Virginia is on the cusp of Democrats controlling the State Senate, House of Delegates, and governorship. Democrats haven’t had all three since the days when the party was full of Dixiecrats and Blue Dogs. This give us power to create massive progressive change, from basics like reigning in payday lenders to ambitious projects like the Green New Deal. But as we’ve seen in many states, a Democratic majority doesn’t mean a progressive one, and in some deep blue districts, there are important choices to be made about the direction of the state. That’s why we’re rolling out round #2 of the Progressive Virginia Project, so you can give effectively to build progressive power.
Yasmine Taeb (SD-35):
You know, the original intention of the Progressive Virginia Project was to present a new slate each time. We really thought that would work. But since that went up, Dick Saslaw kicked it into overdrive. In Round 1 we did our best summarize his odious career in a paragraph, touching on his corporatism, Islamophobia, and general inhibition to progress. Just since that went up, he’s:
Taken over $22,000 from Dominion, the most of anyone in the state
Claimed the Green New Deal would result in Northern Virginia going without power for 16 hours a day.
Showed up at a constituent’s house uninvited because he heard they’d hosted a fundraiser for his opponent.
Said that his Iranian refugee opponent was “anti-Israel and pro-Iran.”
Claimed that partisanship was caused by lack of required military service.
Filed a fundraising report showing thousands in illegal contributions he had to quickly amend.
Taeb remains as great as ever - a human rights lawyer who was the first Muslim woman elected to the DNC, an who is now promising a progressive “New Virginia Way”. We’re including her again because defeating Dick Saslaw has only become more urgent. For subscribers, Nick wrote a profile of Dick Saslaw’s long and terrible career back in March.
Sally Hudson (HD-57):
Hudson was actually going to be in our first round for a while. The only reason we left her off was that the incumbent dropped out of the race, leaving her uncontested for a while. Hudson is a UVA professor and a great progressive who wants a “clean energy future”. At the last moment, she was joined in the now-open primary by Charlottesville City Councilor Kathy Galvin.
Galvin is a Democrat, and calls herself a progressive, but as local political observer and diligent local government watchdog Molly Conger put it ”[I]f kathy galvin can call herself a progressive, the word should be abandoned. it's lost all meaning.” Her op-ed points out, among other things, Galvin’s shocking memo attacking an audit suggesting the city’s racial achievement gap needed to be closed, with Galvin offering up choice opinions such as “White parents make it work for them through persistence and volunteer involvement. Black parents on the other hand expect the schools to look after their needs and tell them what needs to be done.”
Round One of the progressive Virginia Project focused solely on legislators, but in Round Two we’ve also turned our attention to another kind of race. Ending mass incarceration and fixing our broken, racist criminal justice system starts at the local level, and most importantly with Commonwealth Attorneys. And CAs will actually have the power to implement their campaign promises on Day One. We’re including them in this round of the Progressive Virginia Project because while these races might be local, they have the potential to change the lives of the more than one million residents of Arlington, Falls Church, Fairfax County, and Fairfax city.
Steve Descano (Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney):
Incumbent Ray Morrogh made news when he signed a brief opposing then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s restoration of voting rights to felons who had completed their sentences and opposed federal sentencing reforms such as the repeal of mandatory minimums. It wasn’t surprising to those familiar with him. He’s long been an opponent of moving on from the “tough on crime” policies of the 90s.In 2005, Morrogh, then the chief deputy CA, was accused of attempting to strike a man from a jury because the man was black. Morrogh responded to the accusation by saying that actually, it was because the man’s wife was a member of the Democratic National Committee. No, seriously:
“I see where his wife is on the Democratic National Committee, and that’s basically the reason I struck him,” Morrogh said according to the transcript. “I think their policies towards criminal justice seem to be kind of left-handed, and that’s the only reason I voted no.”
A reminder that this was in 2005. In 2005, Ray Morrogh thought Democrats were too liberal on criminal justice. We think that says it all.
Challenger Steve Descano is running on a progressive platform that includes ending cash bail, declining to prosecute marijuana possession, ending the death penalty, and ending Fairfax County’s use of Virginia’s trial discovery practices (which disadvantage defendants by depriving them of key information about what evidence the prosecution will be using.)
Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (Arlington-Falls Church Commonwealth Attorney):
Another signatory of the brief opposing McAuliffe’s voting rights restoration initiative was Arlington-Falls Church CA Theo Stamos. Stamos has never been particularly liberal, backing anti-tax conservative and de facto Republican John Vihstadt for the Arlington County Board. She supports the death penalty and attempted to stave off meaningful bail reform by instituting her own toothless reform that local public defenders took the unusual step of going to the press to call her out over it. The reformer in this race is Georgetown law professor Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, a longtime public defender and criminal justice advocate. Dehghani-Tafti, like Descano, supports ending prosecution of marijuana possession, ending the death penalty, and reforming discovery practices; she also seeks to end cash bail for low-level offenses.