Parisa Dehghani-Tafti Elected Prosecutor as All Incumbents Win Down the Ballot

(Updated at 10:20 p.m.) There were no surprises in Tuesday’s general election in Arlington, as Parisa Dehghani-Tafti was elected Arlington’s new prosecutor and all Democratic incumbents won new terms.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney race saw an elevated level of write-in votes — 10% of the overall vote — but the result was never in doubt as Tafti received 90% of the vote. She will take office as the top prosecutor for Arlington and Falls Church starting in January.

Tafti ran a progressive campaign centered on criminal justice reform during a contentious and expensive primary. She ran unopposed in the general election after beating incumbent prosecutor Theo Stamos in a surprising upset in the primary, with 52% of the vote to Stamos’ 48%.

“It was really surreal,” Tafti told ARLnow of her win, after the final precinct results came in.

The incoming prosecutor added that she was “lucky” she had time between the June primary and the November election to start work on her transition. Tafti she’s looking forward to rolling out reforms come January — which one expert has said is the most aggressive policy transition for the office in living memory.

“I’m really excited to get a restorative justice program started,” she told ARLnow.

Elsewhere on the ballot, Arlington County Board incumbents Katie Cristol (D) and Christian Dorsey (D) defeated independent candidates Audrey Clement and Arron O’Dell with 40% and 38% of the vote, respectively. Clement’s 13% and O’Dell’s 7% compares to the 10% Clement and 19% Republican Mike McMenamin received in 2015, when Cristol and Dorsey were first elected.

In contested General Assembly races in Arlington, state Sen. Janet Howell, who ran unopposed in the primary, won out over Republican candidate Arthur Purves, 73% to 27%. Del. Alfonso Lopez defeated independent challenger Terry Modglin, 83% to 16%.

Other Democratic candidates won bids for re-election tonight after running uncontested races:

  • Del. Patrick Hope
  • Del. Mark Levine
  • Del. Rip Sullivan
  • State Sen. Barbara Favola
  • Sheriff Beth Arthur
  • Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy
  • Treasurer Carla de la Pava
  • School Board member Reid Goldstein

Acknowledging that most of its candidates were not facing strong challengers, the Arlington Democratic party has instead focused on supporting other Virginia progressives they hoped could flip the GOP-controlled state House and Senate. As of 10 p.m., the Associated Press projected that Democrats would, in fact, win control of both.

“It’s a close call, but it’s looking very good that that we take the Senate, but also take the Virginia House of Delegates,” Lopez said  around 8:45 p.m., before the projections, to cheers across the crowded Arlington Democrats election watch party at Celtic House on Columbia Pike.

Afterward, the room erupted in chants of “ERA! ERA! ERA!” — a reference to the Equal Rights Amendment progressives have promised to sign if they take Richmond.

Much of Tuesday night’s victory party was spent cheering wins elsewhere. The room gave a standing ovation around 9 p.m. when it became clear GOP Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin lost to Democratic challenger Andy Beshear.

“That’s outstanding, that’s democracy at work right there,” said Dorsey. “That’s beautiful.”

Tafti, meanwhile, thanked the crowd for their support.

“I know your vote is precious. I know your time is precious,” Tafti said. “Every single person in this room put their faith in me — put their time in me. I will spend the next four years earning that every single day.”

Arlington’s election office reported a total turnout of about 37% — unusually high for an off-off-year election with no hotly contested races locally and no statewide nor federal races. Turnout in the similar 2015 election was 27%.

Tuesday morning, Del. Rip Sullivan told ARLnow that he was “really impressed with what I see so far” in terms of turnout.

“There’s been a lot of good energy,” he said. Previously, Sullivan wrote in an opinion column that Democratic turnout in the Arlington races was important because “we simply must finish this year’s races strong and send a clear signal about our priorities before we turn to next year’s challenges and opportunities.”

The county also debuted its newly-designed “I Voted” stickers this year, which trended on social media.

Airey and Kalina Newman contributed to this report.