News

Candidates Struggle to Make Voters Aware of Primary Election Aug. 23

Commonwealth Attorney Only Race on Ballot in F.C.’s Dem Primary

An awful lot of registered voters in the City of Falls Church are probably not aware that a Democratic primary election is being held here in just over a week, on Tuesday, Aug. 23, to be exact.

That may be due to the fact that, for all five precincts in the City and another six in North Arlington, there is only one race that is being contested, for the relatively obscure race of Commonwealth Attorney.

Serving since 1993, Dick Trodden is retiring as the long-time Commonwealth Attorney representing the 17th Judicial Circuit of Virginia covering Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.

He has endorsed Theo Stamos, his Chief Deputy since 2002, to replace him in the post, and Stamos has encountered a challenge from another Democrat, Arlington attorney David Deane.
While Stamos has served 25 years, altogether, as a prosecutor with the Commonwealth Attorney’s office in Arlington, Deane has served as an assistant commonwealth attorney in Fairfax and for the last 10 years has managed the criminal division of the Arlington-based Albo and Oblon law firm.

Both candidates are running for publicly-elected office for the first time (“Neither Theo nor I are really politicians,” Deane quipped at a candidate’s night in Arlington this Tuesday), but both told the News-Press in separate telephone interviews this week that they’ve done a lot of traditional door-knocking to win votes.

The biggest challenge, Stamos said, has been to inform people that there is a primary election on Aug. 23. She’s also found that “people have not heard a lot about the Commonwealth Attorney office or its role.” She explains, she said, that it’s what’s called a “district attorney,” or the local prosecutor, in other jurisdictions.

Stamos has been running aggressively since January, she said, putting a lot of focus on the City of Falls Church because there, her’s is the only race on the ballot. She’s held two fundraisers in the City, including one last month at Clare and Don’s Crab Shack.

Both Deane and Stamos have widely distributed literature door-to-door in Falls Church, and Stamos enjoys a major edge in endorsements, including from the Falls Church Police Association and Arlington Police.

Stamos has focused her message on her experience, and the importance of that plus temperament and judgment in being able to do her job well. She said that the effective exercise of “prosecutorial discretion,” whether to prosecute a particular case or not, is also key, as is having an appreciation of “the mores of the community” in which one serves.

Stamos is from the south side of Chicago, the daughter of a Greek immigrant family.

Deane, whose father was an FBI agent for 30 years and uncle is Charlie Dean, the sheriff of Prince William County, contrasted Stamos’ focus on experience in the commonwealth attorney’s office with the wider breadth of his law practice and the “fresh perspective” he says he will bring if elected. He cited his “having been on the defense side of the aisle,” and that his opponent’s “doing the same job” for so long could result in “tunnel vision.”

Addressing criminal justice issues relating to undocumented immigrants at Tuesday’s candidates’ forum (hosted by the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance and also featuring contested Aug. 23 Democratic primaries for the 31st and 30th State Senate and 49th Delegate districts in Arlington), Stamos said that while very tough federal and state laws are in effect, “We do all we can to make it less draconian than federal law,” she said. “It is important to give voice to the people with empathy, understanding and compassion.”

Deane concurred that more information needs to get out assuring that for victims of and witnesses to crime, the immigration status of individuals “will not be investigated.”

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. To 7 p.m. on Aug. 23, and absentee balloting is currently underway. In Falls Church, absentee ballots can be obtained from the Voter Registrar’s Office at City Hall, 300 Park Avenue.