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This election season, incumbent Arlington County Board candidates will be facing not one, but two independent challengers.
Perennial candidate Audrey Clement is joined in the race for County Board by first-timer Arron O’Dell, a payroll associate with the American Correctional Association who threw his hat into the ring on a platform of affordable housing, more efficient transportation, and representing marginalized communities. The two candidates will face off against incumbent Board Chair Christian Dorsey and Board member Katie Cristol.
Clement is returning to the ring running a campaign centered on greater support for county services like schools, libraries, and affordable housing, as well as promoting green energy and preserving open space.
O’Dell is a D.C. native who’s also lived in Alexandria and Falls Church before moving abroad to Costa Rica and Thailand to teach English. In Thailand, he had a daughter who is now eight years old and lives with him, he said.
“She was born in Thailand and is the single biggest motivator for moving back to Arlington,” he said. “I wanted her to receive a high quality education and live in a place where women are treated more equally.”
Affordable Housing and Transportation
Both candidates are zeroing in on the county’s persistent affordable housing shortage.
“I know many in Arlington consider density a dirty word but we need a solid smart growth plan to add density at all price levels to meet the needs of the future,” said O’Dell, who noted he does not own his home. “I would love to see a plan where longer term residents that could not afford to buy in the current market were given an opportunity to build equity in the places they call home.”
Clement, meanwhile, is proposing the county reorganize all housing programs under a central housing agency in order to help, “negotiate construction costs down, providing taxpayers with more bang for their buck.”
O’Dell is also campaigning on increased public transit options for the county, citing how much easier it is for him to commute by car to his job in Alexandria currently because of infrequent buses and Metro’s current summer shutdown.
“An effective transportation system needs to be high frequency, high volume and a good value,” he said. “As Arlington evolves we should be looking at walkability and transportation and designing around that.”
O’Dell believes his time living abroad, and his experience as a single parent, make him uniquely qualified to represent some underserved communities in Arlington. He told ARLnow he has “deep empathy for the migrant communities in Arlington County, because of my experiences abroad I empathize with people living in a foreign land and trying to get by.”
“I understand just how daunting a new language and culture can be,” he added. “My desire is to be a voice for these lower-income, politicly quieter residents of the county.”
One of Clement’s campaign promises is to “provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers” but she’s also positioned herself as a watchdog of the County Board through a decade of campaigning and speaking at Board meetings.
In an email to ARLnow she criticized the Board’s recent raise as “excessive,” echoing comments from her website where she accused members of paying themselves more regardless of “whether their actual workload justifies the salary increase.”
While many elections are spaced out over months, sometimes even years at the presidential level, three Arlington candidates have been running for County Board in a 61-day sprint towards the special election on July 7.
“It’s unprecedented and extremely short,” said Karantonis. “We have the COVID-19 [pandemic] and it is a special election [held] right after Fourth of July. Everything you can imagine that is non-typical for an election is typical for this one.”
The 61-Day Campaigns
The special election was triggered by County Board member Erik Gutshall’s resignation in April. Ten days later, Gutshall died after a battle with brain cancer. On May 7, Karantonis bested three other candidates to be chosen as the Democratic nominee in a closed caucus.
Karantonis, and economist and the former director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, faces opposition in the election from Cunningham, a business executive and independent who has been involved in several major planning efforts, and Cambridge, a Republican and former instructor in the CIA.
For each candidate, it’s been a struggle to adapt over the span of weeks to national and local changes — from the phased reopening to the Black Lives Matter protests after the death of George Floyd.
“It was right at the end of April [when Gutshall resigned], ” Cunningham said. “I mulled it over, talked it over, then filed before the end of the month and before the party caucuses. It was not particularly premeditated — it was an unusual time with a lot of grieving and a lot of need. The rest of us were shaken by Erik’s death and we had to get a lot of signatures in the middle of the pandemic.”
Without a party infrastructure to back her up, Cunningham said she has had to take a grassroots approach in a compressed election cycle when traditional door-to-door campaigning grassroots tactics weren’t viable. Cunningham considered throwing her hat into the ring for the Democratic primary but said she felt more comfortable running as an independent.
“I thought long and hard about whether to run as an independent because there’s only, like, one example of that working,” Cunningham said, referring to independent John Vihstadt’s victories over Democratic candidates until he was bested in 2018. “It really was a values-based decision. I’ve always through local government should be non-partisan. The issues are not the national party issues; it’s potholes and schools.” (more…)
There is a special election to fill the seat on the County Board now vacant because of the tragic death of Erik Gutshall. While the County Board is attempting to push the date for the election all the way to November, voters are likely to head to the polls July 7 or vote absentee in advance of that day.
Over the next seven weeks, voters will be able to consider the three candidates running for the position. Here are three big picture questions these candidates should be answering:
- Will you challenge the status quo?
Now more than ever, we should not accept the idea that we can keep doing things the way we have done them in the past. The Board recognized this on an emergency basis as they passed a revised budget April 30th. However, they should use this time to ask themselves what they can do differently in the future. Every program, line item, rule and regulation should be evaluated to help us recover in the short term and make us stronger over time.
- Will you work to increase the levels of transparency and accountability provided by Arlington to its residents?
Two weeks ago, I noted a County Board pay raise mistakenly included in the pay plan approved by the Arlington County Board. When it was brought to their attention, they sprang into action to say it was not supposed to be there and would be fixed. Yet, the County Board met on Saturday and is meeting again today, and none of the agenda items listed thus far fix the pay plan to take back the raise. The Board Members who promised this would be fixed need to live up to their word and tell us how they plan to fix it before it takes effect on July 1st.
Also over the last two weeks, the County Board joined with other Northern Virginia jurisdictions to say “no” to reopening Arlington for business last Friday. The Board listed five metrics they were looking at for reopening. Last Friday during their virtual town hall meeting, they also regularly referenced the five metrics. Yet, nowhere on the County Board site can you view a dashboard which discloses how close, or far away, we are from meeting them.
While our ties to the federal government make our community more recession-resistant than most, our economy is still strained and our residents are losing jobs by the day. “Just trust us” should not be acceptable for such a huge decision, particularly in this unprecedented time of crisis.
- Will you commit to fiscal discipline as we recover from these challenging times?
Keeping the tax rate as low as possible is a key component for economic recovery. Beyond the costs on housing for our residents, many of whom have lost a job or could in the future, we must keep downward pressure on rents for our employers as well. It means designating 100% of any closeout funds to this purpose for the foreseeable future. It means the Board must also identify and fund only the most essential things in the budget for the next year or two to reduce the need for taxpayer revenue. And it certainly means a delay on the aforementioned pay raise for the Board.
Mark Kelly is a long-time Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
While Arlington Democrats work to select a nominee internally, Susan Cunningham — a civically-involved mother of two — has announced her intention to run as an independent to fill the seat of the late Erik Gutshall.
“I believe good local government is non-partisan,” she said in her announcement Tuesday morning. “We are all Arlingtonians; I want to work for Arlington’s common good, regardless of party.”
Cunningham outlined a wonky policy agenda, anchored by “data-driven solutions that are financially sound and make Arlington a great place to live and to do business.” Among her priorities are:
- Planning processes for north-south corridors like Glebe Road and George Mason Drive, similar to efforts underway for Lee Highway (of which she is a participant.)
- “Needs-based budgeting and efficient delivery of core services,” including “proactive investments in sustainable infrastructure like stormwater, sewers, and emergency management.”
- Improving transparency and access to public information, while “streamlining community engagement processes to make them more fair, less cumbersome, and more equitable.”
- Long-term planning for public facilities and “selective upzoning to enhance business viability and housing choice and affordability.”
The filing deadline for candidates to run in the July 7 special election is this Friday at 5 p.m. Arlington County General Registrar Gretchen Reinemeyer tells ARLnow that she has “received some inquiries” from independent candidates, but so far only Cunningham has filed partial paperwork.
One candidate not likely to run: former independent County Board member John Vihstadt.
“While many of you have encouraged me to run in the July 7 special election for the remainder of Erik’s term, I’m enjoying being back into law practice full-time,” he told supporters in an email on Monday. “I’m inclined not to run and am channeling my commitment to Arlington in myriad other ways. But these are precarious times, and I hope someone will still step forward to run who (a) shows a blend of civic leadership and fresh ideas, (b) has a sober, well-informed and independent outlook on what local government can and can’t afford and (c) will question authority and speak truth to power.”
Arlington’s elections office, meanwhile, is expected to announce today that it will not be running a party nomination event ahead of the November County Board general election. The expected announcement comes after Libby Garvey’s would-be challenger, Chanda Choun, withdrew from the primary in order to seek the Democratic nod in the special election. Polls will still be open June 23 for a Republican U.S. Senate primary.
With elections in June and July, and a presidential election in November — all amid the coronavirus pandemic and some legally uncharted territory — Reinemeyer said Arlington election officials have been keeping “very busy” in 2020.
The full announcement from Cunningham is below, after the jump.
Local education activist Symone Walker is no longer seeking the Democratic endorsement in her campaign for School Board, instead opting to run purely as an independent in the fall.
In Virginia, all School Board races are nonpartisan, but parties can still endorse candidates. In a statement, Walker said she is no longer seeking the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s endorsement.
Walker “will not participate in the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s (ACDC) school board caucus for the party’s nomination, citing the committee’s inability to effectively address ongoing harassment her campaign received from an opponent in the race and instead will continue as an independent candidate for one of two seats on Arlington’s school board,” the statement said.
“Walker started her campaign in January after having received a favorable ethics opinion from her federal agency employer finding her candidacy compliant with the Hatch Act and citing a federal statute that allows her to run for the school board,” the statement continued. “Despite this, an opponent has continued harassing her by filing and purposefully escalating a series of complaints with a clear goal to reverse these initial, favorable determinations and derail her candidacy.
“After the political harassment against Walker succeeded in characterizing the ACDC caucus process as partisan enough to be not compliant with the intent of the law, ACDC needs to reconsider that the process now unfairly disenfranchises the approximately 37,000 federal employees living in Arlington, who comprise one-third of the electorate, many of whom are well qualified for the school board,” the campaign added.
It was not immediately clear which of the five other candidates challenged Walker’s candidacy by citing the Hatch Act, which “prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government… from engaging in some forms of political activity.”
Arlington Democrats said that the committee has “no standing to intervene in her employing agency’s decision-making about the nature of those restrictions and has no authority to countermand the agency decision.”
“Arlington Democrats appreciate Ms. Walker’s cautious approach to complying with the Hatch Act legal restrictions applicable to her as a Federal employee,” ACDC Chair Jill Caiazzo said via email. “Like other organizations that endorse candidates in school board races, such as education associations and teacher unions, Arlington Democrats believe that its endorsement is one of many valuable data points about these races for voters.”
“With respect to the harassment concerns associated with the raising of this legal compliance matter by another campaign, Arlington Democrats leadership spoke separately to both candidates in an effort to address the concerns, as well as offered the opportunity for Ms. Walker to speak directly to the Arlington Democrats Steering Committee to determine whether action by the organization could or should be taken about her concerns,” Caiazzo added. “We look forward to the continued exchange of ideas in this year’s school board race, as we work toward our shared goal of a strong school system that empowers all students, teachers, and staff. ”
The other School Board candidates who have announced their intention to seek the Democratic endorsement include Cristina Diaz-Torres, David Priddy, Sandy Munnell, Steven Krieger and Terron Sims. The deadline to file as a candidate is today.
Walker, a Jamaican immigrant who has lived in Arlington for more than 20 years, has advocated on various school and community issues. Recently, she has been quoted making the case for shorter summer breaks for students, revamped literacy testing, and better vetting of Arlington Public Schools’ new diversity chief.
Photo via Facebook
The following op-ed was written by Andrew Loposser, Chairman of the Arlington GOP.
Mark Kelly is correct. In his most recent “Right Note” opinion column, Kelly writes:
It would serve the community well if a qualified Republican or Independent ran for all of these offices rather than leaving so many of them uncontested. An electoral contest provides the voters with the opportunity to hear a real debate on the issues and forces Democrats to make a case for the vote.
As the Chairman of the Arlington GOP, I have begun the process of identifying and recruiting credible, qualified candidates for office up and down the ballot for 2020 and beyond. Arlington voters are well-educated and expect government to work for them — especially local government.
That’s why we’re looking for candidates who are already invested in this community — potential candidates may currently serve on boards and commissions or be involved in their civic associations or other civic groups.
The Arlington GOP has a platform focused on local issues.
- Increasing the number of school seats and the supply of market-rate affordable housing
- Improving Metro management
- Ensuring community input into major decisions like incentives to attract large businesses
- Separating bond referenda to avoid forcing all-or-nothing votes on a mixed bag of marginally related projects
Arlington Republicans — like many Arlington voters — expect local government to be responsive and accountable to the taxpayers.
In 2016, roughly 27,000 voters cast ballots for a presidential candidate other than the Democratic nominee at the top of the ticket. That is a significant number of voters un-represented or underrepresented by the Arlington County Democratic Committee machine.
Republicans want a seat at the table, and we’re working hard to outline positions on local issues and talking with friends and neighbors across the aisle.
As I wrote at the beginning of this letter, Mark Kelly is correct. We do deserve a rigorous debate on the important issues our community faces. So if you’re dissatisfied with the Democratic Establishment, I encourage you to give us a first or second look. And perhaps even consider running for local office as a Republican.
File photo (top)
Arlington County Board incumbents fought to hold their ground against independents over Amazon incentives and housing topics at a debate Monday evening.
At the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s candidate forum at U.Group in Crystal City (2231 Crystal Drive), Democratic incumbents Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol faced off against independent challengers Audrey Clement and Arron O’Dell.
One of the moments of back-and-forth criticism among the candidates came over the redevelopment of a number of market-rate affordable housing complexes in the Westover neighborhood. Clement has frequently criticized the County Board for what she said was the “preventable demolition” of the Westover garden apartments.
The redevelopment was by-right, meaning the developer did not need County Board approval. But Clement said the County Board could have designated the apartments part of a historic district and preserved the homes.
Overall, Clement argued that development drives up costs to build housing and that even dedicated affordable housing units come at a steep cost.
“The average cost of a new [Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing] unit is in excess of $400,000,” Clement said. “Most of the units are not affordable. Because the units are not affordable, the income-qualified people who move in, 30 percent of them have to have rent subsidies to pay the nominal amount of rent that they do pay. The taxpayers are hit twice, they have to pay their own rent and their own mortgage and they have to pay someone else’s because the cost of building that unit was astronomical.”
Dorsey fired back that rather than use the historic district designation, the County Board is working to change the regulations to protect affordable communities from redevelopment.
“In the Westover reference that Ms. Clement talked about, while she thinks the Board has done nothing, what we did do was take a courageous stand… and stopped the perverse incentive that led people to take affordable communities and turn them into by-right townhouses,” Dorsey said. “We paused that option and put it into the special exemption process so that we created options to preserve that housing.”
“We’re studying ways that can be better purposed to provide long term, market-based affordable housing,” Dorsey added. So you have to figure out where you’re doing harm and stop doing harm to create new options to preserve affordability both through direct subsidies and through the market.”
O’Dell, meanwhile, said the County should do more to accommodate for “tiny apartments” aimed at people moving to Arlington immediately after college, who may need an affordable place to live but not a lot of space.
“When you talk about housing affordability, you need to have a variety of types of units,” O’Dell said. “We should look at the lower incomes that fall into the 60 percent bracket and give them opportunities to possibly move in and look at places to live.”
Cristol said the County should work to open the door to other types of housing, pointing to the recent legalization of detached accessory dwelling units as an example and noting the large amount of land in Arlington zoned for only single-family housing.
“One of the most important things we can do is legalizing alternative forms,” said Cristol. “There are so many housing forms that could offer folks not only an opportunity to rent but [also to] buy and it’s literally illegal to build them in huge swaths of the county… There’s room for creative ideas, this is an area where we need partnership in the private sector, particularly for those who develop housing.”
The independent challengers for Arlington County Board confronted the two Democratic incumbents on local hot button issues at last night’s Arlington County Civic Federation debate.
Democrats Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey faced off against perennial candidate Audrey Clement and newcomer Arron O’Dell at the Civic Federation’s annual candidate, which serves as the unofficial kickoff of the fall campaign season.
Clement’s main attacks centered around a perception of unchecked increases in development and density, destruction of native vegetation, and a lack of county government transparency. Specifically, Clement claimed the County Board’s decision to move forward with the Rosslyn boathouse project came with little public community input. Clement said the new boathouse will take away from one of the last green places in the Rosslyn area, a forested plot of land near Roosevelt Island.
“How can you have a public process when the County Board unanimously approved [the boathouse],” she said. “It’s not for or against the boathouse, it’s for or against double speak.”
Cristol fired back that the boathouse had been in the works for decades and has been subject to extensive public discussion. At some point, she said, projects need to move forward.
“The idea of the boathouse was the result of a public process a couple of decades ago,” Cristol said. “There needs to be a standard of finality. ”
Cristol and Dorsey also defended repeated attacks from Clement, and to a lesser extent O’Dell, that Arlington’s ever-increasing density was fundamentally transforming the County.
“Development is synonymous with housing,” Cristol said. “So do I think there needs to be more housing? Yes, but we have to plan for the infrastructure to support that and plan for the student population [growth]. But I believe we can welcome more neighbors and still maintain our quality of life.”
Cristol argued later that the law of supply and demand applies to Arlington, as it does elsewhere — that adding more housing will keep housing costs lower. Clement disagreed, citing recent studies that showed rental rates were more closely tied with amenities than with the supply of housing.
Dorsey also disagreed with Clement’s characterization of “growth on steriods” in Arlington.
“We’ve seen 1.4 percent growth [per year] on average,” said Dorsey. “That’s moderate. In the ’40s, ’50s and ‘6os we grew far faster. Managing growth is what we do well. The idea of us closing up shop is not something that can happen.”
O’Dell, who said he did not have a strong opinion about the boathouse and some other topics of discussion during the debate, did express strong feelings on Amazon’s arrival into Arlington. The county is leaning too heavily on the tech giant for economic growth, he said, something that could backfire should Amazon’s plans change — much like over reliance on federal tenants led to high office vacancy rates following the implementation of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closing Act.
“It’s replacing the federal government with another entity,” he said. “We’re creating another potential vacuum. The key to success will be getting small businesses to follow Amazon.”
Clement also criticized the Board for overselling the positive impacts Amazon would bring and offering the company millions in incentives.
Dorsey recognized the concerns about Amazon’s arrival and said he sympathizes with many of them.
“One of the challenges [will be] the impact on housing,” Dorsey said. “It’s also going to require the Board to work in conjunction with Alexandria for inclusive growth for all as we create concrete arrangements with our neighbors.”
Overall, Dorsey said the company’s arrival will help reduce the strain on local taxpayers and open up new opportunities for the Pentagon City-Crystal City area.
Campaign endorsements are stacking up in the House of Delegates primary race between incumbent Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th) and challenger Julius D. “JD” Spain, Sr.
Lopez has racked up support from several labor groups. The International Union of Painters & Allied Trades District Council 51 and the Mid-Atlantic Pipe Trades Association both announced their support last week. Food service union UNITE HERE Local 23 DC Chapter, which represents airport concession workers, food service workers and others, also joined the list of local unions supporting Lopez.
“While these endorsements are an excellent way of showing broad support from trusted voices — and the types of issues I look forward to enacting — the most important measure of support for the upcoming primary is the depth and breadth of our campaign’s robust volunteer operation,” Lopez said in a statement to ARLnow, noting that a team of volunteers knocked on over 1,000 doors for his campaign last weekend.
Lopez said earlier this month he was “honored” to have so many labor groups endorse his campaign and pledged to “continue our fight in the General Assembly” against policies like right-to-work, which he says hurts workers and families.
With less than a month to go before the June 11 primary, Spain does not boast as lengthy a list of endorsements as his opponent, but he has received support from at least one prominent progressive group as well as local community members and activists.
“I, along with my entire team, [am] excited to have received the endorsement of the progressive and nationally recognized political action organization Our Revolution Arlington yesterday and Our Revolution Northern Virginia a few weeks ago,” Spain said, in an email statement today. “Additionally, the endorsements of prominent African-American and Latino community activists such as Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, the Honorable Frank Wilson, Mr. Gabriela Rubalcava, and Ms. Ingrid Vaca, who represent THE PEOPLE at the grassroots level resonates with voters.”
Our Revolution originally formed as an outgrowth of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign before forming local chapters nationwide. The Arlington chapter repeatedly protested Amazon’s deal with the county for its second headquarters last year, and now is endorsing Spain’s candidacy.
I am so grateful to Our Revolution NOVA for supporting a great set of primary challengers who will shake up the priorities of the establishment. It feels great to be part of the momentum behind progressive change on the economic, environmental, and social justice fronts! pic.twitter.com/x5GIz5jnix
— JD Spain for Delegate (@jdspainfordel49) May 7, 2019
Former School Board member Frank Wilson is among those endorsing Spain. He said in a statement that the former Marine “has a great deal of proven experience as a public servant” and is “honest, reliable and willing to work the long hours needed for a Delegate representing the people in District 49.”
“This campaign is built around inclusivity, believes in empowerment of others, transparency, and accountability,” Spain said. “I will always choose the working class over special interests and moneyed elites. Given the incumbent’s lack of transparency coupled with the events in Richmond this past February, I am confident voters in the 49th District are tired of the status-quo and ready for change.”
Campaign finance filings indicated that Spain had $6,364 left at the end of March in his coffers. He had poured more than $20,000 of his own money into the campaign to bolster his fundraising, which he restricted to donations from individuals.
Lopez, meanwhile, reported a war chest of $102,280 at the end of the first quarter, after raising money from clean energy groups and alcohol lobbyists, among others. All candidates running for election will release a new set of campaign finance reports next month.
Voters will choose between the two candidates for the Democratic nomination during the June 11 primary, and vote for their final choice during the November 5 general election.
Because no candidates from other parties are currently running for the 49th District seat, the primary could determine the result of the general election; however, independent or Republican candidates can still announce their intent to run after the primary.
The race to see who will be the next Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church has generated its share of fireworks, but the issue of campaign finance may ignite even more.
Incumbent Theo Stamos and challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti have already clashed over Tafti’s criticism of Stamos’ handling of cash bail and prosecution for some first-time marijuana-related offenses. Tafti also drew heat from county public-safety groups and her opponent for a campaign mailer they said mislabeled a fatal, officer-involved shooting as “police brutality.”
Recent filings shared by the non-profit Virginia Public Access Project have illuminated a new flash point: money from political action committees (PACs).
PACs are political organizations that donate money to campaigns on behalf of individuals or groups. Several have donated to Arlington state Senate and Delegate candidates, but few have donated to local races.
Only one of the Commonwealth’s Attorney candidates has received PAC money, according to VPAP. Tafti accepted research and polling services worth $51,235 from Justice and Public Safety, a PAC funded by George Soros. The billionaire philanthropist has donated to several progressive candidates nationwide.
The donation makes up about half of the $108,355 the Democratic challenger fundraised between January and March. After spending $76,179 of that money, Tafti’s campaign ended March with $50,202 in its coffers.
Another PAC that donated to Tafti’s campaign was the Justice Forward Virginia PAC, which advocates for criminal justice reform. The PAC is led in part by Brad Haywood, Arlington’s chief public defender and vocal critic of Stamos. The committee donated $600 to Tafti’s campaign.
Senior Assistant Public Defender Allison Carpenter also donated $50 to Tafti’s campaign. Carpenter was one of signatories of a letter released last month blasting Stamos for overcharging crimes, among other issues.
Stamos previously told ARLnow the donations from the letter’s signatories prove it was a “political hit job.”
In addition, Tafti last year received $600 from the Alexandria-based Brass Ovaries PAC, which funds female Democratic candidates in local races and hosted a fundraiser for Arlington candidates last September.
In a statement, Tafti told ARLnow:
In our first filing, I outraised the incumbent almost 6 to 1 with all individual donations, most of which were small amounts from local residents. I have since earned the support of numerous local organizations — including unions, activist groups, the Arlington Education Association, and civil rights organizations — that represent thousands of Arlington and City of Falls Church residents. They support me because they recognize that our community is lagging behind on criminal justice reform and that we need a Commonwealth’s Attorney who represents our values. Only after our campaign had significant grassroots support, and extensive research into my opponent’s record opposing reform at every turn, did Justice and Public Safety PAC offer its support. Reform doesn’t always come easy, and I welcome the support of individuals and organizations, especially an organization backed by one of the world’s foremost promoters of democratic values, that want to help our community live up to its ideals.
In contrast, Stamos’ campaign has collected no PAC money so far this year, according to VPAP.
“I have grassroots support and I think that speaks to the depth and breadth of my support in the community,” Stamos said, when asked whether she intentionally eschewed PAC money.
Several groups have come out in favor of Stamos, including 50 local attorneys who signed a letter in support earlier this year. One of them, Arlington divorce lawyer James Korman, donated $625 to her campaign during this quarter.
(Updated on 05/13/19) The debate in the Commonwealth’s Attorney race over police brutality has grown into a larger discussion over police accountability.
“My opponent’s reckless use of language seeks to sow distrust in a community that registers some of the highest levels of confidence in law enforcement,” said Theo Stamos, the incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church in statement today (Friday.)
Stamos kicked off an election debate this week by requesting Democratic challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti explain her recent description of a case as an example of “police brutality” that Stamos declined to prosecute.
“Is your criticism that I failed to prosecute the officer or that I failed to have an another agency review this incident?” Stamos asked her challenger during Wednesday’s debate. “Which was was it?”
The conversation was sparked after several Arlington public safety groups criticized Tafti over a campaign mailer stating Stamos had “refused to prosecute police officers in cases of police brutality.” The mailer cited an instance in which a suspect was shot to death after striking an officer in the face with a metal pipe during a domestic violence call, a shooting that was determined to be justified by an investigation conducted by Stamos’ office.
Tafti said voters want “accountability, transparency, and impartiality” from law enforcement, and questioned Stamos’ investigation of the incident. During Wednesday’s night’s debate, hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, Tafti responded to Stamos’ question by broadening the discourse.
“This is about impartiality, not about any particular case,” Tafti said. “You don’t want anyone investigating themselves and… the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, which is dependent on police to gather evidence, should not be making unchecked decisions about investigations.”
The challenger said that if elected, she would craft an independent review policy to allow a community review board, Virginia State Police, or a special prosecutor to examine cases of police violence — a policy she says other neighboring jurisdictions have.
“It’s remarkable that my opponent is now disavowing her incendiary mailer and suggesting that this is about bringing in an independent agency to review an officer-involved shooting,” Stamos told ARLnow today (Friday) in a statement.
The prosecutor defended the independence of her office, saying she is “not beholden” to law enforcement but that “Shifting responsibility to some other entity that is not accountable to the voters of this community is the opposite of accountability.”
Earlier today Tafti said in a statement that:
I’m for impartiality. Even though rare in our community, use-of-force incidents require impartial review. I’m also a reformer and any time you run as a reformer you get pushback but pushback means we get to talk about the issues. My opponent has fought reform at every turn. Now she has decided to go negative because it distracts from her record of failing to adequately support victims, including survivors of sexual violence — a record of opposing cash bail reform, opposing voting rights for returning citizens, opposing using diversion instead of incarceration for individuals with mental illness, opposing expungement of minor infractions, opposing civil asset forfeiture reform, and opposing transparency and impartiality. I will continue to focus on these issues in the campaign and once elected because that’s what makes everyone safe.
“A key reason you don’t hear about police shootings or excessive use of force in Arlington is because of our crisis prevention training,” Stamos said during the debate. She noted that 78% of county police have received that training.