Arlington, VA

(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.

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.

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.

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Throughout her Democratic primary campaign for commonwealth’s attorney, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti pledged to stop the prosecution of simple marijuana possession cases.

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?

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(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.

“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.”

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(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.

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.

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Last week, we asked the two Democratic candidates in the Commonwealth’s Attorney race to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them in the June 11 primary.

Here is the unedited response from Theo Stamos:

By now, you know the issues in this election. Rather than rehash them, it is important for you to know who I am, my leadership in the legal community, why Arlington is so important to me, and why I deserve your vote for Commonwealth’s Attorney.

I am from the South Side of Chicago. After graduating from Northern Illinois University, I moved here to work in the Senate for a Democrat from Illinois, then worked full-time as a reporter while attending night school at American University Law School. In 1987, I started as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney and have been proud to work for this community for over 30 years.

Soon after I started, I saw firsthand how Offender Aid and Restoration works closely with the courts, the jail, defense attorneys, prosecutors and the community to help offenders lead productive, responsible lives. I joined the Board to be a part of this important, collaborative work. Through OAR, I got involved with Encore Learning, becoming a member of its Advisory Council and a lecturer on criminal justice issues. Even back then, I was talking about criminal justice reform, educating our citizens on what our system looks like and how it can be improved. I am also a proud graduate of Leadership Arlington, cementing my firm belief that true leadership includes learning from those around you. My roots in this work are deep because I started so many years ago, forging relationships both within our legal system and the wider community.

The strength of these relationships is what fosters meaningful improvements of the criminal justice system.  Lasting change is done deliberatively, thoughtfully and most importantly, collaboratively. That’s why I am a member of the Steering Committee of Virginia’s Criminal Justice Conference, a statewide organization that brings together prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, legislators, and academics. We bring everyone to the table to work towards our common goal – a system that is fair and equitable for everyone. I helped create the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys Committee on Justice and Professionalism. Finally, I was honored to be inducted into the Virginia Law Foundation. That award only goes to attorneys who are leaders in both the legal profession and their communities who are “committed to the highest ideals of the law.”

My work is not only at both the local and state levels, but also on the national level. I serve on the Board of Directors of the Prosecutors’ Center for Excellence, focusing on improving criminal justice and on developing best practices in prosecution.

Legal ethics and professionalism are the cornerstone of our work. As a member of the Virginia State Bar’s professionalism faculty, I have taught young lawyers–and reminded old ones–that our most important assets are our credibility and our integrity. Two principles that should always guide us, lawyers and non-lawyers alike, are do the right thing, and always tell the truth.

While I worked in the office, I was raising my two boys with my husband, Craig. I had a bird’s eye view of the myriad ways lives can go off track with one poor decision. That motivated me to work with parents and young people to help them try to avoid dangers like substance abuse, and drunk driving. I became the Chair of the Family Network at both Swanson Middle School and Yorktown High School, providing a forum for these conversations. I convened a Town Hall to foster a dialogue between parents and our schools about the opioid crisis.

I am a proud Democrat and have been active in Democratic politics here for decades, knocking doors for other candidates, stuffing envelopes for Dollars for Democrats, and delivering the Messenger. I have always voted in general elections, Democratic primaries, and Democratic School Board caucuses.

My campaign is a grass roots campaign, run and funded here. I have spent many years earning the trust of our citizens through old fashioned hard work and heart. I love this community. I have worked to improve the criminal justice system so that it works for everyone – victims and defendants. I’ve lived my personal and professional life guided by principles of service to others, integrity, fairness, and equity.

This election is about Arlington, not any other community. No doubt that we have challenges and can do better. We are a criminal justice success story with much to be proud of, but with more work to do. I have the experience, the relationships and the integrity to continue that work. I ask for your vote on Election Day.

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Morning Notes

Arlington Tech Company Acquired — Silicon Valley cybersecurity firm Imperva has acquired Arlington-based bot mitigation startup Distil Networks. [TechCrunch, Imperva]

Permits Filed for B&E’s on Lee — Bob and Edith’s Diner finally applied for construction permits last month for its planned but delayed Lee Highway location. [Arlington Economic Development]

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]

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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.

In the meantime, defense attorneys have to sign agreements not to share their notes or dictations from misdemeanor or felony discovery files.

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.

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(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.

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(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.

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Morning Notes

Extra Brush Pickups in Arlington — “Because of recent weather events, the County has added extra brush pickups this week. Schedule a collection online.” [Twitter]

Clement Endorses Stamos — “Arlington County Board candidate Audrey Clement won’t be on the ballot until November, but she has weighed in with a ringing endorsement of incumbent Theo Stamos in the June 11 Democratic primary for commonwealth’s attorney.” [InsideNova]

Deep Pothole in Ballston — Beware of “a small — but deep — pothole at the intersection of Wilson and Randolph in Ballston.” [Twitter]

Arlington Man Wins Big Lottery Prize — “An Arlington man is now $100,000 richer after buying a Virginia Lottery ticket at a local convenience store. Robert Hilleary, a produce clerk, purchased two 10X The Money tickets at Glebe Market located at 300 N. Glebe Road.” [Patch]

Best Business Award Winners — Last week the Arlington Chamber of Commerce recognized the 2019 winners of its Arlington Best Business Awards: Dalton Digital, Pentagon Mixed Martial Arts, Bayou Bakery, Hungry Marketplace, Signature Theatre and Arlington Community Federal Credit Union. [Arlington Chamber]

Ode to Arlington’s Environmental Assessment Process — “Regulation 4.4 establishes an admirable ideal — a careful and highly-public process to ensure that civic projects are designed to identify and mitigate potential adverse environmental effects.  Though under-resourced, unevenly applied, and frequently honored only in the breach, the Regulation does reinforce and flesh out Arlington’s long commitment to both environmental sustainability and project planning.” [Blue Virginia]

Starr Hill Comes to DCA — Virginia’s Starr Hill Brewery has opened a new bar at Reagan National Airport, replacing the former Sam & Harry’s. The bar is located “near the Terminal C checkpoint pre-security.” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

I enthusiastically support incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos for the Democratic nomination in the June 11 primary.

What is the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s role?

Unlike Virginia State Senators or Delegates who make Virginia laws and policies, Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorneys must operate within the complex framework of hundreds of criminal laws and policies established in Richmond.

Under Virginia’s Constitution, our Commonwealth’s Attorney is the chief criminal trial attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, responsible for prosecuting a full range of criminal cases, ranging from driving under the influence to murder. The office has 17 attorneys, 11 support staff and 7 victim/witness specialists who work daily preparing and prosecuting cases.

How is our criminal justice system working?

Arlington is a public safety success story. Crime rates have been brought to record lows. And, we’ve reduced crime without filling up the Arlington County Detention Center (our jail). In Sheriff Beth Arthur’s recent endorsement of Stamos, Arthur notes that the Arlington jail has “an all-time-low population averaging 370 inmates a day.” Arlington also has diversionary programs that benefit drug addicts, the mentally ill and juveniles.

Why Theo Stamos is the best choice for Arlington

As the County’s top prosecutor, Stamos has a deep understanding of Virginia law and a wealth of local criminal trial experience. Our Commonwealth’s Attorney must appear in court nearly every day, where experience and institutional knowledge are key. When not in court, Stamos spends much of her day monitoring, advising and mentoring her line prosecutors on the many felony and other cases they handle.

Theo Stamos has already proven herself up to the task. She has literally tried every type of criminal case and has overseen the Arlington/Falls Church Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the past 8 years. An active member of the Arlington County Bar Association, the statewide Virginia State Bar Council, and committees on best practices for prosecutors, Stamos is also active in our community — a member of Arlington’s NAACP branch and a member of Organized Women Voters.

As our top prosecutor, Stamos reflects Arlington’s core community values. She is decent, honest, engaged, independent, and fair. As someone who has known and worked with Theo Stamos for many years, I can attest that she embodies all these qualities, including a dash of humor, humility, and humanity.

Criminal defense attorney David Deane (Stamos’s opponent in the 2011 Democratic primary for Commonwealth’s Attorney) recently published a letter of support:

My law practice takes me to many jurisdictions; her open-door policy is something other offices around the commonwealth should emulate. She is always willing to engage in a dialogue about a case and to truly listen when defense counsel from both the court-appointed and private bar approach her with issues.

Theo Stamos has worked tirelessly to improve the criminal justice system in Arlington for victims as well as those who stand accused:

  • Chairs Arlington’s Sexual Assault Response Team and works with Project PEACE to address domestic violence and sexual assault
  • Led the creation of a state-of-the-art, sexual assault and intimate partner violence protocol that serves as a model for the Commonwealth
  • Initiated Arlington’s adult diversionary Drug Court 7 years ago
  • Started the Second Chance diversionary program for juveniles
  • Helped launch Operation Safe Station, giving drug addicts a way to turn in their drugs and get treatment without fear of arrest and prosecution

Why Parisa Dehghani-Tafti is seeking the wrong job in the wrong place

Dehghani-Tafti has almost exclusively post-conviction appellate experience, but seeks a job requiring extensive trial experience.

The most up-voted comment to a recent ARLnow.com story also captures why Dehghani-Tafti is the wrong choice:

The Soros-supported Parisa Dehghani-Tafti seems to be running a campaign based on principles espoused by progressives on the national level, without realizing that she’s in the wrong jurisdiction. She wants to “reform” Arlington’s criminal justice system… Tafti seems to be trying to reform Ferguson, MO, by running for Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church. It doesn’t make sense. — oscar

Conclusion

Theo Stamos is a dedicated public servant with a proven record as a principled and progressive prosecutor. I wholeheartedly endorse her re-election. You can learn more about Stamos’ candidacy here.

Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC-a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.

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