Around F.C.

Statements From the 4 Candidates on F.C. Ballot Next Month

Saddam Azlan Salim – Democrat for Virginia Senate District 37

My name is Saddam Azlan Salim and I am running for Senate because we deserve a real Democrat for Virginia’s future. I want to start by telling you my story –– a story that I think represents the values I cherish as a Democrat and why I fight for the issues that matter to us all. When my family immigrated to the US, we found ourselves homeless and struggling within a year. It was Fairfax County and its affordable housing program that took us in and saved us. Soon after, my parents were able to get care from Fairfax County’s affordable healthcare clinics to help them get treatment for longstanding health issues. I attended public school and university here, like Falls Church High School, Northern Virginia Community College and GMU where I eventually got a Bachelors and Masters Degree. All of these things were made possible because of policies and values that Democrats have fought for –– affordable housing, affordable healthcare, and public education. When Democrats invest into policies like these, it produces people like me. I am running to reinvest in these programs and ensure they are even better for future generations.

Unfortunately, our current senator sides against important Democratic values all too often. He voted against the proposed 2020 assault weapons and many other key gun violence prevention measures. He sued Fairfax County over the removal of a Confederate monument and wrote a letter to Fairfax City on his Senate letterhead protesting the change of Confederate street names. He even went on a MAGA-aligned radio show and implied that Covid-19 related school closures were worse than Jim Crow. He has opposed important anti-discrimination legislation that would have helped people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community. These are not the values of our region.  

If I am elected I will be a fighter for gun violence prevention, affordable housing, reproductive rights, and for Virginia’s future.  I want to make sure we have an assault weapons ban, that we remove obstacles to help create the workforce housing this region needs, that we are out in our communities standing up for reproductive rights and our LGBTQIA+ community, that we address climate change with a clean energy plan and we create more opportunities for criminal justice reform, racial justice and looking forward, rather than backwards.  You can learn more about my campaign and the issues I’m fighting for at

I hope I can count on your support in the June 20th Democratic Primary.  I also want to thank Falls Church for all it has done for me –– I was given a home here, an education and a place to thrive. Falls Church will always be my home.

Chap Petersen – Democrat for Virginia Senate District 37

Dear Falls Church City voter:

Last June, after the redistricting maps came out, I began knocking on doors in the Little City.  I started on Poplar Drive and kept going until I reached the end of East Columbia.  Along the way, I talked to hundreds of City residents on their front porch or in their front yard.    

Politics is a service business.  In 1998, I started as a Fairfax City Councilman the same way  – knocking on doors as if I was on a job interview.  And I was. 

I’ve been in public office for 25 years, representing neighborhoods from the western edge of Fairfax County to now the border of Arlington.  I’ve risen to a senior position in the Virginia Senate.  During that time, Northern Virginia has changed significantly – demographically and politically.  But the key to representation has stayed the same:  it’s knowing a community and speaking for it.  

The 2023 Democratic primary differs from my early elections when I was a Democratic challenger running against Republican incumbents.  I now spend time defending my own record, which I’m happy to do.  For example, in 2021, I led the fight to reopen schools and our state economy when others wanted to keep them shut down.  I’m proud of that unique record. 

But elections are about the future, not the past.  Here’s the future I see for Falls Church City and the greater Commonwealth:  

Education:  Our system of education has become stagnant.  Too much emphasis is on testing – not enough on learning.  My first big idea is to use our community college system to train the next generation of workers, by (i) making classes free and (ii) focusing them on training for understaffed professions such as computer programmer, electrician or mechanic.   My second big idea is to “reinvent” high school, or at least senior year, by getting students out of the classroom and into the community, serving internships at work sites where they can pick up practical life skills. These changes will prepare our children for a 21st century economy. 

Environment: As Chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, I successfully championed historic legislation to promote renewable energy and fight climate change.  We are not going back – but we can also do more.  My first big idea is to use our state laws and tax system to preserve scarce resources like water and farmland – not let them be eaten up by industrial data centers.  My second big idea is to spur competition in our electrical grid, so that small producers can generate solar or wind power and sell it for a profit.  That is the fastest way to transition to an all-renewable system.

Business: Our American economy is built on small business.  My first big idea is simply to let small businesses flourish, free from high taxes and unreasonable regulations.  We must keep Virginia as an open and inclusive community, but also one that is friendly to business.   My second big idea is to accelerate occupational training, again through our community colleges. 

Finally, a word about civil liberties.  I believe a woman has a right to make her own health decisions, without interference from the state.  I believe that LGBTQ families and children have a right to live in peace.  I believe that reasonable gun control should be a state policy, balanced with the constitutional protections we have for all criminal laws.  My voting record reflects these principles. 

I’ve been honored to meet many of you over the past year and I humbly ask for your vote.

Parisa Dehghani-Tafti – Commonwealth’s Attonery Arlington/Falls Church

I am Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, and I have been the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and the City of Falls Church since 2020. Four years ago, despite being a very progressive jurisdiction, our Commonwea-lth’s Attorney’s office was one of the most regressive. We had no mental health court, no restorative justice program, and no conviction review unit; the office was seeking the death penalty and asking for cash bail; our drug court was being underused; and resources were wasted prosecuting thousands of marijuana possession cases, disproportionately against people of color. 

In my first term, I have turned the office around, and we now lead the nation on criminal justice reform. I helped create a mental health docket to divert people towards treatment. I created a restorative justice program, which increases victim satisfaction and decreases recidivism. I created a conviction review unit to look into wrongful convictions. I immediately implemented policies against seeking the death penalty or asking for cash bail. I quadrupled the number of people in drug court. I stopped prosecuting marijuana possession and worked with the legislature to legalize it. I did all of this while increasing trial conviction rates for violent felonies and keeping our community one of the safest in the country.

Reform isn’t hypothetical to me, and it’s not just a slogan. I’ve actually done it. And I see the difference it is making in people’s lives every day. It’s why I am running for re-election.

It’s for the first person to graduate from our new mental health docket. This woman suffered from late onset of mental illness and got caught up in the system by committing petty crimes. Instead of sending her to jail, we used the mental health docket, where she worked with a peer counselor, engaged in cognitive behavioral therapy, and began taking appropriate medications. After successfully graduating, she obtained stable housing and work, and has been doing well. She has even returned to celebrate others’ graduations from the program.

It’s for Lundy Khoy, a woman whose conviction was vacated with the help of my conviction review unit. Ms. Khoy is a refugee who came to the United States as a toddler. When she was a teenager, she was charged with a nonviolent drug crime. Her lawyer advised her to plead guilty, and incorrectly told her it would not impact her immigration status. Years later, she found herself facing deportation proceedings as a result of this conviction. My conviction review unit concluded she had received unconstitutionally bad advice from her lawyer, and helped get her conviction vacated. She is now a US citizen.

It’s for the victims we’ve helped by working to settle their difficult cold cases. It’s for the people who have gotten sober and graduated from drug court since I expanded its use. It’s for the people who have not lost their housing, custody of their children, or their jobs simply because they did not have the money to pay bail to get out of jail pending trial.

Every day, when I am knocking on doors in the rain or recharging with pistachios between work and a community event, when I am doing the work I was elected to do, I think of each one of these people and the many others like them. And I keep on going. I hope that when you vote on June 20th (or earlier), you’ll think of them too. We have made extraordinary strides in the last 3.5 years, and we’re just getting started. Let’s protect progress.

Josh Katcher – Commonwealth’s Attorney Arlington/Falls Church

“Real Reform, Real Justice” is not a campaign slogan. It’s my commitment to this community to truly deliver on the promise of 21st century reform prosecution. That commitment re-emphasizes the centrality of justice for victims. It means only engaging in just prosecutions of the accused. And it resolves to always remain focused on just and equitable outcomes for the convicted.

I started in the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney 12 years ago as an unpaid intern and rose to the rank of Deputy under the incumbent. I have tried over 50 jury trials and have practiced in all of the courts in our jurisdiction. As a Deputy, I was specifically entrusted to supervise and train the largest team of attorneys. For the past 3 years, I have had a front row seat to the incumbent’s leadership, and I can tell you with clear-eyed certainty that we are failing to deliver on the promise of reform. 

The incumbent and I are both Democrats committed to reform. Abolishing cash bail, supporting diversion for those struggling with substance abuse and mental illness, supporting Drug Court and the Behavioral Health Docket–all of those are rightly woven into the fabric of our local system. We both support Red Flag laws, ending the death penalty, and decriminalizing marijuana. However, only one of us has the relevant experience as a prosecutor to ensure that our shared philosophy becomes a reality. 

As the Commonwealth’s Attorney, it’s not enough to have good intentions. Experience is crucial. You can’t lead a small office of prosecutors to do something you’ve never done before. The incumbent, despite being in office for 3 ½ years, still has not personally prosecuted a single case–not one—and proudly states that she has no intention to do so. 

In the past 18 months, 14 lawyers have quit. They left because they felt unsupported and disrespected. Morale in the office has been at rock bottom for months, because those who remain see an office in free fall. 

The incumbent loudly claims successes in diversion, yet there is no way to verify these successes. She claims that she takes violent crime seriously–again, there is no way to verify if that’s true. Her campaign in 2019 accused the office of being a “black box” of data, and that a hallmark of her administration would be data transparency. Yet, her office has not publicly posted any data. None. 

Transparency should be a requirement of our elected leaders. It allows our community to decide for itself whether our officials are actually upholding election promises. In order to restore trust in the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, I will release crime data within my first 12 months, regardless of whether it’s politically advantageous to do so. Reality and the truth are more important than politics. 

This election is about choosing a leader that has the right judgment. Diversion efforts cannot come at the expense of public safety. It takes informed experience to make the difficult judgment calls about cases that can be diverted entirely, which individuals need more services and support on their path away from the system, and which cases need to be prosecuted. 

Real Reform and Real Justice happen in the courtroom, not on social media and not at political events. You can’t do either with an office in free fall. Unless and until we can right the ship, we will never be able to truly deliver on the promise of reform prosecution. I do not want a failed execution to be misinterpreted as a failed philosophy. 

Let’s show the whole country how 21st century prosecution should look.