In the Democratic primary race for commonwealth attorney in Arlington, Virginia, the prevailing principle seems to be that no good deed goes unpunished.
The moderate, much-admired Democrat incumbent, Theo Stamos, is being challenged in the primary by an unqualified radical lawyer whose campaign is being funded largely from outside the area and who has spouted one falsehood after another. She is also strangely clueless about local priorities.
Stamos, who has served eight years in the Arlington-Falls Church district, is widely regarded as sensible, moderate, and competent. Residents are overwhelmingly satisfied with law enforcement.
Stamos's opponent in the primary, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, is a radical, left-wing "victim's rights" advocate who has never tried a single case in a Virginia courtroom and seems to have no desire to prosecute anyone other than possibly "racists" and "corporate interests." Her big issues are "racial inequality" in the courts and jails; withholding prosecution of minor drug crimes (she has announced that she will not bring charges for marijuana possession); the "school-to-prison pipeline" (which is virtually non-existent in the largely middle- and upper-middle-class district); and "police brutality," which she alleges is not being pursued by incumbent Stamos.
Tafti cites only one case in which a man was killed by a shot in the back by police. But the incident was intensively investigated, with the authorities concluding that the man who was shot had viciously attacked an officer with a metal bar and was turned around by the force of his own blow and a first bullet in his arm. That hasn't stopped her from condemning Stamos as a racist.
With resources obtained primarily from outside the district, including from radical billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros, Tafti has massively outspent Stamos. Her bizarre campaign is focusing on issues that have little local relevance. In effect, Tafti seems to want to reform Ferguson, Missouri, or Baltimore, by running for commonwealth attorney in an affluent, largely law-abiding Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C.
Because Stamos is a moderate and not a raving, anti-law-and-order radical, the Virginia political establishment has the long knives out for her. Former Governor Terry McAuliffe (a long-time personal and political ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton) restored voting rights to 173,000 felons during his term. Because Stamos is influential in the Virginia Association of Commonwealth Attorneys, and because the group opposed certain aspects of McAuliffe's reforms, McAuliffe evidently is exacting revenge by trying to unseat her. Something similar is occurring in neighboring Fairfax County.
The commonwealth attorney's job is to prosecute crimes. She must enforce the laws passed by the legislature. She cannot ignore laws simply because she does not like them. And above all, a prosecutor must be honest and open when applying the law.
Distorting the facts to suit a personal agenda is corrupt. We can only hope that enough voters will pay sufficient attention to this local race to reelect the incumbent. Effective law enforcement is essential to a civilized society.
Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a veteran of the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration. Thomas F. Hafer is a mostly retired consultant in technology and engineering.