.”
Tejada, a native of El Salvador who came to the United States at the age of 13, has been a strong and consistent spokesman for Spanish speakers, immigrants and those who have trouble affording housing in ever-more-expensive Northern Virginia.
In 2012, he led the effort to tie the preservation of more than 6,000 affordable apartments in the Columbia Pike area to the development of new housing and retail complexes.
A full-time board member, he previously worked for former congressman James P. Moran (D-Va.) and as an investigator for a public defender in Trenton, N.J.