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.
(Updated at 1 p.m.) Commonwealth’s Attorney candidate Parisa Dehghani-Tafti is facing calls for an apology after two groups representing police in Arlington County say she “falsely alleged” an incident of police brutality.
The Arlington County Police Department itself is now saying Tafti’s claim in a recent campaign mailer is “inconsistent with the facts.”
“It has come to our attention that recent political mailings and communications have suggested that the agency participates in problematic police practices,” said ACPD in a statement today (Tuesday) about Tafti’s reference to incidents where officers used force and which she claimed were examples of police brutality gone unpunished.
The police department also refuted Tafti’s claims in the mailer that the county’s policies on marijuana offenses disproportionately affect people of color.
ACPD values the strong relationship we've built with the community over the past 79 years. While we have no intention of engaging in the political process, it has come to our attention that recent political mailings have suggested the agency participates in problematic practices. pic.twitter.com/iZPGITkrOU
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) May 7, 2019
Earlier that morning, the Arlington Police Beneficiary Association and the Arlington Coalition of Police issued a rare statement (Tuesday) demanding Tafti apologize for the mailer they said made a “disgraceful and false allegation of police ‘brutality’ leveled at an Arlington County Police officer.”
Tafti is running a campaign for Commonwealth’s Attorney centered on criminal justice reform and has been a vocal critic of incumbent Theo Stamos. Tafti recently mailed a campaign flyer which cited a 2015 officer-involved shooting as an example of a case of “police brutality” that wasn’t prosecuted.
The incident in question involved an officer who shot a 54-year-old man three times on May 19, 2015, during a domestic violence call, after the man struck the officer in the face with a metal bar. An investigation into the incident ruled that the deadly force was justified, and cleared the officer of criminal charges.
“Any insinuation of police brutality surrounding this incident is inconsistent with the facts,” said the ACPD in their statement.
Arlington Police Beneficiary Association Advisor and Past President Matt Martin told ARLnow that the organization “rarely” issues public statements, “but this was important enough that we had to set the record straight.”
In a statement to ARLnow, Tafti responded to the criticism, saying:
As I have spoken to voters throughout the course of this campaign, it is clear that they want accountability, transparency, and impartiality from all of us responsible for the administration of criminal justice, including the Commonwealth Attorney’s office. What was not mentioned in the police statement was that the mother of the victim said he was schizophrenic and possibly off his medications, and that he did not initiate any violence. The mother only spoke Spanish, and the police could not communicate with her. The medical examiner determined her son was killed by a shot to his back. This is the exact fear I have heard from parents of children with serious mental illness and members of our immigrant community throughout Arlington and the City of Falls Church, and is a prime example of why we need a criminal justice reformer in our Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office.
In a case not mentioned by the APBA and the ACP, the current Commonwealth’s Attorney prosecuted a case against a man who was the victim of an assault by a police officer during a traffic stop. In ruling that the man had not provoked the assault by the officer by assaulting him first, the judge said “I hold police officers to a higher standard.” Voters have told me time and again that they want a Commonwealth’s Attorney they can trust to be impartial and hold everyone accountable. Seventy-two percent of Virginians say they want criminal justice reform, but it has become a standard trope that those opposed to reform accuse reform candidates of being anti-police. I am not anti-police, but pro-accountability and pro-community.
The association and coalition called for a “full public apology” from the candidate that acknowledged the “officer-involved shooting was lawful.”
The groups also asked public officials who endorsed her campaign to withdraw their support or to issue a statement “condemning her false ‘brutality’ accusation.”
Together with the Arlington Coalition of Police, the two orgs specifically pointed at this campaign mailer which accuses Commonwealth's Attorney Theo Stamos of "refusing to prosecute police officers in cases of brutality" with links to two cases at the bottom. pic.twitter.com/GRza1Fq6pF
— Airey (@howisthatlegal) May 7, 2019
“This officer — who, it should be noted, needed more than 60 stitches to close the wound on his face — used deadly force to protect himself after he was attacked by a man with a metal bar,” said Arlington Police Beneficiary Association President Rich Conigliaro.
“Any assertion that this shooting was anything other than justified is a distortion of the facts,” he added.
“Our officer’s actions that day as he tried to help a victim of domestic abuse were clearly in self-defense,” said Arlington Coalition of Police President Jeff Lubin. “Falsely accusing him of ‘brutality’ is shameful and he and all of Arlington’s police officers deserve an apology.”
Tafti’s mailer also listed another case of alleged police brutality, in which a man said an officer beat him during a 1991 routine traffic stop. The officer was not charged in that case.
Conigliaro and Lubin noted that the officer was not criminally charged and left the department that year to join the Secret Service.
Voters will decide whether Stamos or Tafti become the Democratic candidate for the Arlington and Falls Church prosecutor’s office in the primary election on June 11. Residents who want to vote must register no later than May 12.
Candidates running for the Virginia State Senate this year have raised hundreds of thousands along the campaign trail — but not from Arlington’s Advanced Towing.
None of the four candidates running for Richmond accepted money from the controversial towing company, according to the most recent campaign finance filings detailing fundraising between January 1 and March 31 as shared by the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP).
Incumbent candidate Barbara Favola was recently criticized by challenger Nicole Merlene for allegedly helping to loosen state towing regulations after accepting combined contributions of $7,250 over previous years from Advanced Towing, with an additional $2,500 coming from company owner John O’Neill.
The April finance reports indicate that the incumbent did not accept contributions from Advanced Towing or O’Neill during this fundraising period.
All of Arlington’s candidates are scheduled to release another set of campaign finance reports on June 3.
Residents will head to the polls on June 11 to cast their vote in the primaries. Because all Senate candidates announced so far are Democrats, the primary vote will likely choose the winner of the November 5 general election as well.
Read below for more details about each candidate’s most recent campaign finances.
Sen. Adam Ebbin
Ebbin has worked in Richmond for the past 15 years — the last seven as a state senator and eight years before that as a state delegate. He told ARLnow that this year his biggest wins in the capitol include legislation on green energy programs and helping colleges offer technical and dual-enrollment options.
Ebbin is running for re-election unopposed in the Democratic primary and currently faces no challengers from any other party.
He started with $101,534 in campaign funds on January 1, according to VPAP’s campaign finance reports. After fundraising $26,190 and spending $12,522, Ebbin reportedly ended the first quarter with $115,201 in funds for the campaign trail.
Ebbin’s campaign accepted 70 contributions during the reported funding period, with the majority of them (37 donors) giving the campaign $100 or less.
His top donation came from Political Action Committee (PAC) Win Virginia ($5,000), which announced this year it was training and funding Democratic candidates to flip the statehouse blue.
(Updated on 04/25/19) Arlington’s representatives in the Virginia House of Delegates have made good on promises to eschew Dominion Energy money, according to recent campaign finance reports.
Arlington’s six candidates for the House of Delegates shared financial reports indicating their campaigns took in no money from the utility company this year. However, most candidates are still relying on contributions from advocacy and labor groups, political action committees, and businesses, as opposed to running campaigns based only around individual contributions.
Copies of the campaign finance reports filed in April and shared by the Virginia Public Access Project indicate longtime donors, like the Virginia Trials Lawyers Political Action Committee (PAC), continue to chip in big chunks of cash to campaigns. The PAC contributed a combined $3,500 to the four incumbent delegates between January and March this year.
So far Democrats in the House of Delegates have out-raised their Republican colleagues, as all 100 seats are up for grabs this election and the possibility of a Democratic majority in the legislature remains on the horizon.
The two candidates currently challenging Arlington’s Delegates reported fewer funds raised than the incumbents. Candidate J.D. Spain, Sr., who is challenging Alfonso Lopez, raised the most of all newcomers on the block with $18,556, largely from his own coffers.
All candidates are scheduled to file another round of finance reports on June 3, days before the June 11 primary election.
The primary will decide which of each party’s candidates for office progresses to the general election on November 5. Virginia residents must register to vote at least 30 days before the primary to be eligible to cast their vote, and can check the location of their polls here.
Below are more details from each Delegates’ April campaign finance filings.
Del. Alfonso Lopez (D)
Lopez has raised by far the most money and also holds the largest war chest of any Delegate candidate in the running. He is currently being challenged by Democratic candidate J.D. Spain, Sr.
Lopez raised $50,924 between January 1 and March 31, according to reports, and spent $12,037. This leaves his campaign with $102,280 on hand after starting with $63,394 back in January.
Lopez’s biggest donor this cycle was Charlottesville investor Michael D. Bills who pledged to counter Dominion Energy with his campaign contributions this year and gave $10,000 to the sitting Delegate’s campaign.
“I believe that swearing off Dominion donations over a year ago just helped cement to my supporters that no money will ever influence me on a single piece of legislation, vote, decision, or opinion,” said Lopez today (Monday). “I have consistently voted against every Dominion Energy bill, and plan to do so as long as they continue to refuse to make renewable energy a major focus for Virginia.”
He added that he believed he had raised the most because he had “delivered real progressive results and the people of northern Virginia.”
Other notable investments to Lopez’s campaign came from the Virginia House Democrats Caucus ($5,000), and the Clean Virginia Fund ($5,000).
Lopez also accepted money from three alcohol groups: Virginia Wine Wholesalers PAC ($3,000), Virginia Beverage Association PAC ($2,000), and the Virginia Imports Ltd. ($500).
The delegate’s campaign for re-election has been endorsed by several unions, the Virginia Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education, and the Arlington Professional Firefighters & Paramedics Association — the latter of which donated $1,000 to his campaign.
Candidate J.D. Spain, Sr. (D)
Lopez’s Democratic challenger in the primary elections is J.D. Spain, Sr., a former Marine and head of the local NAACP chapter who faced him in debate last Wednesday night.
In last week’s filings, Spain reported contributing tens of thousands of his own money into the campaign: $8,200 in loans, $12,259 in cash, and $4,134 in “in-kind” contributions, which usually refers to value of things like equipment and services donated to a campaign.
“I understand that monetary support is really important for a campaign,” Spain told ARLnow. “But being a first-time candidate it’s really tough to raise money. It’s especially hard for a military veteran because we don’t have large networks with donors.”
He added that he loaned himself money to pay staff, and is “proud” of the small donations he received from individuals. His biggest was $500 from James Younger, his neighbor and Arlington’s former Deputy Police Chief.
In total, Spain reported fundraising $18,556 since January when he kicked off his campaign with zero dollars. After spending $12,192, the candidate for Delegate reportedly has $6,364 left on hand.
Spain’s campaign does not yet have any endorsements.
(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) Nicole Merlene, a Democrat challenging state Senator Barbara Favola (D), has become embroiled in a war of words with a self-described political meme account on Twitter.
The incident started with Merlene’s introduction at an Arlington Young Democrats forum.
“As a renter, as someone who completely relies on public transportation because they can’t afford a car, as someone who had to pay out of state tuition for college, as someone who has a very small prospect of owning a home in Northern Virginia unless I get married,” Merlene said in her opening remarks, “when I think about the future, our environment comes to mind. Have we taken the action needed to put us on a sustainable path forward? Do we have leadership in Richmond willing to stand up to Dominion?”
Accusing Favola of conflicts of interest and calling to ban political contributions from Dominion Energy — which has contributed $9,500 to Favola’s campaigns — have been some of the more vocal talking points from Merlene’s campaign.
But an anonymous Twitter account called Virginia Political Memes attacked Merlene over the comments and derided the candidate’s financial status as a “poor personal decision.”
.@NicoleMerleneVA's remarks on why she's running (is a renter, can't afford a house in NOVA, paid out of state tution, etc.) sound more like poor personal decision making than a platform. I mean she says she can't afford a car–how is she going to get to Richmond? #VApolitics https://t.co/7y5gBtqN3E
— Virginia Political Memes (@VApoliticalmeme) April 18, 2019
One of the most fundamental parts of being a Democrat is that no matter your socioeconomic status, your religion, your gender identity, your race — is that you’re provided an opportunity to succeed and you’re given a level playing field… To write off an entire segment of our population as “poor” because they have to rent or because they have to use public transportation is despicable.
I have a platform prioritizing transportation & affordability bc these are some of the regions biggest challenges. It is what we are talking about in every debate bc it resonates and is finally being brought as a priority. Jeering on trolls making fun of my income isnt leadership pic.twitter.com/IuM6KNBsUM
— Nicole Merlene for Virginia State Senate (@NicoleMerleneVA) April 19, 2019
Favola waded into the fight as well and said that Merlene “should take her own advice” when it comes to elevating the political discussion.
I’m very proud of the positive pragmatic and progressive campaign I’ve run and my over twenty years of public service. Maybe @NicoleMerleneVA should take her own advice.
— Barbara Favola (@BarbaraFavola) April 19, 2019
The argument escalated to threats of a physical confrontation from Merlene’s brother — a threat lampooned in the responses — for which Merlene took to Twitter to apologize.
I apologize, this should have never happened. pic.twitter.com/9caeYBGgZZ
— Nicole Merlene for Virginia State Senate (@NicoleMerleneVA) April 19, 2019
Arlington’s primary election be held on June 11 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Disagreements over campaign contributions and criminal justice reform during a debate last night revealed fault lines between some of the Democrats running for the party’s nomination.
Six candidates running for Commonwealth’s Attorney, state Senator and Delegate who sparred during the Wednesday night debate agreed on green energy and defeating Republicans. But their disagreements on other topics showed that even in an all-Democratic playing field there are shades of blue.
One area of disagreement was campaign contributions.
Sen. Barbara Favola was asked by a moderator why she continued to accept contributions from the controversial Advanced Towing company in light of complaints about employees allegedly towing a vehicle with the owner’s pet still inside.
The state senator called the story “extraordinary unfortunate” but said that the solution was for people “to go back to the landowner and complain about the contract” they have with a company.
Her challenger, Nicole Merlene hit back by referring to the 2017 NBC 4 report that Advanced Towing gave Favola $1,500 in campaign contributions after she voted to loosen towing regulations and allegedly convinced then-Governor Terry McAuliffe to do the same.
Favola said she voted “with the county” and that “what Governor McAuliffe had decided to do is Governor McAuliffe’s prerogative.”
Both candidates spoke in strong support of increasing affordable housing and paying interns.
A flash point Wednesday night was the issue of criminal justice reform.
Arlington’s representatives in the Virginia State Senate worked on legislation addressing issues like healthcare, green energy, and teacher’s pay this year.
Three Democrats represent the county in the state Senate — Janet Howell, Barbara Favola, and Adam Ebbin. All of the senators are running for re-election this year.
Virginia’s 2019 legislative session lasted from January 9 to February 24. Here’s what each state Senator said were their biggest legislative accomplishments during that time. (We asked the same of Arlington’s House of Delegates delegation earlier this week.)
Sen. Adam Ebbin
Ebbin has served in the state senate for seven years, following eight years in the House of Delegates. He currently faces no Democratic challengers to his campaign for re-election.
The senator told ARLnow through a spokesman Wednesday he was “pleased to make progress” on legislation about “renewable energy, criminal justice reform, as well as career and technical education” during this year’s session:
SB1779 will permit localities to establish renewable energy net-metering programs. Net-metering can help counties, cities, and towns grow their local economy. Municipalities will save taxpayers’ money through developing and using green energy, generating savings that can be invested in local priorities such as schools, public safety, and infrastructure. […]
SB1612, which I have worked on for several years with Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) would have ended the suspension of driver’s licenses for court costs and fees. Though this bill died in the House, Governor Northam introduced a budget amendment to reinstate 627,000 Virginians licenses during our one-day veto session on April 3rd. Unwarranted license suspension disproportionately impacts economically-disadvantaged Virginians without making our communities safer.[…]
I was also able to pass SB1575, which allows college professors to teach dual-enrollment career and technical education courses without additional licensure. This will make it easier for school divisions to offer para-professional career preparation in cybersecurity, EMT and pharmaceutical technician certification. High school students will no longer have to travel to off-campus sites to earn credit towards education in specialized fields.
Arlington’s representatives in the Virginia House of Delegates say they tackled a host of important issues, from criminal justice reform to LGBT parental rights to public health, during this year’s legislative session.
The county is represented in the state House by four elected officials — Democrats Mark Levine, Patrick Hope, Richard “Rip” Sullivan, and Alfonso H. Lopez — all of whom are up for re-election this year.
This year’s session began on January 9 and ended February 23. Here are what the delegates told ARLnow were their biggest legislative accomplishments in that time.
Del. Patrick Hope
Hope has represented Arlington in the House since 2010 and currently faces no Democratic challengers in his campaign for reelection. He says he introduced 12 bills during this year’s session, nine of which passed.
He told ARLnow that it’s difficult to choose his favorite because “I treat all my bills like my children,” but narrowed down his three biggest accomplishments in an email:
1) HB 2384 — making all Virginia schools 100 percent tobacco/nicotine free. This is significant because Big Tobacco has opposed such efforts in the past. It also is a sign that the tide is turning to recognize the dangers of cigarettes and vaping on children.
2) HB 1642 — requiring the Dept. of Corrections (DOC) to collect/report data on inmates in solitary confinement. I’ve been working with DOC for years to get the number of inmates in solitary down. We’ve decreased the number by more than 70 percent. This data collection effort will help us figure out who remains, why they are there, and if we can provide additional mental health resources to get them out.
3) HB 1933 — allow jails to treat people with serious mental illness who are unable to give consent. Current law requires that these individuals be sent to an inpatient hospital setting (mental health institution). This is part of a series of laws I’ve passed to allow treatment to occur in an outpatient or other appropriate setting in order to free up more inpatient psychiatric beds.
Del. Alfonso Lopez
Lopez is Democratic co-whip in the House of Delegates. He has served as a delegate since 2012, but now faces a challenger in J.D. Spain for his campaign for re-election this year.
Spain is a Marine Corps veteran who leads the local NAACP chapter and has said he wanted to “sharply draw a contrast” between his and Lopez’s stances on housing affordability and the achievement gap.
Lopez told ARLnow about his biggest wins this year in Richmond in an email:
- Successfully Increased Funding for Affordable Housing. In 2013, my legislation created the Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Over the years the Trust Fund has become one of the major vehicles for addressing housing instability and homelessness prevention in the Commonwealth […] This year, working with the Governor’s office, we were able to secure an additional $7 million in total revenue for the Trust Fund — increasing the biennial budget amount to $18 million (far above typical appropriations)! This is a great step forward in our efforts to help Virginia families. That being said, I believe that we must do a great deal more to address affordable housing in every corner of the Commonwealth […]
- Driver’s License Suspensions. After working on this issue for several years, I was very proud that the General Assembly finally ended drivers license suspensions for individuals who have served their time, but are unable to pay court fines and/or fees (over 600,000 Virginians are hurt by this outdated policy). […] When a person’s driver’s license is suspended, they may face a difficult dilemma: obey the suspension and potentially lose their ability to provide for their families, or drive anyway and face further punishment — or even imprisonment — for driving under a suspended license. I am very happy that this misguided policy has finally been overturned with bipartisan support. This ends what I’ve often referred to as a modern day debtor’s prison […]
- Military ID & Passport Security. Before this session, there was no provision in state law that mandated immediate notification to people whose passport or military ID numbers were stolen in an online security breach. This left the information of many Virginians (especially in our area) at significant risk. I’m proud to have introduced and passed a bill, HB 2396, that fixes this glaring hole in the law. Virginia will now require that Passport and military ID information have the same protections as bank information and social security numbers.
Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey and Board member Katie Cristol will face no Democratic challengers during this year’s primary.
No additional Democratic challengers have filed for candidacy by yesterday’s registration deadline, and staff with the county’s Office of Elections confirmed to ARLnow that there are no other pending filings.
Most of the all-Democratic cast of incumbents up for re-election this year are running an uncontested primary, including:
- Delegates Mark Levine, Rip Sullivan, and Patrick Hope
- State Senators Adam Ebbin, Janet Howell
- Sheriff Beth Arthur
- Treasurer Carla de la Pava
- Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy
Only three of the county’s twelve races on the ballot are contested: the race for state Senator from the 31st District, delegate from the 49th District, and Commonwealth’s Attorney.
Arlington’s primary election will welcome voters to the polls on June 11 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Any voters waiting in line by 7 p.m. can vote.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos is being challenged by Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, a former public defender who aims to usher in criminal justice reform and said of Stamos: “We can no longer hope for reform from the very same lifelong prosecutors who’ve spent their careers building this flawed machine.”
Stamos, who has served as prosecutor for the last seven years, has drawn support from 50 county attorneys and says the endorsements demonstrate her “record of competence, fairness and decency.”
Del. Alfonso H. Lopez faces challenge from J.D. Spain, Sr., a Marine Corps veteran who helms the local NAACP chapter and said he wanted to “sharply draw a contrast” on his and Lopez’s take on issues like housing affordability as Amazon’s arrival nears, and the achievement gap between black and white students in APS.
Lopez is the Democratic co-whip in the House of Delegates and hasn’t faced a challenger since his first election in 2011.
The last contested race revolves around incumbent state Senator and former County Board member Barbara Favola.
Favola has said her “strong record of accomplishment” during her three terms in Richmond is strong enough to ward off a challenge from Nicole Merlene, who’s been active in various civc groups, including the Arlington County Civic Federation, her local North Rosslyn Civic Association, and Young Democrats. Merlene says she can take “bold action” to solve the region’s transportation and affordable housing woes.
Dorsey and Cristol will running against repeat candidate Audrey Clement in the General Election on November 5. Clement, an independent, is running on a platform of “tax relief for residents and businesses” as well as improvements to housing programs and the county’s basic services.
There are currently no Republican or independent challengers in the running other than Clement, although there has been some speculation that former independent Board Member John Vihstadt may run again, perhaps for School Board, after losing his seat to Democratic challenger Matt de Ferranti last November.
Republican and independent challengers have until 7 p.m. on June 11 to register their candidacy.
Last year, Matt de Ferranti’s win for the Democratic nomination came amid low primary turnout. Just 7.7 percent of registered Arlington voters, or 11,500 people, turned up to cast their ballots last year.
Residents voting this year must register at least 30 days before the primaries and can do so online, in person at the Office of Elections at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, or by mailing this application to the Office of Elections.
Registered voters receive a precinct number for their polling number which they can check here.
This year’s primaries will also be the last for Arlington’s election chief Linda Lindberg who announced in February she would be retiring this summer after serving for 16 years as the county’s General Registrar.