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After a summer lull, politicking in Arlington is back in full swing.

For candidates, the first big stop on the campaign trail was an in-person and virtual forum hosted by the Arlington County Civic Federation, or CivFed, last night (Tuesday).

Democrat and Republican candidates for the state legislature outlined their top social and economic goals, while the four Arlington County Board candidates, meanwhile, were quizzed on more local topics, including government transparency — a key issue for CivFed that roiled the organization earlier this year.

State senate challengers emerge

Two Republicans are challenging Arlington’s two long-time incumbent Democrat state senators: Sophia Moshasha, vying for the 39th District seat against Adam Ebbin, and David Henshaw, going up against Barbara Favola for the 40th District seat.

Last night, the four candidates staked out their party-line positions on center-stage social issues, including abortion, gun violence, public education and crime.

Favola and Ebbin say they are both focused on codifying abortion rights and banning “assault-style” weapons.

Ebbin said his other top priorities “are a state government that fights for Virginians and an economy that works for Virginia, but we need to keep improving our K-12 public education system.”

Both incumbents pointed to their years of experience legislating under Republican and Democrat governors as reasons voters should re-elect them.

“I have always been very pragmatic,” Favola said. “I think I’m one of the more successful lawmakers in terms of gaining bipartisan support for my bills, and actually having my bill signed.”

Both Republicans styled themselves as “political outsiders.” Echoing similar language from GOP Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin during his race and tenure, the candidates called on the state to safeguard the rights of parents to “have a say” in their child’s education. They both also called for increased funding for law enforcement to address crime.

“I am concerned — and a little bit upset — with the direction that our country and our state are going, particularly with regard to education, the high cost of living and crime,” Henshaw said. “Arlington deserves a choice in the election coming up.”

Criticizing Favola’s support of abortion rights, Henshaw said he supports a 15-week abortion ban, with exceptions for the health of the mother as well as rape and incest, as well as lower state taxes.

Moshasha, meanwhile, has made technology and science a marquee issue. Going up against Ebbin, who chairs two senate committees focused on technology, she says she will push for more STEM programs at all educational levels and more policies to attract emerging industries to Virginia.

“I am not a career politician. I focus on the things that we need to move our economy and our community forward,” she said. “I think it’s time to get a fresh voice, a fresh perspective and an innovative mindset with the energy that will get things done on behalf of the greater community.”

Arlington County Board candidates on transparency

The County Board forum began with topics such as police staffing and the office vacancy rate, but heated up during a later question about transparency.

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Republican candidate for County Board Juan Carlos Fierro (staff photo by James Jarvis)

(Updated at 5 p.m. on 8/10/23) The Arlington County GOP says it’s pivoting away from national politics and working to assemble a broad coalition galvanized by hyper-local issues.

The first test of this new strategy will be the November County Board election when residents will have the opportunity to vote for the Republican nominee, Juan Carlos Fierro.

An immigrant from Ecuador with nearly three decades of experience in international business and finance, Fierro is aiding the party’s efforts to cultivate a diverse alliance and embrace Republicans, as well as Independents and Democrats, from myriad backgrounds.

The last time a Republican was elected to the Board was Mike Lane in 1999. But party leaders, including newly elected Chair of the Arlington County GOP, Matthew Hurtt, are optimistic that their new strategy will help Republicans establish a solid foothold in the predominantly Democratic county.

However, judging by recent fundraising numbers, Hurtt argues the strategy is already working.

“Thanks to generous supporters like you, the Arlington GOP raised $14,831 from July 13th until midnight last night,” Hurtt told donors in an email last month. “The average contribution from more than 110 individual donations was $131, and the Committee took in an average of $823 per day over the 18-day period.”

Hurtt noted these numbers were “unprecedented” for the party which typically brings in a little less than half that number.

He emphasized the majority of these funds will be allocated towards “local issue education,” “voter targeting,” and “mobilization efforts,” aimed at aiding local Republican candidates, including Fierro, in their campaigns for state senate and county board positions.

“With the imminent approval by this Committee, we will invest in our candidates in ways we have not done in decades,” Hurtt told his donors.

Hurtt attributes the party’s robust fundraising quarter to members’ renewed confidence Republicans can make headway in future local elections by using this strategy.

“When I was chairman of Young Republicans, we helped elect John Vihstadt to the county board in 2014… We helped legalize food trucks and Airbnbs in Arlington. And so we have won on policy issues and we’ve built broad based coalitions,” Hurtt said. “But I’m trying to get my members to say, ‘you know it is worth my time to be involved in local issues.’”

Heading into November, Hurtt said the party aims to turn out voters who turned out for Gov. Glenn Youngkin. He drew national attention after beating out former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe in 2021.

Hurtt is under no illusion that Arlington will swing from blue to red anytime soon. Nevertheless, he pointed out that Youngkin garnered 22.8% of the Arlington vote — 6 percentage points more than former President Donald Trump a year earlier.

Following his victory, Youngkin was applauded by national, state and local party leaders, including Hurtt, who praised his ability to energize white suburban voters by capitalizing on parents’ frustrations over Covid-induced school closures, as well as other cultural issues such as the teaching of race in schools and transgender rights.

By aligning with the Governor and focusing on issues such as education, Hurtt said he believes Fierro and other Republican candidates may have a better shot in upcoming and future elections.

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Independent School Board candidate James ‘Vell’ Rives IV (courtesy photo)

An independent candidate for the Arlington School Board is bowing out of the race.

On Monday, four months ahead of the general election in November, James “Vell” Rives announced in an email that he was suspending his campaign. His announcement hinted that he may run again for School Board in a later election cycle.

“For various reasons, I am suspending my 2023 campaign and am instead working on a future run for Arlington County School Board,” he said in the email. “Thank you for your encouragement and support this year! For now, please stay involved in our schools, and help out where you can.”

Rives was running for the second time as an independent after a failed challenge to Democratic-endorsed candidate Bethany Zecher Sutton last year.

The psychiatrist and a member of the School Health Advisory Board — a citizen committee advising Arlington Public Schools — has campaigned on student health, improving academic performance and reducing technology use.

His opponent, Miranda Turner, who has the endorsement of the Arlington County Democratic Committee after its May caucus, will be running unopposed.

This is also Turner’s second School Board bid, losing two years ago in the Democratic endorsement caucus to now-School Board member Mary Kadera.

This year, Turner bested political newcomer Angelo Cocchiaro, who had the endorsement of outgoing School Board Chair Reid Goldstein and that of the local teachers union, the Arlington Education Association.

Ahead of the Nov. 7 general election, the first day of in-person early voting will begin on Sept. 22. The last day to apply for a mail ballot is Oct. 27.

The scene of the crash involving Heather Keppler’s daughter on a bicycle (courtesy Heather Keppler)

On Oct. 19, 2021, an elderly driver hit the daughter of Tara-Leeway Heights resident Heather Keppler while riding her bike.

The impact of her body cracked the windshield and she fell to the ground. She was whisked to the hospital in an ambulance where — not wanting to disturb any potential broken bones — doctors cut off a favorite running shirt and took a full-body X-ray.

Doctors said her tailbone was either broken or bruised and additional scans would confirm which injury it was. Keppler said they opted not to know, as the recovery process was the same: sitting on a donut pillow and missing her exercise routines. This pause took a toll on her daughter, then a freshman training for a regional running race.

Keppler decided to get a lawyer when one for the 86-year-old man involved called to see if she had one. The mother says in retrospect — after her experience ended in dropped charges — she is lucky she hired legal help.

“I don’t know how I would’ve found out [what] was going on,” she said.

Heather Keppler at her home in the Tara-Leeway Heights neighborhood (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Since June 2020, Arlington police officers have been shepherding through the legal system less-serious traffic misdemeanors: speeding, driving without a license, and so on. Before, the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney had a prosecutor outside Courtroom 3C — where those cases are adjudicated — to enter plea bargains.

This arrangement was imperfect, according to Arlington’s top prosecutor, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who just won the Democratic primary race for her seat against challenger Josh Katcher.

The assigned prosecutor often did not have “any prior knowledge of the case” and did not share pre-court-date discovery with defendants, she wrote in a 2020 memo to County Manager Mark Schwartz. This was one reason she removed prosecutors from “3C.”

After hearing from a state agency that trains prosecutors and the Virginia State Bar Ethics Counsel, it became clear her staff could not meet their obligations to share all exculpating or incriminating evidence in these cases, she argued.

Dehghani-Tafti attributed this largely to an uptick in available footage from cameras that police wear and have in their cars. Sharing all evidence would require prosecutors to review, process and disclose footage from some 40,000 cases — a tall order given current staffing levels.

“We did not come to this decision lightly, but rather after a thorough analysis of several factors,” she wrote to the Arlington County Police Department in a 2020 memo.

Three years later, she tells ARLnow that her office has kept the promises in that memo.

“We have gotten involved in every case in which our law enforcement partners have asked us to get involved, as was promised in the memo,” she said.

Keppler, however, suspects that the lack of prosecutorial presence in traffic court could explain how her daughter never got her day in court. She supported Dehghani-Tafti in her original, successful 2019 bid but this experience led her to flip for Katcher.

The bike that Keppler’s daughter rode when she was hit (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Dropped charges 

After not hearing anything about her daughter’s case for some time, Keppler began to get worried.

Her lawyer found that subpoenas ordering the Kepplers and their assigned police officer to court on Nov. 18, 2021 were written but never issued.

“Because it was never issued, we never showed up to court,” she said. “Because no one was there, they dismissed the case.”

Like Keppler, local personal injury lawyer Jeff Jankovich says a prosecutor outside 3C could have helped the Kepplers. This person could have checked for the subpoenas and asked the judge to move the hearing date so everyone could make it.

Although Dehghani-Tafti’s memo says prosecutors were unfamiliar with the traffic cases on the docket that day, Jankovich recalls days when there were extremely experienced prosecutors who “did a pretty thorough job” of evaluating each case.

“If there were aggravating facts — an accident where someone was injured, or someone had significant prior record, even if it was minor speeding but the third, fourth or fifth offense — they were on top of that and it affected how they approached case,” he said.

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Voters and Arlington County Board Democratic nominees Susan Cunningham and Maureen Coffey watch the tabulation process on Friday, June 23, 2023 in Courthouse (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 12:35 p.m.) Ranked-choice voting may have helped voters nominate a “split” Democratic ticket for Arlington County Board — at least when it comes to Missing Middle.

Last week, in relatively robust turnout for a primary in a non-presidential year, Maureen Coffey and Susan Cunningham received the Democratic nomination. Some 28,897 ballots were cast, up from 19,958 in 2015, the last time with two open seats and no incumbents on the ballot.

The Democratic duo are split, for and against, on the zoning code update allowing 2-6 unit buildings on lots previously zoned for single-family homes. Local elections buffs say the ideological diversity on this “split ticket” is a perk of ranked-choice voting that reflects the will of voters, even if it occasionally surprised observers.

“If we had used the simpler method of representation — of winner-takes-all — we most likely would have had two Democratic nominees who had the same position on Missing Middle,” says Jeremy Mayer, associate professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.

The two departing Board members, Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey, strongly supported the changes. This time around, voters have chosen Cunningham, who called it a “mess,” and Coffey who, while generally supportive, criticized it for lacking cohesion with other housing policies.

It appears this election may be a stronger referendum on Missing Middle than the 2022 race. Incumbent Matt de Ferranti ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and bested two independents with 60% of votes last fall, campaigning on a middling view of the zoning changes.

This time, the leaderboard was not clear cut. Despite “anti” Missing Middle candidates leading at first, realtor Natalie Roy lost to Coffey, who picked up votes from eliminated “pro” Missing Middle candidates.

This result “much more accurately reflects the opinions of Democrat-leaning Arlingtonians,” said Mayer, a lifelong Arlingtonian. “That’s a good thing for democracy.”

Ranked-choice voting tempered the influence of the Democratic establishment, he and former Arlington County Civic Federation President Allan Gajadhar said. Democrats had full control of the Arlington County Board for years until 2014, when Republican John Vihstadt joined the Board as an independent, and have had it since 2018, when de Ferranti beat him.

This year, the Democratic establishment coalesced around Julius “JD” Spain, Sr., who nabbed endorsements from County Board members Takis Karantonis and de Ferranti, Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, state Sen. Barbara Favola, and others. He was eliminated in the fourth tabulation round.

Cunningham, meanwhile, had support from some well-known Democrats as well as people outside the party, like Vihstadt, who last year supported independent and outspoken Missing Middle critic Audrey Clement. Cunningham also had the support of Board Vice-Chair Libby Garvey, who endorsed Vihstadt in 2014.

“In a place with a dominant faction, it does broaden the base of the people who can get elected beyond the party control mechanisms,” Gajadhar said. “In this case, it was one issue, Missing Middle. In other elections… [there could be] not just a diversity of ideas but of people who could conceivably run and be successful.”

Former county treasurer turned amateur election pundit Frank O’Leary sees a common thread between Garvey’s support for Cunningham amid doubts about Missing Middle and her alliance with Vihstadt against the Columbia Pike streetcar. He does not, however, predict the downfall of Missing Middle if Cunningham and Garvey join forces.

“I suspect it will be peace and harmony on the County Board,” he said.

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(Updated at 9:40 a.m. on 6/26/23) The ballots have all been counted and the results are finalized: Maureen Coffey and Susan Cunningham are the Democratic nominees for the Arlington County Board.

The results, released at 3:15 p.m. today (Saturday), culminated Arlington’s trial run of ranked-choice voting method. Eyes across the state were reportedly on Arlington, which the state legislature allowed to use the process for County Board elections one year before extending the right to the rest of the Commonwealth.

At noon today, Arlington election officials adjudicated the remaining 135 provisional ballots and began tabulating them around 1 p.m. These ballots were not expected to change the outcome of the tabulation yesterday (Friday), when officials processed ballots from early voting, primary day voting, and mail-in ballots.

On Tuesday’s primary day, no candidate in the six-way race crossed the threshold with only the first round of votes counted. Arlington waited until all the ballots were in, save provisional ballots, before eliminating lower vote-getters and tallying second- and third-place rankings.

Coffey, a researcher for the think tank American Progress, appears to have captured votes from many millennial renters like herself, receiving 10,786 votes.

Cunningham, who ran an unsuccessful bid for Arlington County Board as an independent in 2020, received 14,208 votes, initially carried by several precincts north of Langston Blvd.

Arlington County Board Democratic Primary Round 1 votes by precinct (by Jo DeVoe)

Coffey emerged victorious in the fourth round, after Jonathan Dromgoole, Tony Weaver and Julius “JD” Spain were eliminated, in that order. Cunningham crossed the victory threshold in round six, after Natalie Roy was eliminated.

How the ranking rounds played out for Arlington County Board (via Virginia Dept. of Elections)

Tabulation yesterday and today at county government headquarters was open to the public as was the certification of the results.

Both Coffey and Cunningham were both present on Friday. Coffey observed the vibe in the tabulation room was upbeat, complimenting Director of Elections Gretchen Reinemeyer for walking through every step, even though it seemed boring and technical.

“But as we waited for each step to happen, people were joking and laughing and being silly with it,” she said. “I think it’s reflective, Arlington County has some really good people.”

After the preliminary results were finalized on Friday, Coffey seemed stunned.

“This is so surreal,” she said. “This is wild.”

Cunningham was similarly upbeat.

“I am just excited at the prospect of serving our community next January,” Cunningham told ARLnow shortly after the tabulation. “I’m ready to take a true deep breath and I’m really proud of our candidates and the community for having a good and clean race.”

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Arlingtonians could have an update on the results of the Arlington County Board Democratic primary as soon as this afternoon, according to the local elections office.

“We will be accepting about 500 mail and provisional ballots today and results will be uploaded throughout the afternoon,” says spokeswoman Tania Griffin. “We’ll also have an update regarding the [ranked-choice voting] tabulation later this afternoon as well.”

For the first time, Arlington voters used a ranked-choice system to pick their top candidates for the County Board, which has two open seats this year. The outcome will come down to who voters ranked second and third place.

It is a squeaker so far for Susan Cunningham, Natalie Roy, Maureen Coffey and Julius “J.D.” Spain, whose tally of first-choice votes are within a range of only 5 percentage points from most to least.

“This race is still wide open,” said Liz White, the executive director of UpVote Virginia, which has been educating residents about ranked-choice voting ahead of the primary.

“Four out of the six candidates could very well secure a win once subsequent rounds are tabulated,” she said in an email. “Round-by-round tabulation will occur as soon as all provisional and mail ballots are processed. Once all votes are processed, the tabulation is instantaneous.”

How Arlington County Board candidates ended Tuesday night with Round 1 votes in (via Virginia Dept. of Elections)

No candidate crossed the threshold for early victory: 33.3% of the first-choice votes, plus one vote.  The next step will be eliminating the lowest vote getters, in order. Who people picked after first ranking Jonathan Dromgoole and Tony Weaver could get any of the four other candidates past the finish line.

Cunningham, who took the lead in the first round of votes, tells ARLnow she has made peace with whatever happens next. Coffey, who currently sits in third place, says she is “on pins and needles” waiting for the results.

Political consultant Ben Tribbett is placing his bets that those who ranked Dromgoole first likely ranked Coffey or Spain next.

“When you get to the actual ranking of candidates, I think the third and fourth-place candidates are going to go on to win the election,” Tribbett said. “I would expect in that first round, that Maureen is going to win. There’s a chance Susan Cunningham could hold off J.D. in the second round.”

On Tuesday, County Board member Takis Karantonis — who endorsed Coffey and Spain — said Coffey performed well on a per campaign dollar spent basis. Meanwhile Spain, who had racked up several endorsements and raised substantial funds, underperformed, which he called a “sobering result.”

Looking precinct by precinct, it is clear that each of the candidates had a base. The more urban places with younger voters went for Coffey, while single-family home enclaves went for Cunningham and Roy, who were most critical of the zoning changes known as Missing Middle.

Arlington County Board Democratic Primary Round 1 votes by precinct (by Jo DeVoe)

Spain told ARLnow on Tuesday night that he enjoyed strong support in his neighborhood, Penrose, while noting more confrontations with upset voters above Langston Blvd.

“We won the most diverse precincts in Arlington,” he said. “[I’m] proud of that.”

Tribbett was more blunt about what he saw as the electoral dynamic, citing the geographic distribution of votes in the Commonwealth’s Attorney race in particular.

“It’s the Karens versus the non-Karens,” he said. “Clearly, there’s a divide in the community that jumps out at you.”

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Arlington Sheriff candidate Jose Quiroz, Jr. greets Arlington County Board member Takis Karantonis at the Walter Reed Community Center on Tuesday (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

After taking the helm for longtime Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur, who retired at the end of 2022, Acting Sheriff Jose Quiroz is one step closer to taking charge permanently.

Quiroz — backed by four of five County Board members and several elected officials — won the Democratic primary Tuesday night. Following his victory, over former sheriff deputy Wanda Younger and Arlington County police corporal James Herring, Quiroz advances to the November general election.

No one has emerged as an outside challenger, according to the Arlington Dept. of Elections website. If elected as expected, Quiroz will be the county’s first Latino sheriff.

As of last night, the acting sheriff had nearly 40% of the vote, or 10,733 ballots. Younger was close behind him, with 1,600 fewer votes (~34%). Herring came in third, picking up nearly 7,200 votes.

Arlington County Sheriff results (via Virginia Dept. of Elections)

Looking forward, the acting sheriff says he will focus on mental health, substance use and programming for jail inmates. Running the local jail is the primary responsibility of the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, along with providing court security and some law enforcement and civil process duties beyond the justice complex in Courthouse.

“I think the biggest thing is mental health. We all have that and all go through it, but some people need a little more care, attention, resources and services,” Quiroz told ARLnow. “I think the county has some work to do in that area.”

He stressed that he can only control treatment of inmates, not change the waves of people with mental illnesses and addictions coming to the jail. To that end, he says new biometric sensors — which inmates will wear so issues like withdrawal symptoms can be spotted before more inmates die — are close to go-time.

Meanwhile, he intends to maintain existing programs, including a series that teaches men how to connect with and be fathers to their kids.

“That’s how you break the cycle of the next generation,” he said. “It’s important to me as a father.”

He says he is thinking “outside the box” about support, stepping up pet therapy and possibly adding a pickleball court for staff and inmates.

In their concessions, Herring and Younger both said they campaigned on bringing to light problems in the jail.

“My campaign was about highlighting the issues and showing people the number of solutions we have available to us if we stop relying on the trope of ‘that’s the way it has always been done,’ or ‘it costs too much,'” Herring said. “Other Sheriff’s Offices in Virginia have implemented much of what I was talking about, often with smaller budgets. The problems facing our Sheriff’s Office are not financially driven, but an issue of priority.”

Next week, Herring will once more be patrolling the streets. He said he would run again if the problems he stressed in his campaign remain four years from now.

On social media, Younger said she is “proud to have raised the bar of the Sheriff’s Office with our ideas & solution-sets and to have brought light to the prevalent issues of the Arlington Sheriff’s Office which inhibit [its] growth and greatness.”

She also thanked voters for their confidence in her ability to carry out her platform.

“The Wanda for Sheriff team will continue to advance the rights and voice of the detainees, Sheriff’s Office staff and our Arlington community in the future as community advocates and caretakers, and we are honored to have earned your trust,” she said.

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(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) Arlington’s top prosecutor, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, bested challenger Josh Katcher in yesterday’s Democratic primary.

Now, she says it is time to get back to work, building on reforms she made the first time around and forging a better relationship with the Arlington County police rank and file.

Dehghani-Tafti was elected Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church in 2019 on a criminal justice reform platform, besting her predecessor, Theo Stamos, in an expensive and contentious primary.

This time, she beat Katcher in a campaign that focused on her track record — and sometimes stooped to criticize Katcher for his prosecutorial judgement and question the motives of his supporters and donors.

Of her race in Arlington, Dehghani-Tafti told ARLnow last night (Tuesday) that “the 2019 campaign was about ideals and promises and laying out a new vision. This is about showing our work.”

With the primary behind her, Dehghani-Tafti shared with ARLnow what is next for her office. One top priority is expanding the Restorative Arlington initiative so more victims can choose guided, out-of-court conferencing sessions with the people who harmed them — if they want it.

She would also like to schedule another clinic where people can learn about how to get their records expunged, which she aims to make a biannual event. Additionally, Dehghani-Tafti is working on standing up a gun buyback program with Moms Demand Action and has met with the organization since last fall to find a “safe and effective” way to pull it off.

Lastly, though this falls outside her purview, she plans to meet with court services to find ways to get more residents connected to substance use treatment programs.

ARLnow asked about her relationship with the Arlington County Police Department going forward. The police union endorsed Katcher as it endorsed Stamos in 2019.

“I will continue to be a bridge-builder as much as possible,” she said.

Police union president Randall Mason said the organization is disappointed in the outcome but hopes the relationship between the departments will grow.

“Maybe she didn’t know there was a poor relationship between officers and her office, and our endorsement was eye-opening for her,” he said. “Hopefully it becomes better over the next four years and we work collaboratively towards prosecutions.”

He says officers want to see the prosecutor’s office devote more time to pre-trial preparation. Mason has been asked to be a witness twice and both times, he says, he was not given opportunities to meet with prosecutors in advance though he requested it. Officers also want to get feedback when charges are dropped “so we can do our job better in the future.”

Judith Davis, an Arlington Public Schools parent, said she attended every forum and asked the two candidates about student health, safety and substance use. She supported Dehghani-Tafti because she acknowledged “there was work to do.”

Still, she was frustrated that this election “brought out the ugly in people.”

“It’s easy to point fingers,” she said. “We didn’t hear from the people who had things to say.”

Yordanos Woldai, a Green Valley resident concerned about safety in her community, said she supported Katcher for his judgment and trial attorney experience.

“I am proud of the campaign Josh ran,” she said. “He focused on issues that matter — even while enduring one baseless attack after another.”

Katcher critiqued his opponent for downplaying statistics indicating a rise in crime, as well as her office for mishandling cases and thus, compounding the hurt victims feel.

Both used anecdotes from people who went through the court system to paint each other as lacking competency or nuanced judgment.

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(Updated at 9:25 p.m.) Commonwealth’s Attorney incumbent Parisa Dehghani-Tafti has defeated challenger Josh Katcher in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Dehghani-Tafti has 56% of the vote to 44% for Katcher, her former deputy, in the heated race for the top prosecutor of Arlington and Falls Church. That’s as of 8:40 p.m., with all but a few hundred provisional and late-arriving mailed ballots counted in Arlington. Polls closed at 7 p.m.

Katcher, standing outside of his watch party at Lost Dog Cafe in Westover, called Dehghani-Tafti shortly before 8:50 p.m. to concede the race.

The contentious — and expensive — contest has been seen as something of a referendum on the incumbent’s brand of vocal justice reform advocacy. Katcher, while billing himself as also in favor of justice reform, put a spotlight on Dehghani-Tafti’s leadership, which he linked to departures of deputy prosecutors amid a reported rise in crime.

“Right now we’re going to celebrate what we were able to accomplish with this campaign and thank the volunteers,” Katcher told ARLnow before heading back into his event.

“Over the course of the last six months, we’ve had an important debate in our community over the future of criminal justice reform,” he said in a subsequent written statement. “Our team left it all on the field, as we sought to have a debate about what real reform and real justice could mean for our community… I stand ready to continue my commitment to this community, to its safety and to the goal of ensuring that we are balancing the need for both justice and compassion.”

Dehghani-Tafti also thanked her supporters. Gesturing to the crowd gathered at her event at Fire Works Pizza in Courthouse (held with County Board candidate JD Spain) she said those present reflect a tiny fraction of the people who donated, volunteered, “held my hand,” and knocked on doors.

“A campaign based on love, dignity and respect prevailed,” she said. “I’m grateful for the trust everybody has placed in me.”

In the other two closely watched local races, for County Board and Sheriff, leads were slim.

The three-way county sheriff race has Jose Quiroz with a widening lead compared to earlier in the night, with 40% to 34% for former deputy sheriff Wanda Younger and 27% for Arlington police corporal James Herring.

Quiroz was appointed Acting Sheriff after the departure of long-time Sheriff Beth Arthur earlier this year. The position is primarily responsible for running the county jail in Courthouse, with the Sheriff’s Office also handling court security, civil process serving, and some law and traffic enforcement responsibilities.

The Arlington County Board primary, meanwhile, is being conducted for the first time using ranked choice voting, which means final tabulation will not take place until Friday at the earliest. Results of “first choice” votes are being posted, however, showing Susan Cunningham with 25%, Natalie Roy with 24%, Maureen Coffey with 22%, and JD Spain with 20%.

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Just under 10% of voters have cast ballots in today’s Democratic primary as of 9 a.m.

That includes 7% who voted early or by mail and 2% voting at the polls Tuesday morning, according to Arlington County election officials.

Today’s primary, for the first time in Arlington, features the use of ranked choice voting, for the six-way race for the two open Arlington County Board seats. Voters are asked to fill in the bubble for up to three candidates, in order of priority — one each for first, second and third choice.

The County Board race has seen a wide range of endorsements and one particularly divisive issue dividing candidate factions: the recently-passed Missing Middle housing ordinance allowing smaller-scale multifamily homes in neighborhoods previously zoned only for single-family detached houses.

The other closely watched race today is that for Arlington and Falls Church’s top prosecutor, between incumbent Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and her former deputy, Josh Katcher.

The incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney has continued to campaign — and raise significant campaign funding — on her national profile as a justice reformer. Katcher says he supports a more practical and effective implementation of justice reform, and has picked up an endorsement from the local police union amid a rise in crime, according to recent police statistics.

The race has also seen Katcher face some criticism for taking campaign contributions from Republicans.

Additional races include a three-way race for county Sheriff, a two-way race for State Senate (40th District), and a race for House of Delegates (2nd District) featuring one active candidate, Adele McClure, and Kevin Saucedo-Broach, who withdrew but remains on ballots.

Though turnout today is light compared to years in which federal races are on the primary ballot, it is in line with the last four-year cycle, in 2019, when Dehghani-Tafti defeated incumbent Theo Stamos for Commonwealth’s Attorney. Total voter turnout in that race was just under 17%.

Polls opened today at 6 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m.

While the results of most races should be known within a few hours, the final tally for County Board will take a few days — potentially extending into the weekend — due to how ranked choice votes are tabulated, including the need to wait until all legal mailed-in ballots are received

ARLnow previously asked candidates to write essays describing why Arlington voters should support them. Links to those posts are below.

Commonwealth’s Attorney: Josh Katcher and Parisa Dehghani-Tafti. County Board: Tony WeaverJonathan DromgooleJD SpainMaureen CoffeySusan Cunningham, and Natalie Roy. Sheriff: Jose QuirozJames Herring, and Wanda Younger. State Senate: Barbara Favola.

Update at 1:50 p.m. — Primary day turnout is up to about 5%, bringing total turnout to 12%, according to the county elections office.


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