County Board Chair Dorsey Kicks Off Re-Election Bid, Joining Cristol in Run for Another Term

County Board Chair Christian Dorsey is making a run for re-election, joining fellow Board member Katie Cristol in a bid for another four years in office.

Dorsey formally announced his bid at the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s monthly meeting last night (Wednesday), according to the group’s website. The county’s elections office also now lists Dorsey as a candidate for the Board, which has two seats on the ballot this fall.

Dorsey did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment, but he’s telegraphed a run for another term for several weeks now. He held a Super Bowl-themed fundraiser in early February, but held off on formally announcing until now. Cristol, who won office in 2015 alongside Dorsey, announced her re-election bid last month.

The pair won spots on the Board four years ago as relative political newcomers, triumphing in a crowded, six-way caucus to earn the Democratic nomination and then decisively winning in the general. Dorsey had run for county office before, but his background is mainly in work at D.C. think tanks.

Since joining the Board, Dorsey has taken a leading role on transit and housing issues, most notably serving on Metro’s Board of Directors. He rotated in for a one-year stint as chair back in January.

Dorsey and Cristol have since helped steer the Board through several tough budget years, as persistently high office vacancy rates have strained county coffers, and also been tasked with navigating the complexities of bringing Amazon to Arlington, and the resulting debate over the deal.

As of yet, however, no other Democrats have stepped forward to challenge the pair in a June 11 primary. Democratic Committee Chair Jill Caiazzo said that other candidates have until March 28 to file for the race, otherwise the party will call off the primary.

“I have not heard of anyone else seeking the Democratic nomination at this point, but there is still time,” she told ARLnow via email.

However, independent (and perennial candidate) Audrey Clement has already announced plans to run for the Board in the general election.

There’s broad speculation as well that recently ousted independent John Vihstadt could mount a comeback bid, after losing to Democrat Matt de Ferranti this fall.

In an off-off-year election, where only local offices and statehouse races will be on the ballot, Cristol and Dorsey could well face a taller task in fending off Vihstadt. De Ferranti was buoyed, in part, by a surge of Democratic voters, eager to send a message to national Republicans in the 2018 midterms.

State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) and Dels. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District), Rip Sullivan (D-48th District) and Mark Levine (D-45th District) also formally announced their re-election bids at last night’s meeting.

Favola and Lopez have drawn primary challengers so far; Sullivan and Levine are currently unopposed.

File photo

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National Progressive Group Launches Fundraising Effort to Support Challengers to Favola, Lopez

One of the country’s leading progressive activists and researchers is launching a new fundraising push for primary challengers to two Arlington lawmakers.

Sean McElwee, a co-founder of Data for Progress, announced yesterday (Wednesday) that his organization would be launching “The Progressive Virginia Project,” an effort to raise cash for four candidates in Virginia’s statehouse races this fall. Among the group set to benefit from the fundraising is Nicole Merlene, who is challenging state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) and J.D. Spain, who is looking to unseat Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District).

In a tweet describing the new program, McElwee wrote that his group is seeking to elect “progressives who are fighting for a Virginia where Dominion Energy doesn’t set the agenda.”

The utility company’s influence in Richmond has become an increasingly controversial issue for the state’s Democrats in recent years, with many (Lopez included) swearing off contributions from Dominion. The General Assembly helps regulate the company, convincing many lawmakers and activists that it’s inappropriate to then rely on Dominion’s largesse when election season rolls around.

https://twitter.com/SeanMcElwee/status/1103313125246414848

Any money taken in by the program will be divvied up among Merlene, Spain and two other candidates: Del. Lee Carter (D-50th District), the legislature’s lone Democratic socialist and a fierce Amazon opponent, and Yasmine Taeb, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35th District).

McElwee was previously a leading voice in supporting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s insurgent progressive candidacy in New York, and launched a similar initiative during the 2018 midterms to elect several other candidates in statehouse races across the country. In all, his group was able to raise more than $448,000 to support races in eight states.

Data for Progress wrote on the new fundraising page that it picked the four candidates not only for their opposition to Dominion, but their support for a “Green New Deal, universal healthcare and racial justice” in Virginia.

https://twitter.com/SeanMcElwee/status/1103315361582276608

Merlene, who up until recently held leadership positions with the Arlington County Civic Federation and the county’s Economic Development Commission, has framed her run against Favola as a chance for a new generation to take the reins in Richmond.

In addition to criticizing Favola’s acceptance of Dominion cash — she’s taken $9,500 from Dominion over the last eight years — Merlene has blasted her work as a lobbyist while also serving as a senator. Favola runs a lobbying and consulting firm representing influential local institutions like Virginia Hospital Center and Marymount University.

Spain has also sworn off corporate cash in his challenge to Lopez, but that doesn’t provide quite the same contrast between the candidates. Lopez has refused money from both Dominion and Amazon (though he has taken Dominion money in past years), and draws most of his campaign cash from progressive groups.

Spain, currently the president of Arlington’s NAACP, has focused his campaign thus far on providing fresh representation in Richmond, and beefing up support for affordable housing and schools in the South Arlington district. He has not, however, attacked Lopez over his much-discussed consulting work for an ICE contractor, which McElwee highlighted in his support for Spain. The activist has made calls to “Abolish ICE” a central part of his work, prompting a broader debate within the Democratic party about the agency’s role.

It remains to be seen, however, just how much traction either candidate has gained in their primary challenges thus far — statehouse candidates won’t report how much cash they’ve raised again until April 15. A June 11 primary will decide the intraparty contests.

Photo of Merlene, left, via Facebook

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Stamos Picks Up Endorsements From 50 Local Attorneys As She Fends Off Primary Challenge

(Updated at 2:50 p.m.) Arlington’s top prosecutor has won the endorsement of 50 local attorneys, a key feather in her cap as a former public defender mounts a primary challenge attacking her credentials as criminal justice reformer.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos (D) announced the news in an email to supporters yesterday (Thursday), writing that it’s “gratifying to know that I have earned the respect and endorsement of so many local defense attorneys.” She’s hoping to win her party’s nomination for a third term in office, in her first intraparty challenge since winning the job in 2011.

Parisa Tafti, who currently serves as the legal director for the nonprofit Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and has worked in D.C.’s public defender’s office, is hoping to oust Stamos for the job, arguing that she’s been insufficiently committed to reducing racial and economic inequities in the criminal justice system. Arlington’s public defenders have been similarly critical of Stamos on a variety of fronts in recent months.

But Stamos argues that this latest show of support from many of her nominal adversaries in the courtroom reflects well on her “record of competence, fairness and decency.”

“She has a well-earned reputation as someone who knows when to take a stand against violent and career criminals, but appreciates that incarceration isn’t the answer to people who make mistakes or suffer from illness or addiction,” the attorneys wrote. “While we may not always agree, Theo has always maintained an open-door policy, listens respectfully to opposing counsel and responds in a principled, thoughtful, and responsible way.”

Notable members of the group of lawyers endorsing Stamos include Denny Rucker of longtime Arlington firm Rucker & Rucker and Jim Korman, a decorated divorce lawyer from prominent Arlington firm Bean, Kinney & Korman.

Bruce Deming, who frequently represents local cyclists and pedestrians struck by vehicles, also joined the letter, as did Dave Albo, a former state delegate who practices as a DUI lawyer in Arlington.

Tafti has picked up some prominent endorsements of her own in recent months, including support from the progressive group Our Revolution Arlington and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The former governor has made a series of endorsements in local commonwealth’s attorney races recently, targeting prosecutors who opposed his efforts to restore voting rights to convicted felons, Stamos included.

Tafti has criticized Stamos over the issue in the early days of the campaign, in addition to charging that her efforts to reform the county’s cash bail system have been ineffective — lead public defender Brad Haywood agrees with her on that front. However, even though she worked in leadership roles for the county’s Democratic Committee, Tafti has yet to attack Stamos for her decision to twice cross party officials and endorse independent John Vihstadt in his runs for County Board.

Stamos recently offered a bit of a mea culpa for those endorsements to local Democrats, citing her long family ties with Vihstadt. She’s also defended her record as a prosecutor as one that balances the rights of victims and defendants, pointing to her decisions to not seek jail time for people convicted of their first marijuana-related offenses and to embrace diversion programs to keep people struggling with addiction or mental health issues out of jail.

Voters will decide the primary contest on June 11. Primaries are also shaping up in some of Arlington’s state legislative races, though only Katie Cristol has declared a run for re-election with two County Board slots on the ballot this fall.

Photo of Tafti, left, via Facebook

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After Backing Vihstadt, Stamos Looks to Mend Fences with County Democrats Ahead of Primary Contest

Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos has officially kicked off her bid for re-election, looking to rebuild bridges among her fellow Democrats after repeatedly endorsing independent John Vihstadt and drawing a primary challenger from her left flank.

Stamos emphasized that she’s “been a Democrat since I was holding up signs for Hubert Humphrey on the south side of Chicago” in a speech announcing her run for re-election last night (Wednesday) at the county Democratic committee’s monthly meeting.

The county’s top prosecutor has ruffled plenty of feathers among party leaders in recent years, becoming one of just three elected Democrats in Arlington to back Vihstadt’s independent bids for County Board.

And with Parisa Tafti (a former public defender who’s served in leadership roles for the local Democratic party) hoping to win the party’s nomination for the post this June, Stamos began her campaign on a bit of a conciliatory note. After all, the committee threatened to boot County Board member Libby Garvey out of the group over her support for Vihstadt, leading her to briefly resign instead.

Accordingly, Stamos primarily cited her long history with the entire Vihstadt family in explaining her support for the independent, who won a pair of elections in 2014 to become the first non-Democrat on the Board since 1999. Vihstadt lost his bid for re-election last year to Democrat Matt de Ferranti, returning the Board to one-party control.

Stamos regaled the audience with memories of relying on the Vihstadts, her neighbors for years, to look after her kids as they were growing up. She says her family and the Vihstadts still celebrate holidays together, making her backing of his candidacy as personal as it was political.

“Back in 2014, when John asked, and again last year, if I would support him, I wasn’t going to say to him, ‘You know, I’ll support you privately but I can’t do it publicly,'” Stamos said, according to a video of the event posted on the Democratic blog Blue Virginia. “I didn’t want to do that. And, as President [John F.] Kennedy once said, and it’s an important thing to remember, ‘Sometimes party loyalty asks too much.’ And my support for John was one of those times.”

However, Tafti has so far chosen to base her challenge to Stamos on policy disputes, rather than any party infighting. She claims that Stamos, who was first elected in 2011, has been insufficiently committed to reforming the county’s criminal justice system, and even exacerbated some of the system’s racial disparities.

“Safety is justice and justice is safety,” Tafti said Wednesday night in formally announcing her own campaign. “In Arlington, it is long past time that we start leading on this issue.”

Tafti, who recently won the backing of former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, has pledged not to seek the death penalty if she’s elected in Stamos’ stead, and to end the practice of requesting cash bail for all criminal defendants. Stamos has pledged to end cash bail for most defendants accused of misdemeanors, but both Tafti and other local public defenders believe that change doesn’t go far enough.

Tafti also took aim Wednesday at Stamos’ relationship with local legislators, arguing that they need “an honest partner who understands, even outside of campaign season, the need to support policies important to Democrats” in order to pass criminal justice reforms at the state level.

She specifically singled out Stamos’ comments to ARLnow back in June for criticism, after Stamos dismissed a letter by the state’s legislative delegation urging her to do away with cash bail entirely.

“When our delegation seeks my help to reform the bail system, I shall do so with an open mind, not dismiss the request as ‘silly’ and ‘misguided,'” Tafti said.

But Stamos also took some time to defend her record heading up the prosecutors’ office in her kickoff speech, claiming she’s “led our office on a set of values that any Democrat would support.”

“I’m proud to say that, as of last Friday night, the inmate population in the Arlington County jail is the lowest it’s been in the past five years, and that’s not by accident,” Stamos said. “It’s because of smart policing and smart prosecution, because of innovations that I’ve supported and championed.”

She also pointed to her decision to not seek jail time for people convicted of their first marijuana-related offenses as a move toward reform, and her embrace of diversion programs to keep people struggling with addiction or mental health issues out of jail.

“The core mission of our office will always remain the same: the principled prosecution of criminal defendants, the vigorous protection of victims’ rights and never losing track of the public’s and community’s safety,” Stamos said.

Local activist Nicole Merlene also formally announced her primary challenge to state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) at the meeting, while Treasurer Carla de la Pava proclaimed her own bid for a second full term in office.

Unlike Stamos, de la Pava did not address her support for Vihstadt in her speech. She has yet to draw a challenger this year, and has never run a contested race for the post — she was appointed to replace retiring treasurer Frank O’Leary, then won a special election and general election in consecutive years to retain her role.

School Board Chair Reid Goldstein also used the meeting as a chance to announce his bid for a second term, as he hopes to once more win the party’s endorsement for the nominally nonpartisan role.

Only one seat on the Board is up for grabs this year and Goldstein has yet to face any challengers in the race, though he has attracted some criticism for his handling of the controversial process of drawing new boundaries for eight South Arlington elementary schools last year.

Nevertheless, Goldstein used his speech as a chance to present the school system’s challenges as issues arising from the quality of county schools.

“These are tough issues, but we have to be in a situation where people aren’t eager to leave our schools,” Goldstein said.

The committee is set to select a Democratic School Board nominee in a caucus sometime in May or June. A June 11 primary will decide the other races on the ballot this year.

Photo via Facebook

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Arlington NAACP President Launches Primary Bid Against Lopez

The head of Arlington’s chapter of the NAACP is launching a primary challenge to Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District), a powerful member of Democratic leadership in Richmond who has attracted criticism from within his own party in recent months.

Julius “J.D.” Spain told ARLnow that he’s filed to run as a Democrat in the South Arlington district, in the hopes of providing people there “with an alternative to the status quo.”

Lopez, who also serves as Democratic co-whip in the House of Delegates, first won the seat back in 2011, replacing now-Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District). Lopez hasn’t faced a primary challenge since he won a contest with Stephanie Clifford for the chance to run for the seat in the first place.

“No incumbent is entitled to stay in office forever,” Spain said. “And I believe I can sharply draw a contrast with some of what Alfonso has done, or hasn’t done, over the years and bring a fresh new face to the field, to the party.”

Spain is a 26-year Marine Corps veteran who has been active in Arlington’s civic institutions for years now. He’s served on the county’s Civil Service Commission since 2014, and worked in leadership roles in Nauck’s Masonic Lodge 58.

Spain adds that he’s been active with the NAACP for roughly two decades, and was elected as the group’s president just last fall. He’s also served as a precinct captain for the county’s Democratic committee, and describes himself as “a hard-core Democrat,” though this is his first bid for elected office.

He declined to offer specific critiques of Lopez’s record, only saying that he would lay out “temperate, discrete and pointed” rebuttals over the course of the campaign.

Other Democrats have not been nearly so reticent to criticize Lopez, however — Lopez has reported working in the past for a private company that runs an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Central Virginia, sparking all manner of protests over the past year. Lopez has since worked to defuse concerns over those ties by meeting with activists to explain his support for immigrant rights, particularly given his status as one of just a handful of Latino legislators in the General Assembly.

For his part, Lopez says he plans to run for a fifth term on the strength of his “record of fighting hard for our progressive values in Richmond,” citing his work on housing affordability, environmental issues, the Medicaid expansion and Metro funding.

“As the son of an undocumented immigrant, I grew up seeing discrimination firsthand and made it my mission in life to seek justice for all,” Lopez wrote in an email. “I will continue fighting every day to build a Virginia where we lift everyone up and leave no one behind. I look forward to a substantive conversation about how we can best serve the people of the 49th District in Richmond and in our community.”

Meanwhile, Spain says the primary focus of his run against Lopez will be on issues like housing affordability in South Arlington, a key concern for the community as Amazon moves in nearby, and the achievement gap between white students and students of color in Arlington schools.

He also hopes to “represent the people, and not just the people who have money,” and says he won’t accept any donations from corporations over the course of his campaign.

“I’m not taking any contributions from any corporations, or any businesses that infringe on the rights of those less fortunate or those that harm the environment,” Spain said. “I’m not a deep-pocketed politician with a lot of ties. I’m just your average American citizen, and that’s who I want to represent.”

The issue of corporate money in Virginia politics has become a particularly potent one among Democratic candidates for office in recent months, with many swearing off money from state-regulated utilities like Dominion Energy, in particular. Lopez himself has pledged to refuse money from Dominion, though he has taken cash from corporations — Gov. Ralph Northam is backing a ban on corporate campaign donations in this year’s legislative session, though Republicans have shown little interest in advancing such a bill.

Accordingly, Spain is hoping to run a “grassroots” campaign, though he says he’s still getting organized a bit. He hopes to make a formal announcement at a county Democratic committee meeting next month, then ramp up the campaign from there.

A June 11 primary will decide all races between local Democrats. All 140 state legislators are set to face voters this November.

Local activist Nicole Merlene has also launched a primary challenge to state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District), while Parisa Tafti is running against Democratic Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos.

Photo via Facebook

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Activist Launches Challenge to Favola, Arguing Senator Has Been ‘Just Another Democratic Vote’

Nicole Merlene, an active young member of many of Arlington’s civic institutions, is launching a primary challenge against state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District).

Merlene announced her campaign today (Thursday), arguing that Favola lacks bold leadership to address the pressing problems confronting the district, which runs from Arlington through Fairfax County and into Loudoun.

The move kicks off the first Democratic challenge to one of the county’s sitting state lawmakers, as all 140 delegates and senators in the General Assembly prepare to face voters once more this fall. Favola, a former County Board member herself, hasn’t faced a primary since winning a nominating contest for the chance to succeed Mary Margaret Whipple back in 2011.

Merlene works as a policy director for a D.C.-based trade association, but has become well-known among Arlington officials for her time in leadership roles on everything from the Arlington County Civic Federation to the Arlington Young Democrats to the county’s Economic Development Commission. She argues that she has enough experience to mount her first bid for elected office, without any of the baggage that comes with an entrenched politician like Favola.

“If we want to keep electing people to make easy Democratic decisions, that’s fine, we can elect anyone to do that,” Merlene told ARLnow. “But if we continue to wait until the same cohort of people retires to take action, it will be too late.”

Merlene says she’s launching the intraparty challenge to take “bold action” on Northern Virginia’s transportation challenges, housing affordability woes and environmental issues, in particular. But Favola believes she stands on a “strong record of accomplishment” in asking voters for a third term in Richmond.

Favola said she has yet to officially launch her re-election bid, but has begun telling supporters that she’ll be seeking another four years as senator. She pointed to the more than 40 bills she’s managed to pass with Republican support as evidence that she’s been an effective advocate in her time in office.

“Passing legislation in Richmond requires building strong relationships and bringing a respected base of knowledge to the issues,” Favola wrote in an email. “My service on the Arlington County Board for 14 years prior to serving as a senator has been an invaluable asset in guiding policy discussions in Richmond… I am proud to say that I have earned a voice at the table and look forward to continuing to serve the constituents of the 31st Senate district.”

The flip side of that experience, Merlene argues, is that Favola has been bogged down by a business-as-usual attitude that marks many longtime elected officials. Merlene hopes to run as someone “unencumbered by special interests,” and hopes to push for contribution limits for state lawmakers and a ban on contributions from state-regulated utility companies like Dominion Energy.

Merlene says she won’t accept contributions from Dominion over the course of her campaign, joining a growing chorus among Virginia Democrats that candidates should refuse cash from utility companies. Favola, by contrast, has accepted $9,500 from Dominion over the last eight years.

But Merlene is more perturbed by state laws allowing elected officials to serve as lobbyists, another change she’d like to make in Richmond. In her time in Arlington civic life, she can recall several occasions where her organizations were lobbied by their very own state lawmakers, which she finds frustrating — Favola runs a lobbying and consulting firm representing influential local institutions like Virginia Hospital Center and Marymount University.

“Conflicts of interest are something that encumber your general decision-making process in being able to be an effective leader,” Merlene said.

Like Favola, Merlene favors “committing new funds [for Metro], not just shifting them around,” in a shot at the structure of the deal to provide dedicated funding for the transit system passed last year. Gov. Ralph Northam and his fellow Democrats favored using tax increases to fund Metro, rather than pulling away other transportation dollars, but Republicans scuttled that proposal.

Merlene is also urging a renewed focus on housing issues, like finding more state funding for affordable developments and strengthening renters’ rights. Additionally, she supports the decriminalization of marijuana and a reform of some of the state’s liquor laws.

She’ll have an uphill battle in unseating an incumbent with deep roots in the community like Favola, but Merlene points to her own long history growing up in Arlington as evidence that she can succeed in this bid.

“I bleed this region’s happiness, its pride and its difficulties,” Merlene said. “And I don’t want to just be another Democratic vote, but someone who’s truly in tune with their community.”

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Arlington’s Top Prosecutor Draws Primary Challenger, Kicking Off Battle Over Criminal Justice Reforms

(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Now that Arlington’s top prosecutor has drawn a primary challenger, the stage is set for a battle next year over many of the criminal justice issues that have electrified traditionally sleepy races across the country.

Parisa Dehghani-Tafti announced Monday (Dec. 10) that she plans to challenge Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos (D) in 2019, arguing that she’d rely on her background as a defense attorney to bring a series of reforms to the office. Stamos was first elected in 2011 and has served as a prosecutor in the county since 1987, experience that Dehghani-Tafti claims has blinded Stamos to the criminal justice system’s flaws.

“Perhaps nothing exemplifies the current [commonwealth’s attorney’s] unsuitability to lead meaningful reform than the fact that she has publicly denied that mass incarceration even exists and has argued that the system is working perfectly,” Dehghani-Tafti wrote in a Facebook post announcing her candidacy. “I want to dismantle the mass incarceration machine and replace it with policies that pursue justice, increase accountability, prevent crime, prioritize serious crimes and protect civil rights.”

Dehghani-Tafti’s arguments are similar to those advanced by a variety of other defense attorneys who have begun challenging incumbent prosecutors across the country. Former public defenders and civil rights attorneys like Larry Krasner in Philadelphia have been swept into office by promising substantial reforms to the system, claiming that prosecutors have the discretion to cut back on the number of people sent to prison for low-level offenses.

“We can no longer hope for reform from the very same lifelong prosecutors who’ve spent their careers building this flawed machine,” Dehghani-Tafti wrote.

But Stamos argues that Dehghani-Tafti’s critiques of her record are mistaken, accusing her of discussing issues applicable to “Baltimore, Chicago, Baton Rouge, or Los Angeles,” not Arlington. Though she has yet to formally announce her bid for re-election, she seems ready to vigorously defend her seven years in office.

“Not only do I not support mass incarceration, I know no prosecutor who does,” Stamos wrote in a statement to ARLnow. “Every person who is prosecuted by my office is an individual with a name, a family and a story to tell and a crime they have committed for which they are held accountable. I have never once lost sight of the humanity of any defendant prosecuted by my office. Is the criminal justice system perfect? Absolutely not, and I’ve worked for years and spoken out in support of many reforms.”

In fact, Stamos claims she’s been a “statewide leader” in criminal justice reform efforts in Virginia. She points to her support for a bill to raise the felony larceny threshold as one example — before the General Assembly passed reforms this year, anyone accused of stealing an item worth $200 or more could be charged with a felony — and her work to lessen penalties for people convicted of their first marijuana-related offenses as another.

Yet Dehghani-Tafti, who currently serves as the legal director for the nonprofit Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and has worked in D.C.’s public defender’s office, believes that Stamos’ attempts at reform haven’t gone far enough. Namely, she points to Stamos’ opposition to former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s push to restore voting rights to felons who completed their prison sentences as one troubling stance, and argues that Stamos has “opposed real bail reform.”

Stamos has taken some heat on the latter issue in the past, after she refused calls from a coalition of state lawmakers to stop requesting cash bail for criminal defendants. She subsequently agreed to end cash bail for people accused of most low-level misdemeanors, but even that step drew criticism from local public defenders for being “so limited as to be meaningless.”

“It’s not reform if it doesn’t change anything, and it doesn’t seem to me that she’s actually changing much of anything,” Dehghani-Tafti told ARLnow. “And getting rid of cash bail and coming up with alternatives will take a lot of work, and no one size fits all, but it’s not something that gets done in a press release.”

In general, Stamos has grounded her resistance to more comprehensive bail reforms in her concern that, without a cash bond in place, defendants won’t appear for court dates, therefore wasting the time of victims and witnesses alike. Stamos highlighted her “vigorous protection of victims’ rights” as a key part of her response to Dehghani-Tafti’s announcement, arguing that her newfound challenger fundamentally misunderstands the prosecutor’s role.

“It’s interesting that she describes herself as an “innocence protection attorney,” as that is what I’ve been engaged in for more than 30 years — protecting innocent victims from the hell of intimate partner violence, giving voice to the innocent victims whose loved one has been brutally murdered, or providing protection to the innocent elderly couple whose life savings became easy prey for the greedy and the unscrupulous,” Stamos wrote. “It’s striking that the word ‘victim’ is not mentioned once in Ms. Tafti’s announcement.”

But Dehghani-Tafti accused Stamos of creating a “false choice between protecting defendants’ rights and protecting victims” with such a focus.

“It’s a classic fear tactic, that’s, frankly, straight out of Trump’s playbook,” Dehghani-Tafti  said. “I think we can have a justice system that honors victims of crime and provides just outcomes for the whole community. They’re not mutually exclusive.”

Notably, Dehghani-Tafti’s post also did not touch on Stamos’ support for County Board member John Vihstadt in all three of his independent bids for office — Stamos is one of just three Democratic officeholders in the county to support his candidacy over the years, ruffling a few feathers among party leaders. Dehghani-Tafti, by contrast, has served as the county Democratic Committee’s lead spokeswoman as its press and public relations chair.

However, she said Stamos’ support for Vihstadt had “zero influence on my decision to run.”

“If she had a record that I believed in, I wouldn’t be running,” Dehghani-Tafti said. “I’d be supporting her wholeheartedly.”

A June 11 primary will decide the Democratic nomination in the race, and quite likely its ultimate winner as well — Stamos has run unopposed in both of her general election contests, thus far.

Photo of Dehghani-Tafti, left, via Facebook

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De Ferranti Captures Democratic Nod for County Board

Matt de Ferranti has won the Democratic primary for Arlington County Board and will face incumbent John Vihstadt in the November general election.

De Ferranti captured about 61 percent of the vote, to 39 percent for Chanda Choun, a relative newcomer to civic life in Arlington.

A lawyer and advocate for Native American education, de Ferranti has sat on a variety of commissions and volunteered for local Democrats since moving to Arlington five years ago.

Between the Democratic County Board primary and the three-way Republican U.S. Senate primary, in which Corey Stewart emerged victorious, overall voter turnout in Arlington was light — just over 10 percent.

https://twitter.com/ArlingtonVotes/status/1006690893963956224

The Arlington County Democratic Committee congratulated de Ferranti, calling him a “terrific addition to this solutions-oriented ticket.” More from an ACDC press release:

Arlington Democrats congratulate the Democratic Nominees across Virginia, and in particular, Matt de Ferranti for becoming the Democratic Nominee for Arlington County Board. Arlington Democrats came out to vote today because we clearly recognize that the best way to maintain the momentum of progressive change and blunt the Trump administration chaos is to keep voting!

Now that the voters have chosen the Democratic nominee for the County Board seat, Arlington Democrats are ready to work hard to elect the entire Democratic ticket, which also includes Tim Kaine for U.S. Senate, Don Beyer for the U.S. House of Representatives, and Barbara Kanninen for the Arlington School Board. These progressive leaders have delivered for Arlington, and they deserve reelection. Matt de Ferranti is a terrific addition to this solutions-oriented ticket.

Jill Caiazzo, Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, expressed, “We thank both Matt de Ferranti and Chanda Choun for conducting a positive, issue-oriented and energetic primary. We are excited to have Matt on the ballot because he will move Arlington forward by maintaining our excellent schools, addressing housing affordability, improving our transportation system, and stimulating a strong economy for all.”

Caiazzo further noted: “Flipping Virginia Blue this year begins in our own backyard with this important County Board seat.” Since 15 elected seats were flipped blue in Virginia last year, Democrats have succeeded in expanding Medicare for 400,000 Virginians, even without a majority in either the House of Delegates or the Senate. Flipping the County Board seat blue will help Arlington make even more progress on issues that make a difference for all residents.

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Morning Notes

Primary Voting Underway — It’s an election day in Virginia. On the ballot in Arlington is the Democratic race for County Board, between Chanda Choun and Matt de Ferranti, and the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, with candidates Corey Stewart, Nick Freitas and E. W. Jackson. Voting will continue through 7 p.m. [Twitter]

Post-Parade Party in Courthouse — Those heading to the Capitals Stanley Cup victory parade downtown today can head on back to Arlington for an afterparty at Arlington Rooftop Bar & Grill, hosted by the Caps blog Russian Machine Never Breaks. The event starts at 3 p.m. [RMNB]

Final Issue of ‘The Citizen’ — Arlington County’s “The Citizen” newsletter is publishing its last issue this week. The county-run publication is ceasing its print issues due to budget cuts. The move was lamented by the Sun Gazette, which wrote that The Citizen provided “information that, most likely, many local residents will now not get, despite the government’s plethora of online-centric public-relations efforts.” [InsideNova]

Clement: Strip Washington from W-L Too — Independent Arlington School Board candidate Audrey Clement says it is “hypocrisy in the extreme” for the “Lee” in “Washington-Lee High School” to be removed without also removing “Washington.” Wrote Clement: “Had not George Washington, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson — all Virginia native sons and all slave holders — greased the skids of institutionalized slavery by agreeing to write it into the U.S. Constitution, Lee would not have taken up arms against his own nation.” [Audrey Clement]

Apartment Building to Get Free Broadband — “Arlington’s Digital Inclusion Initiative, announced in December 2017, will leverage the County’s fiber-optic network, ConnectArlington, to bring free broadband Internet access to low- and moderate-income households in Arlington, including those with school-age children. Arlington Mill Residences, a low- and moderate-income residential development, will serve as the demonstration project for the initiative.” [Arlington County]

Paving on Lorcom Lane — Crews are paving Lorcom Lane between N. Fillmore and Daniel streets today. [Twitter]

Nearby: Second Northside Social Opens — The new Falls Church outpost of Clarendon cafe Northside Social has opened in the Little City. “The business itself will offer a menu similar to its Clarendon location, but a basement that allows for a commercial-sized bakery and chef Matt Hill’s creative inklings will provide new lunch and dinner options.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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Morning Notes

Action Coming on Child Care Initiative — “When it comes to addressing issues related to child care, “this is a year we’re looking to see some concrete action,” [Arlington County Board Chair Katie] Cristol said during a May 30 meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Arlington.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Ridge Closures Continue — Daytime work will continue today on a collapsed 18-inch stormwater pipe, necessitating the daily closure of Arlington Ridge Road between Glebe Road and 23rd Street S. Rain and a leaking water main break slowed crews down last week. [Twitter]

County Board Primary Update — “The two candidates competing in the June 12 primary for the Arlington County Board are what voters might expect of a Democrat in the affluent, educated, rapidly urbanizing enclave — highly prepared, willing to get into the details of local issues and claiming fealty to the county’s tradition of careful, long-term planning.” [Washington Post]

GW Parkway Bridge Work Next Week — Work to repair a bridge carrying the GW Parkway over Windy Run in Arlington is scheduled to begin next week. The work will result in lane closures that could snarl traffic, especially when more impactful repairs start — likely in late July. [WTOP, InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Morning Notes

Democratic County Board Field at Two — Military veteran Chanda Choun was the only candidate for County Board to announce his candidacy at the Arlington County Democratic Committee last night. Choun joins fellow Democrat Matt de Ferranti in the race to challenge incumbent John Vihstadt. A primary will be held June 12, ahead of the general election contest against Vihstadt in November. [InsideNova]

Affordable Housing Stats for FY 2017 — “Arlington County added or preserved 556 affordable housing units for low- and moderate-income households during its 2017 fiscal year, bringing the Countywide total to more than 7,700 units.” [Arlington County]

Government Shuts Down Briefly — The government was shut down overnight as Congress failed to pass a bipartisan budget bill until around 5:30 a.m. [Politico]

HERricane Applications Accepted — Applications are being accepted in February for Arlington County’s HERricane program, which helps girls ages 13-17 to pursue careers and leadership roles in emergency management through a week-long summer camp. [Arlington County]

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Another Democrat Enters County Board Race

This year’s Arlington County Board race has a new entrant: Chanda Choun.

Choun, who lives in the Buckingham neighborhood, announced his candidacy this morning with a press release on his website.

Highlighting his background as a Cambodian refugee, an Army veteran and a cybersecurity professional, Choun says he wants to be “a new face for Arlington and a different voice at the table for good jobs, affordable housing, fast transportation, strong schools, security and safety, and service to the community.”

Though he was not born here, Choun says Arlington is “the love of my life.”

“I will get married in Arlington. My children will run through the parks of Arlington. I will die in Arlington and be buried in Arlington National Cemetery,” he wrote on this website.

Choun will face Matt de Ferranti, and any other Democrat who enters the race, in June’s Democratic primary. The winner of that contest will challenge incumbent Board member John Vihstadt, who is running as an independent, in the November general election.

More about Choun from his press release:

Chanda Choun (pronounced CHAHN-duh CHOON), a resident of the Buckingham neighborhood of Arlington County, filed his campaign committee Statement of Organization and unveiled his campaign website in February, making public his run for the Arlington County Board in 2018.

Choun declared that he wants to “Make Arlington the North Star of Virginia.”

“I am running for the Arlington County Board this 2018 because there is no immigrant, military veteran, or technology professional in our local government leadership today. I want to be a new face for Arlington and a different voice at the table for good jobs, affordable housing, fast transportation, strong schools, security and safety, and service to the community; a 21st century approach in a rapidly changing world, but still holding on to the values that made our community great.”

Chanda Choun lives in the historic, diverse Buckingham neighborhood of Arlington County, Virginia near the Ballston Metro Station and works as a senior business manager and engineering leader for a cybersecurity software company headquartered in Dallas, Texas. He is also a part-time Army Reserve soldier occasionally on duty with the United States Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Maryland. His community involvement includes being Vice President of the Buckingham Community Civic Association, Delegate to the Arlington County Civic Federation, Lifetime Member of the John Lyon Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3150, Parishioner of St. George’s Episcopal Church of Arlington, and previous Executive Board Member of the Arlington Young Democrats.

“Every day I wake up and ask myself: ‘How do I make us happier, healthier, and wealthier?’ I run to serve the County. I run to serve the Commonwealth. I run to serve the Country.”

Choun will make his first public remarks as a candidate at 7:00pm on Wednesday, February 7th at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting, held at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (4301 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22203). The Democratic Primary Election is scheduled for June 12th.

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Dems Select Primary for County Board Race as Kanninen Announces Reelection Bid

Shortly after electing Jill Caiazzo as its new chair, the Arlington County Democratic Committee selected a County Board primary for 2018.

Last year, the race to select a Democratic nominee to replace retiring County Board member Jay Fisette was determined by a caucus. In an op-ed last month, Caiazzo said she preferred a primary this year as it encourages more voter participation, while a caucus “is seen by many as rigged in favor of the Democratic establishment.”

Arlington Democrats “voted unanimously to choose this year’s County Board nominee via primary election rather than a caucus in order to achieve greater participation,” according to a press release.

The winner of this year’s Democratic primary is expected to face independent Board member John Vihstadt in the general election.

Also at last night’s ACDC meeting, School Board member Barbara Kanninen announced her reelection bid.

From a press release:

In her remarks, Kanninen pointed to a number of accomplishments during her tenure on the School Board over the past four years. “We’ve worked to support the whole child, to ensure that every child in our schools is healthy, safe, supported, challenged, and engaged,” she said. She highlighted increases in academic, social, and emotional assistance; supports for immigrant and LGBTQ students; expansion of STEM programs and career and technical education; and the launch of a strategic planning process to carry Arlington public schools into the 21st century.

“We’ve done so much together,” Kanninen said, “but there is still more to do. I’m running for re-election to continue building up the whole child, I’m running to support the voices of our teachers and staff, and I’m running to support our growth and build a stronger, more responsive school system.”

First elected to the School Board in 2014, Kanninen is an environmental economist, children’s book author, and community activist. In 2017, Washingtonian magazine named her one of the Most Powerful Women in Washington–the only elected official in Arlington and the only school board member in the DC metro area named to the magazine’s list. As a member of the school board, she was awarded the 2015 AGLA Equality Award and the Public Outreach and Engagement Award from the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association. Kanninen and her husband have lived in Arlington for 25 years and have two sons who were both K-12 Arlington Public Schools students.

In her speech to the assembled partisans, Caiazzo encouraged local Democrats to avoid complacency and continue fighting for progress.

“The Trump era represents a pivotal moment for the Democratic Party,” she said. “With progressive policies under attack daily, we have much to fight against — but we also must demonstrate that we have a positive, solutions-oriented vision that is worth fighting for. The dynamic and talented members of the Arlington Democrats are ready to meet this challenge.”

Photos by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

FBI Seeking Man Who Touched Girl at Cemetery — The FBI’s Washington Field Office is searching for a man who “inappropriately touched a girl as the two stood in a crowd during a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.” [NBC Washington]

Task Force Recommends ‘Fleet Elementary’ — The task force charged with recommending a name for the new elementary school being built next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School has settled its choice: “Alice West Fleet Elementary.” Fleet was the first African-American reading teacher in Arlington’s public school system. The task force did not recommend transferring the name of Patrick Henry, a slave owner, from the current school, which will be transferring its students to new new school when it is complete. [InsideNova]

Bicyclist Group Calls Out Biking Bullies — In a blog post, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association is calling out aggressive male riders who yelled insults at a female bike commuter on two separate occasions on the Mt. Vernon Trail. “This sort of behavior is totally unacceptable,” the group said. [WABA]

Mt. Vernon Trail Upgrade Complete — The National Park Service has completed an upgrade to a portion of the Mt. Vernon Trail that runs through the Theodore Roosevelt Island parking lot. The upgrade includes a new crossing and speed table across the parking lot and the widening of the trail. [Greater Greater Washington]

Arlington Sells Bonds at Low Interest Rate — Arlington County solds $185 million in bonds at a relatively low 2.5 percent interest rate. “The interest rate we received today is one of the lowest we’ve ever received,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a press release. “However, it is slightly higher than the rate we received last year.” [Arlington County]

Tight Race in Va. Gov. Primary — The two candidates battling it out in the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary are in the midst of a tight race. The race between Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello is being portrayed as a contest between an establishment figure (Northam) and a progressive darling (Perriello). Primary voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, June 13. [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Gutshall Touts Slew of Endorsements From Local Elected Officials

(Updated at 6:45 p.m.) With two weeks to go until the start of the local Democratic party’s caucus for its County Board nominee, Erik Gutshall leads the way in fundraising and endorsements from elected officials.

Gutshall is one of four candidates for the nomination in early May’s caucus, and has racked up backings from current and former County Board members as well as General Assembly representatives.

Throwing their support behind Gutshall are current Democratic Dels. Alfonso Lopez and Rip Sullivan, as well as state Sen. Barbara Favola (D).

Favola is one of several former County Board members to support Gutshall, alongside Mary Hynes, Chris Zimmerman, John Milliken, Mary Margaret Whipple and Joe Wholey. Former School Board members Elaine Furlow, Ed Fendley, Margaret Lampe, Michael Timpane and Richard Barton endorsed Gutshall, as well as numerous former members and chairs of the planning commission.

Retiring Board chair Jay Fisette endorsed Gutshall shortly after he announced his candidacy on March 1. Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson has also endorsed Gutshall, a small business owner who came up short in his primary challenge to Libby Garvey last year.

“Erik Gutshall has the experience, passion, and progressive values that Arlingtonians deserve from their County Board members,” said Lopez in a statement. “Erik’s extensive experience in transportation, planning and entrepreneurship will bring a unique voice to the County Board, and I trust Erik to fight every day for all Arlingtonians.”

At a candidate forum last week, Gutshall rejected the notion that these endorsements mean he is a so-called “party insider.”

Gutshall also has a fundraising advantage. As of the last filing deadline for declaring donations, Gutshall had raised $22,513, with $13,700 left in hand.

Of the other candidates, Vivek Patil has raised $20,320 and Kim Klingler has raised $14,352. Peter Fallon reported $51,129 in contributions, but that included $41,100 in “in-kind” contributions from himself. And ahead of November’s general election, independent Audrey Clement has raised $17,517.

But other candidates have racked up the endorsements too. Patil’s candidacy received an early boost with the backing of County Board vice chair Katie Cristol, who praised his innovative approach.

“We need a perspective like Vivek’s at the table: creative, open-minded and optimistic, with deep experience in the innovation economy and a real dedication to Arlington’s traditions of community engagement,” Cristol said in a statement at the time.

Meanwhile, Fallon picked up the early endorsement of School Board vice chair Barbara Kanninen, who introduced him when he formally announced his candidacy at this month’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting.

And Kim Klingler’s website touts a long list of endorsements from local activists and business leaders, as well as Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy and IAFF Local 2800, the county’s firefighter and paramedic union.

“The rapidly growing landscape of Arlington County requires a leader who understands the need for the best trained and fairly compensated first responders to provide a safe environment for the residents and visitors of Arlington County,” the organization wrote in a statement. “Kim Klingler has pledged her support of these vital issues as well as the ‘live where you work’ program which assists Arlington County public servants to establish long-term residence within Arlington County.”

The candidates will face off in a forum Wednesday hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce at Synetic Theater, then again on May 3 at ACDC’s monthly meeting. The caucus is set for May 9, 11 and 13 at Key Elementary, Drew Model School and Washington-Lee High School, respectively.

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