In the lead up to the Democratic primary for Commonwealth Attorney in Fairfax County, there was a lot of talk about how the winner would be the next CA because there was no Republican running. It was actually discussed during some of the debates and there was a lot of hype about this year being the first Democratic primary for the position in 56 years. While it’s still likely Steve Descano will win in November, conservatives have put forward a candidate as Jonathan Fahey has officially launched his campaign.
Fahey is technically running as an independent and used his official announcement to claim he’s going to focus in on “public safety, not politics.” He went on to paint himself as a moderate who has dedicated himself to public service and said he’ll focus on gang violence and addressing the opioid crisis if elected.
While he’s desperately trying to paint himself as an independent who won’t being promoting a partisan agenda, he can’t run from his time as general counsel for the Trump Administration’s drug czar. Plus, several folks have pointed out he actually sought the Fairfax County Republican Committee’s nomination while he was still collecting a government salary — a clear violation of the Hatch Act.
After Fahey’s official campaign launch, Descano’s campaign claimed the right wing attorney “has the support and financial backing of the local Republican party and fringe conservatives from both within, and well beyond, Fairfax County” and “Republican leaders rushed to gain the necessary signatures to place Fahey on the ballot as an independent in order to mislead voters.” Descano also placed a lot of emphasis on Fahey’s violation of the Hatch Act while he was still a federal government employee.
Of course, Fahey’s not the only Trump Administration official who’s violated the Hatch Act. Perhaps the most prominent example is Kellyanne Conway. Congress has actually been attempting to conduct an investigation into Conway’s actions, but she’s ignored subpoenas to appear before the House Oversight Committee. This shows how high ranking officials for Trump don’t appear to respect the law — something you’d hope a candidate for Commonwealth Attorney would do. Combine that with how Fahey shares Attorney General William Barr’s views on criminal justice and you get a prime example of why so many people are worried about the possibility of him being elected.
What’s really interesting here is back in June, Tim Hugo and other local GOP leaders encouraged their supporters to vote for Ray Morrogh in the Democratic primary. John Frey, the Republican Clerk of the Court, for instance, claimed Morrogh’s “a no nonsense prosecutor” who “tempers justice with mercy when appropriate.” In other words, he appeared to realize Fairfax needs a Commonwealth Attorney who won’t be pushing a radical right wing agenda. Fahey, however, appears to be pushing the policies of the extreme right that would send Fairfax backwards.
Perhaps realizing that some Republican leaning voters in Fairfax might appreciate the relatively moderate positions that Frey and Hugo highlighted back in June, Descano made it clear Fahey wouldn’t be promoting those moderate sentiments once elected and his latest claims to be an “independent” are simply an attempt to fool the public into voting for him.
“Jonathan Fahey has never met a mandatory minimum he doesn’t like, he has a narrow view of the criminal justice system, and he’s not active in our community,” Descano said in a statement. “If elected, his tough-on-crime policies would push marginalized communities to hide in fear from our criminal justice system, and the cycle of continued crime, increased poverty, and crumbling opportunity would continue to spread.”
What will be interesting moving forward is seeing how former Morrogh supporters will respond to Fahey’s candidacy. The Democratic primary wasn’t the most cordial race ever and it’s clear many folks were upset Descano received a lot of funding from outside Fairfax County. While Morrogh and his supporters have said the right thing publicly so far when asked about his candidacy after the primary, it’s noticeable that several members of Morrogh’s office were at Fahey’s announcement and Morrogh apparently never responded when the Washington Post inquired about who he’d be supporting this November.
Descano definitely has the advantage heading into November, but the race for Commonwealth Attorney traditionally doesn’t receive a lot of attention and turnout is already expected to be extremely low this year. As a result, Fahey could have a surprise victory if he’s able to convince enough people he’s a moderate while also inspiring the Republican base to get out to the polls.