Arlington County is considering a new program to divert people with mental illnesses into treatment instead of jail.
The proposed program would waive incarceration for people with mental illnesses who are convicted of non-violent misdemeanors if they agree to an intensive treatment program supervised by a judge. All the officials who spoke to ARLnow about the program supported it, but some weren’t aware the county was working on the program and said they had little opportunity to add input.
The Arlington County’s Department of Human Services is spearheading the program. A spokesman told ARLnow on June 27 that in response to “recent requests” it would host a public meeting on the so-called Behavioral Health Docket on Wednesday, July 17 at 3 p.m. The location of the meeting has yet to be determined.
“The aim is to divert eligible defendants with diagnosed mental health disorders into judicially supervised, community-based treatment, designed and implemented by a team of court staff and mental health professionals,” said DHS Assistant Director Kurt Larrick.
This new docket aims to accept defendants 18 or older who reside in Arlington and who are diagnosed with a serious mental illness, Larrick said. Additionally, only defendants who have been charged with misdemeanors, not felonies, would be eligible for the diversion program. Defendants would need to agree to work with a team of mental health professionals and program staff to enroll in the docket and agree to follow a treatment plan with some supervision.
“These programs are distinguished by several unique elements: a problem-solving focus; a team approach to decision-making; integration of social services; judicial supervision of the treatment process; direct interaction between defendants and the judge; community outreach; and a proactive role for the judge,” Larrick said.
Where Mental Illness and the Law Collide
Officials and advocates say they hope that the docket will help break the cycle of recidivism that some people with mental illnesses fall into.
“Arlington has a significant number of people with mental illnesses that intersect with the criminal justice system,” Deputy Public Defender Amy K. Stitzel told ARLnow. “Evidence-based mental health dockets not only treat instead of criminalizing behavior that is a result of mental illness, they increase treatment engagement, improve quality of life, reduce recidivism and save money.”
“We’re talking about people who are arrested for vagrancy and loitering and trespassing,” said Naomi Verdugo, who has been an activist for people in Arlington with mental illness for several years. “These are largely misdemeanors and stupid things, and it’s because they aren’t well. We would be better off putting services around them than paying to incarcerate people who are just going to reoffend.”
“It is clear that the local and regional jails in Virginia have a substantial number of persons with mental illness in their care, and that this care is costly to the localities and to the Commonwealth,” says a 2017 study of similar programs statewide.
The most recent data from Virginia jail surveys indicate that statewide 1 in 10 of the inmates counted was diagnosed with a serious mental illness, such as PTSD or schizophrenia, and about 20% of all inmates had some kind of mental illness.
Chief Public Defender Brad Haywood said his office has been part of a team discussing mental health improvements for 15 years with the county’s Mental Health Criminal Justice Review Committee, and for the past five years with a subcommittee dedicated to creating a docket, called the Behavioral Health Docket Committee. Haywood strongly supports the idea of a Behavioral Health Docket but noted his office wasn’t notified the county had advanced plans for the docket until recently.
“This is not a transparent approach”
While he applauded DHS for moving the program forward, Haywood said he would have liked more input on the design when organizers decided to require defendants plead guilty before participating in the program.
“From our perspective, until early spring of 2019, the process for drafting and submitting an application for the Mental Health Docket seemed to be moving very slowly,” he said. “I don’t know what changed that took the process to where it is now, to having tight deadlines and short comment periods.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney candidate Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who recently won the Democratic primary against incumbent prosecutor Theo Stamos, said she heard about the docket for the first time two weeks ago. During her campaign, Tafti advocated for a mental health court as part of larger criminal justice reforms, but said she wasn’t given a chance to comment on the Behavioral Health Docket.
She told ARLnow that she has concerns the new program “criminalizes mental illness” by requiring a plea to participate.
The following op-ed was written by Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, the Democratic nominee for Arlington and Falls Church Commonwealth’s Attorney. As the presumed victor in the unchallenged November election, which followed a heated primary campaign, Dehghani-Tafti will be the area’s chief prosecutor amid questions about how the prosecutor’s office will change under her leadership.
Moments after 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11, while standing on a sidewalk on Clarendon Boulevard near Courthouse, I received a phone call from my friend and deputy campaign manager excitedly telling me that the voters of Arlington County and the City of Falls Church had selected me as the Democratic nominee for Commonwealth’s Attorney. In that moment, with the sounds of supporters cheering in the near distance and the sight of young people milling about on a warm spring evening, I was reminded, as I knew from the very start of the campaign, that it would soon be my charge, together with other branches of law enforcement, to help maintain the safety, welfare, and wellbeing of nearly 250,000 people.
The campaign had been long and hard-fought, but in our very first debate, I was asked to name one thing I admired about Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos. I honestly answered that I found it admirable Ms. Stamos had chosen public service when she could have long ago leveraged her skills into more lucrative private sector work. Had I had another moment for thought, I would have added what I also believe to be true: she persevered in a field that had long been dominated by men and, in doing so, opened a path for other women, myself included.
The campaign, of course, is not over. As I prepare for the November general election, I will be guided by three principles. First, I want to keep faith with members of the community who supported, volunteered, and voted for me, and earn the trust of those who did not. Elections come and go, but what endures is community. Second, I want to approach the work ahead with both an open mind and moral courage. I fundamentally believe that the choice between safety and justice has always been a false one; at the same time, I have the utmost respect for the institutional knowledge and professional expertise that resides in the current office. Last but not least, I want to keep foremost in my mind that what’s needed for the office is both integrity and humility. Our delegates, senators, county board, and school board members have deep and intimate knowledge of the needs in our community; I see as one of my main tasks to be an honest partner with them, to listen to their expertise, and take heed of their priorities — because I know the criminal justice system cannot and should not be the tool to solve every problem.
Late Tuesday evening, after all the well-wishers had gone and I’d returned home to my family, I stayed up into the early hours of the morning, making two lists: one, of the people I needed to personally thank for making this moment possible; the other, of the immediate tasks I needed to accomplish to plan for the office. Both lists grew incredibly long but each list, in different ways, made it clear to me that at this moment we have a chance in Arlington and the City of Falls Church to show the Commonwealth and the country what it means to have a criminal justice system that is safe and transparent, truly cares for victims, treats everyone fairly and humanely, and honestly addresses systemic disparities in race and class. “The world stands before you,” James Baldwin once wrote, “and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.” I’m eager for the work ahead.
(Updated at 4 p.m.) Last night, commonwealth’s attorney candidate Parisa Dehghani-Tafti defeated incumbent prosecutor Theo Stamos in a surprise victory that shocked many in the the county, and left some wondering about the future.
One person who wasn’t shocked was political strategist Ben Tribbett — also known as @notlarrysabato — of the Fairfax-based campaign consulting firm TRR Group.
“I think Parisa basically brought two very large groups together,” he told ARLnow today. “One are people newer to the county who really care about criminal justice reforms. The second was a coalition of people mad about internal Arlington politics.”
Tribbett said the first group is important because, “transient voters tend to get their info from national outlets.” He said the Washington Post’s endorsement of Tafti and the The Appeal’s critical look at Stamos’ handling of some juvenile cases could have helped sway those voters. The campaign even attracted an endorsement from multi-talented star John Legend.
Today is a big day for prosecutorial races taking place throughout Virginia. Your vote in local elections matters! Good luck, @parisa4justice!
— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 11, 2019
A map of yesterday’s voting shows the densest support for Tafti was located along the county’s more dense and Metro-accessible areas — places where young transient voters often live. Tribbett pointed out state Senate candidate Nicole Merlene, who lost her race against incumbent Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st), performed well in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor but struggled in the leafier, single-family-home neighborhoods to the north.
Arlington/Falls Church Prosecutor Theo Stamos lost re-nomination in the Democratic primary to more reform-minded Parisa Dehghani-Tafti. Major focuses of Tafti have been reducing incarceration, not seeking the death penalty, and not prosecuting minor pot crimes #VaPrimary2019 pic.twitter.com/dqG0NVLmcR
— Matthew Isbell (@mcimaps) June 12, 2019
Tribbett said Tafti’s other supporters, long-time residents fed up with Arlington politics, are part of the fallout from the election of John Vihstadt, who won the race for County Board in 2014 as an independent. Progressives are continuing a “decade-long war” against Democratic candidates like Stamos who supported Vihstadt over a fellow Democrat, Tribbett said, and could target County Board member Libby Garvey in the future.
But he said infighting costs the party influence at the state level, which comes at a time when Democrats across Virginia are striving to flip Richmond blue.
“What should have been a temporary rift has become a permanent rift,” Tribbett said. “It’s not good for the Democratic Party.”
Another perspective on the race comes from Paul Ferguson, current Clerk of the Circuit Court and former Arlington County Board member, who spoke to ARLnow in his personal capacity on Tuesday afternoon before polls closed.
Ferguson said Tafti has six months to settle in and choose which (if any) of Stamos’ assistant prosecutors she plans to keep on staff. (Stamos said last night she hopes her challenger will retain at least some of them.) Tafti will then be able to roll out policy changes, like her pledge to not prosecute low-level pot convictions, but Ferguson said it’s difficult to anticipate the impact because her victory is unprecedented.
“It’s reasonable to say in modern history, the last 40-50 years, the new prosecutor has always come from within the office, leaving very little policy transition,” he said. Nonetheless, he thinks it’s likely that there could be fewer misdemeanor cases cases in District Court, and perhaps fewer cases in Circuit Court, as a result of her changes.
Now that she has defeated incumbent Theo Stamos, Tafti is likely to have the opportunity to keep her campaign promise while in the prosecutor’s office.
More from the candidate’s website:
Between 2013 and 2018, the current Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office prosecuted over 3200 cases of simple marijuana possession. African-Americans are at least 8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite the fact that studies show that different racial groups use marijuana at about the same rates. Marijuana should be the subject of civil regulation, but we should put our limited prosecutorial resources to better use focusing on serious crimes. Parisa will not prosecute simple possession of marijuana and support decriminalization and legalization, with appropriate government regulation.
The Arlington Green Party supports that stance, penning an open letter just before primary day calling for Stamos to “stop prosecuting people caught with small amounts of marijuana in Arlington.”
“Arlington police and prosecutors should concentrate on crimes of violence and significant felonies, and not waste our public dollars jailing and prosecuting mostly youth caught with a marijuana cigarette,” the party said in an email.
What do you think?
(Updated at 10:25 p.m.) The top prosecutor in Arlington and Falls Church has lost her bid for re-election.
In the most closely watched local race in today’s Democratic primary, incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos has been defeated by challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who ran a campaign centered on criminal justice reform. Tafti has 52% of the vote compared to 48% for Stamos, with all 59 precincts in Arlington and Falls Church reporting, though the results are unofficial until certified.
The total unofficial margin of victory was 1,128 votes.
“I knew it could happen!” one supporter shouted at Tafti’s victory party at Fire Works Pizza in Courthouse as the final votes were tallied.
“Change can come here to Arlington,” said a campaign volunteer, Arlington resident Symone Walker, who said she’s mailed postcards and held meet and greets for Tafti because of her belief the challenger could reform the county’s justice system.
Tafti herself was breathless and wide-eyed as she passed through the group and gave hugs to her supporters. When Stamos called to concede around 8:15 p.m., Tafti thanked her and offered to meet with the incumbent later this week.
In a speech a few minutes before 9 p.m., Tafti thanked a crowd of her supporters, saying “it would have been easy for you to be silent.”
“I feel humbled and grateful and excited but with no illusions about the work ahead,” she told ARLnow afterward.
1/x I am humbled and honored at the trust the voters of Arlington and the City of Falls Church have placed in our campaign. This election wasn’t about me but about the community’s recognition that criminal justice reform is one of the civil rights issues of our time.
— Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (@parisa4justice) June 12, 2019
3/3 Arlington and Falls Church stand ready to show the Commonwealth and the country what it means to put justice back in the criminal justice system.
— Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (@parisa4justice) June 12, 2019
“I always thought she could win and should win, but it’s never an easy battle against an incumbent,” said state Sen. Adam Ebbin, who supported Tafti’s campaign and stood next to her as she addressed the crowd.
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe cheered during the event, later telling ARLnow that he supported Tafti’s campaign because he was “looking for new leadership” after Stamos opposed his legislation to restore voting rights to felons in 2017.
“I think a lot of people wondered why I did it,” he said of wading into a local prosecutor race. “But it was the right thing to do.”
(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Starting at 6 a.m. today, voters began showing up at their polling places across Arlington as voting in the Democratic primary kicked off.
At Randolph Elementary School in Douglas Park, St. Agnes Catholic Church in Cherrydale, and Madison Community Center in Old Glebe, lines were short and skies were clear.
“It’s been slow, but steady. There’s been 83 people so far, or 2.7 percent turnout. It’s pretty normal,” said Bill Harkins, election officer at St. Agnes.
At Randolph Elementary around 41 people had cast their ballots by 7:41 a.m., according to election officer Harry Dunbar, and another 13 voters arrived in the next half hour. Dunbar said there are 3,000 people who live in the precinct.
“Half of that is normal for a busy general election,” Dunbar said, noting that primary election turnout is usually much lower.
By mid-morning, Arlington’s elections office reported that turnout was somewhat light, but higher in precincts in Arlington’s northwest. Voters in residential northwest Arlington tend to be a bit more conservative, at least relative to the rest of the county.
Update: looks like some of our northwest precincts are reporting a higher turnout, closer to 8% as of 10:30.
— Arlington Elections (@ArlingtonVotes) June 11, 2019
The only hiccup noticed so far was a ballot that wouldn’t scan at Randolph Elementary. At around 8 a.m., officials had identified the likely culprit: blocks that printed too faintly along the border of the document.
Today’s primary marks the end of several hotly contested races between the Democrats on the ballot — namely the race for commonwealth’s attorney and the state Senate seat in the 31st District. With most races still lacking a non-Democratic candidate, the primary could also decide the Nov. 5 general election.
At Randolph, the race on most people’s minds was the one for commonwealth’s attorney between incumbent Theo Stamos and challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti who have clashed in debates since kicking off their campaigns last winter.
Evelyn Luis, a long-time Douglas Park resident, said she doesn’t usually vote in the primaries but showed up today to support Stamos.
“Even though she’s running as a Democrat and I am not a Democrat I know I have to make a choice between the two candidates.” Luis said.
Luis wore a shirt from the 1990s-era Crime Prevention Council of Arlington County, on which she was a board member. She said she disagreed with Tafti’s platform and PAC funding.
Another voter, Aaron Willis, who has lived in the area for a decade, said he’s voted in every primary since moving to the D.C. region. He feels part of the “nerve center” of politics after coming from Ohio where he sometimes felt disconnected.
Willis said he supported Tafti in today’s election, citing her record of pushing for reproductive rights and restoring voting rights to felons.
The interest in the prosecutor’s race also ran high at St. Agnes.
“The important race to me was the commonwealth’s attorney,” said St. Agnes voter Chris Guest. “I think it’s always good to have options, but I wanted to vote against outside money, especially when that’s heavily for one candidate.”
“All of the races are important. Arlington is a great place to live and we have good candidates,” said St. Agnes voter Sarah Devoe this morning. “I’ve been surprised with the commonwealth’s attorney race; it’s not really a race I think of as being competitive. There’s been a lot of TV and print ads. There are two strong candidates.”
Stamos’ record in office and Tafti’s proposed criminal justice reforms have split support among local attorneys and sparked conversations about police brutality and the county’s discovery policy in criminal cases.
Here is the unedited response from Parisa Dehghani-Tafti:
My family and I are blessed to be part of this community. We are rightly proud of our schools, our local government, and the leadership role Arlington and the City of Falls Church have taken in the Commonwealth across a number of issues. The glaring exception remains our criminal justice system. But together we can change that and bring much needed reform to our Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office while keeping our families safe.
Many of you have told me your stories of the need for reform, and these stories have fueled this campaign:
Victims and people within the system told me the Commonwealth’s Attorney does not prioritize prosecuting acquaintance rape; wage earners said the office refuses to prosecute wage theft cases; our elected officials told me the Commonwealth’s Attorney routinely opposes their reform bills; parents of young teens report they have been pressured into pleas that leave their children with criminal records for youthful mistakes; families of loved ones with disabilities, mental illness, or addiction live in fear of the lack of real diversion programs; and community members are shocked to learn of the racial disparities in prosecutions and the jail population.
The data confirm your stories:
Since 2011, reports of rape and sexual assault have gone up 63% while the number of convictions has gone down 73%. Last year, the most frequent charge brought by the office was for simple marijuana possession. In the last 6 years, over 3,200 such cases were prosecuted, 57% of which in the last 2 years were of Black people. Between 2013 and 2018, the average daily jail population increased 17% and is still higher per capita than it was at the height of the 1980s War on Drugs. Only in this election cycle has it suddenly gone down.
I will bring real reform by using restorative justice to decrease recidivism and help survivors; expanding diversion programs for youth; eliminating cash bail; establishing a mental health docket so that mental illness is treated and not prosecuted; stop prosecuting simple marijuana possession; being mindful that minor charges not lead to deportation; providing fair electronic discovery; working to establish an independent review mechanism for use of force; focusing on violent and serious crimes such as sexual assault, elder abuse, financial fraud, and wage theft; and collecting and sharing data to make the office transparent.
These reforms are well within the discretion of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office. Charlottesville eliminated cash bail almost 20 years ago; Prince William and Norfolk have mental health courts; Washington County, with a fifth of our population, has a drug court that serves 37, while ours serves only 9; Fairfax and Alexandria have long provided electronic discovery; Loudoun and Fairfax have restorative justice programs.
I know the community is eager for these reforms because of the breadth of support our campaign has received. The Washington Post endorsed me because I have the right experience for the job. Governor McAuliffe, former State Senator Mary Margaret Whipple, former County Board Members Mary Hynes, Walter Tejada, and Chris Zimmerman, and former Arlington Deputy Police Chief James Younger endorsed me because they trust me to keep us safe. Delegates Marcus Simon and Mark Levine, as well as Senator Adam Ebbin endorsed me because I will be an honest reform partner with them. School Board Members Nancy Van Doren and Monique O’Grady, and the Arlington Education Association endorsed me because I will treat kids like kids. The carpenters, electrical workers, pipe trades, and service workers unions all endorsed me because I will protect workers’ rights. Greater Greater Washington, Indivisible Arlington, BlueNova, Arlington Action Group, Our Revolution Arlington, CASA in Action, New Virginia Majority endorsed me because it’s time to put justice back in the criminal justice system.
I humbly ask for your vote on June 11 as Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and the City of Falls Church so that we can build a criminal justice system that keeps us safe and that reflects our values.
Jail Holds Family Event for Inmates — “Some Arlington County children got a rare opportunity Tuesday night: a chance to visit with their fathers and mothers — who are in jail — without any barriers between them.” [WJLA]
Local Girl Scouts Help Seniors — “They came in need of help, smartphones in hand… Girl Scout Troop 60013 was on it. This week, the Arlington, Virginia-based scouts hosted ‘TechBridge,’ their first walk-in clinic to help local senior citizens learn how to use their cellphones.” [CNN]
County Fair Seeking Judges — “Organizers of the Arlington County Fair are seeking volunteers both to register and judge entries for the competitive-exhibit competition. Volunteers with expertise will serve as superintendents and judges in a host of categories, with judging taking place Thursday, Aug. 15 at 10 a.m. at Thomas Jefferson Community Center.” [InsideNova]
Campaign Ad Questioned — A TV ad placed by a political action committee on behalf of commonwealth’s attorney candidate Parisa Dehghani-Tafti is being questioned. The ad brings up recent anti-abortion laws in other states says incumbent Theo Stamos “would enforce anti-choice laws” in Virginia. The video cited in the ad shows Stamos saying she “takes an oath to uphold the law” but would not enforce an unconstitutional law. [Blue Virginia]
An Arlington County policy on how defense attorneys access the materials they need to prepare their cases has become a hot topic in the already heated commonwealth’s attorney race.
Since Parisa Dehghani-Tafti launched her campaign to unseat Theo Stamos in the June 11 Democratic primary, discussions over the county’s discovery policy have featured in a candidate debate, a public endorsement, and a public letter opposing Stamos.
A discovery policy dictates which case files a prosecutor is required to share with defense attorneys. Some attorneys say Arlington’s policy of asking attorneys to hand copy this information at the courthouse is so cumbersome that it makes it difficult for them to represent their clients.
Stamos argued during an April debate with Tafti that the hand-copying policy protects witnesses’ privacy by preventing information like addresses, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth from leaving her office. She said her office would need additional resources to make the redactions necessary to share copies with defense attorneys.
This contrasts to neighboring jurisdictions like Fairfax County and Alexandria, which regularly email copies of similar files to defense attorneys or provide take-home hard copies.
When asked if she had evidence showing increased incidents of witness intimidation in neighboring jurisdictions as a result of the more permissive discovery policy, Stamos told ARLnow the other jurisdictions might not have to “worry about the witness intimidation piece because they have an efficient redaction process.” She hopes to implement the same process in Arlington.
Four defense attorneys who spoke with ARLnow disagreed that the current policy was necessary, calling Arlington’s unique process for accessing case files “onerous,” “cumbersome,” and “horribly inefficient.”
Resisting Reform or Protecting Privacy?
“I’m looking at the police report in a paper format. And whether I’m typing it on my laptop or handwriting notes, I am literally just copying word for word what it says,” said defense attorney Elizabeth Tuomey, who has worked in the county for the past 15 years. She called the discovery policy “a complete waste of time.”
Tuomey, who is one of the signatories of the letter opposing Stamos, told ARLnow that the prosecutor’s office also does not allow defense attorneys to make copies of photos in discovery files. As a result, Tuomey says she has to describe the images in her notes and write down the file name if she wants to ask prosecutors to show an image during trial.
Defense attorney Terry Adams said he dictates descriptions of photos and sometimes has to draw sketches of important ones. He was an Arlington deputy sheriff in 1987 before becoming a private attorney, and he has donated to Tafti’s campaign and signed the letter opposing Stamos.
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Total fundraising in the heated race for Arlington and Falls Church’s top prosecutor is nearing an unprecedented $1 million as the June 11 primary approaches.
Commonwealth’s Attorney candidate Parisa Dehghani-Tafti raised $604,682 between April 1 and May 30, in large part due to one political action committee (PAC), according to new campaign finance filings.
The Justice and Public Safety PAC, which is funded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, previously donated to Tafti’s campaign and paid for her social media videos. In the latest filing period it made a total of $515,492.28 in donations, including $190,000 in cash and $325,492.28 in in-kind contributions.
After spending $189,000 on a TV ad buy, and racking up other expenses, Tafti’s campaign reported ending the quarter with $57,255 in its coffers.
Theo Stamos’ campaign, on the other hand, reported closing out May 30 with $22,077 left in its war chest, after raising $55,426 and spending $133,999 in total.
All told, the incumbent raised $161,760 for her 2019 re-election bid compared to the $743,604 Tafti raised to unseat her.
The combined sum of $905,364 from both candidates dwarfs the money raised in the state’s other commonwealth’s attorney races.
“I think our voters are going to see through this effort from all this outside money,” Stamos told ARLnow today (Tuesday.) “It’s so unprecedented for it to be happening in Arlington.”
When asked if her challenger’s large fundraising haul affected her chances of keeping her seat, Stamos said she thought residents will end up voting for someone they’ve known for years over Tafti who has, “absolutely no experience, who is not prepared for the job, and who has quite honestly run a fundamentally dishonest campaign.”
Tafti said in a press release earlier today that she was “proud” the campaign has continued, “to garner the support of not just small dollar donations but also that of local and national organizations that will help maintain enthusiasm and engagement” in the election.
In the press release, the progressive campaigner also highlighted $39,000 in cash contributions from individuals and the endorsements she’s received, saying: “Simply put, this level of local support for a challenger is unprecedented in a local primary election where the incumbent has not ever faced a robust primary challenge. What it shows is that community leaders and ordinary citizens understand the office is in dire need of reform.”
Two other PACS also donated to Tafti’s campaign this past quarter.
Racial justice-focused New Majority Virginia PAC donated $31,545 to Tafti’s campaign last month, and Real Justice PAC, which was co-founded by civil rights activist Shaun King donates to progressive prosecutor candidates nationwide, contributed $5,814.
Other notable donations to Tafti’s campaign include:
- $1,350 in combined donations from four local private defense lawyers. Three of the lawyers (Terry Adams, Edward Ungvarsky, and Christopher Leibig) previously signed a letter opposing Stamos. The fourth lawyer-donor (Mark Rochon) did not sign the letter.
- $1,000 from former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who has publicly endorsed Tafti’s campaign.
- $150 from former Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman.
For Stamos, some notable donations included:
- $1,162 from former independent County Board member John Vihstadt, whose unsuccessful bid for re-election Stamos supported despite displeasure from her Democratic colleagues. The figure includes a $912 in-kind contribution from Vihstadt’s campaign committee.
- $651 from former Arlington School Board member Noah Simon
- $500 from theater labor union I.A.T.S.E. Local 22
Next week’s primary will determine which Democratic candidate progresses to the November general election. Voters can cast their votes between 6 a.m. to 7 p.m on Tuesday, June 11.
Candidates from other parties may declare their intention to enter the race after the primary election. If no other candidates runs, the winner of next week’s primary election will most likely win the general election.
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Campaign ads for the commonwealth attorney’s race show differences in how the two candidates are spending money and aiming to win the upcoming primary election.
Incumbent Theo Stamos and challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti have spent differently when it comes to online advertising. Their campaigns have reached different populations as part of the hotly contested race for the county’s prosecutor office that’s been split by endorsements and support from lawyers.
Tafti spent $27,837 on six videos ads touting her recent endorsement by the Washington Post and attacking Stamos on Facebook and Instagram, including $20,414 spent by a political action committee funded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros. That number exceeds Stamo’s $9,745 in total spending this year on Facebook ads, including four video ads and several flyer-style ads touting her record in helping to lower the jail population and establishing a drug court diversion program, according to Facebook’s ad library.
“We’re running a local campaign without the assistance of any national group that might be relying on these types of metrics,” Stamos said of her lower spending, in an apparent reference to Tafti’s support from the Justice & Public Safety PAC.
“I’m hopeful that what is driving that interest is a desire to learn more about this campaign, what this office is about and why I’m the right person for the job,” Stamos added.
The ad with the highest overall impressions was one of Tafti’s. The ad criticizes the incumbent, claiming she charged children with a felony for putting soap in a teacher’s water in 1991 and that she opposed then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s approach to restoring voting rights to felons in 2016. This ad cost Tafti’s campaign between $1,000 and $5,000 to run, and has generated between 50,000 and 100,000 total impressions so far.
Other recent negative ads placed by the Justice & Public Safety PAC and authorized by Tafti have linked Stamos to national political issues, from abortion rights to voting rights.
Another difference between the candidates’ advertisements is not just how many people they reached, but who they reached.
Data from Facebook’s ad library indicates that viewers of Tafti’s campaign ads have overwhelmingly been women. Stamos, on the other hand, had several ads where the majority of viewers were male. A third of those viewing her digital flyer announcing Sheriff Beth Arthur’s endorsement were men ages 25-34.