It was far from a guarantee that the Washington Post was going to endorse Steve Descano in the race to be Fairfax County’s next Commonwealth Attorney. While they did have some good things to say about him during the primary campaign, after all, the Post’s editorial board ending up endorsing Ray Morrogh instead of him during the Democratic primary. Many people were therefore left wondering if they’d follow Morrogh’s lead in endorsing former Trump administration lawyer Jonathan Fahey in the general.
That being said, the Post strongly endorsed Descano’s campaign and said he “has the better, more forward looking agenda.” While further explaining their decision, the editorial explains how the former federal prosecutor is running on a platform that “favors moving past ‘tough on crime’ policies such as aggressive drug interdiction and capital punishment” and says we need to be focused on making “informed distinctions” about who actually poses a threat to the community.
The Post went on to suggest Fahey was more interested in preserving “the status quo” and launching attacks on Descano. This also fits in with the Republican plans in general as they’ve been claiming the Democrats are simply trying to use the criminal justice system implement a “radical” agenda that will drastically change the community. They hardly ever supplement those attacks with examples of how they’d be working to ensure the criminal justice system would be run in a manner that serves the entire community.
It’s worth noting that the races for Commonwealth Attorney have received more attention this year than they have in previous years. Several people heavily involved in the political process have told me they’d never met Ray Morrogh or any of the incumbent Commonwealth Attorneys before this year’s elections, which suggest they never had to be terribly active in the community. A large investment in campaigns by George Soros early in the year, however, made it clear this year would be different.
The added attention has brought a more in depth discussion about criminal justice reform here in Northern Virginia. Descano, for instance, has been calling for more transparency in the Commonwealth Attorney’s office and implementing reforms such as a drug court, a mental health court, and a veterans court. These would all help lower recidivism rates and save taxpayer money by investing in diversionary programs instead of constantly locking people up.
During the Democratic primary in Fairfax, one of the hottest topics of discussion was bail reform. Descano was calling for the elimination of cash bail because it disproportionately impacts people of color and could actually lead to more recidivism. He was also adamant that we need to raise the felony theft threshold and said he wouldn’t file a felony charge for thefts of less than $1,500.
Since the increased attention on the Commonwealth Attorney races has caused other elected officials and community activists to pay attention to criminal justice reforms as well, it will be very interesting to see if there’s actual progress on the issue in the coming years.