Local Commentary, News

Commonwealth’s Attorney Dehghani-Tafti Wins Reelection Decisively

  Democratic primary voters in Arlington and Falls Church on June 20 gave a thumbs-up on continuing the “restorative justice” reforms being pursued by Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who beat challenger Josh Katcher decisively.

     The vote was  56.7 percent to 43.3 percent, with 95 percent of the vote counted, a total turnout of just under 30,000.

      Katcher, from his watch party at the Lost Dog in Westover, phoned his former boss to concede and released this statement. “Over the course of the last six months, we’ve had an important debate in our community over the future of criminal justice reform. Our team left it all on the field, as we sought to have a debate about what real reform and real justice could mean for our community. I stand ready to continue my commitment to this community, to its safety and to the goal of ensuring that we are balancing the need for both justice and compassion.”

      Dehghani-Tafti, from her watch party at the Fire Works Pizza near the Courthouse, released a statement: “Four years ago the voters of Arlington and the City of Falls Church chose to do the important work of reforming our criminal legal system. Tonight’s victory showed the voters’ renewed trust in us to continue that work. More than that, it shows that as a community we believe safety, justice, kindness, fairness, and caring are complimentary values. This election has laid bare the need to expand mental health services for our youth, the need to offer better services to victims, and the need provide fair representation to accused by bringing pay parity to public defenders. If this election was a referendum on reform our voters emphatically responded that they will not go backward but will keep Arlington and the City of Falls Church moving forward.”

       The tight Democratic primary race pitted an incumbent who saw her job as a platform for steering Arlington and Falls Church toward “restorative justice” against a one-time deputy who attacked her for a high turnover of staff attorneys he described as disillusioned and the fact that Dehghani-Tafti, despite 18 years of experience as a public defender, had not personally prosecuted a case.

      Katcher attacked her for taking outside-the-county funds from judicial reform groups, blamed her for crime rates and criticized her alleged mishandling of the grieving mother of a Washington-Liberty High School teenager killed in 2022 by an underage drunk driver (the mother backed Katcher).

       Dehghani-Tafti blamed Katcher, who spent 11 years in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, for having trained many of the staff attorneys who left. And she sent mailers citing “the elephant in the room,” which she described as a high number of Republicans and followers of her predecessor Theo Stamos working to get Katcher elected.

     The incumbent had attracted endorsements from the majority of the Arlington area local and state officials as well as The Washington Post and the News-Press, while Katcher had won support from the Arlington Coalition of Police and the firefighters union.

     Two other so-called progressive prosecutors seeking also handily fended off Democratic primary challengers, Steve Descano in Fairfax and Buta Biberaj in Loudoun.