Democrats won prosecutor elections in four Northern Virginia counties Tuesday, giving a movement for criminal justice reforms a major foothold in the state for the first time, the Washington Post reports. Candidates who labeled themselves progressives won races for commonwealth’s attorney in Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun counties, while a fourth pushing liberal reforms beat a Republican in Prince William County. The candidates promised changes including moving away from the death penalty, dropping prosecutions for marijuana possession, ending cash bail and limiting cooperation with immigration authorities. The victors and potential winners represent a generational change. Incumbent prosecutors with nearly 130 years of experience were not on the ballot because of primary losses, a retirement and a resignation to take a judgeship.
The outcomes were backed by Democratic megadonor George Soros, whose political action committee spent nearly $2.1 million in the primary and general election on polls, mailers and advertisements for Parisa Dehghani-Tafti in Arlington, Steve Descano in Fairfax and Buta Biberaj in Loudoun. The fourth winner, Amy Ashworth in Prince William, did not receive contributions from Soros. The spending was unprecedented in Virginia, part of a Soros effort to tip prosecutors’ offices to progressive candidates across the U.S. Opponents accused the recipients of being in the pocket of a billionaire with limited connections to Virginia. “These are the most significant commonwealth’s attorney races since I started practicing law in 1971,” said Alexandria criminal defense attorney Marvin Miller. “This is really going to be a sea change in Northern Virginia.” The elections are likely to reverberate, pushing leftward the state prosecutor’s association, which has a significant sway over criminal justice policy and legislation. “I think what this victory says is we have to rethink the old myth that the way to safety is locking people up,” Dehghani-Tafti said. “Safety and justice are not opposed.”