Home 2017 Races Career Federal Prosecutor Gene Rossi (D) Announces Run for Virginia Lieutenant Governor

Career Federal Prosecutor Gene Rossi (D) Announces Run for Virginia Lieutenant Governor


Virginia Democrats now have two announced candidates for Lt. Governor, Justin Fairfax and his former boss, long-time federal prosecutor (110 trials over 27 years, including major cases involving organized crime, drugs, corruption, opioids, etc.) Gene Rossi. We’ll see if even more Democrats (e.g., Del. Eileen Filler-Corn) get into this wide-open race (unlike the races for Gov. and AG, both of which are done deals with Ralph Northam and Mark Herring as the presumptive Democratic nominees)…stay tuned!

Gene Rossi to Run for Virginia Lieutenant Governor

Former Career Federal Prosecutor Who Won Major Organized Crime, Drug, and Corruption Cases, Vows to Fight the Opioid Crisis, Push for Criminal Justice and Voting Rights Reform, and Close Gaps in Healthcare and Education 

ALEXANDRIA – Gene Rossi, a widely-respected federal prosecutor who dedicated his long career to bringing organized crime bosses, international drug traffickers, major financial schemers, and corrupt politicians to justice, announced today his campaign for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.

“I will be a strong voice for justice.  I’m passionate about how our state government can better serve its citizens in many areas.  I have seen firsthand what works — and what doesn’t.  Above all, we must be fair, firm, and compassionate in our approaches to the opioid crisis, criminal justice, voting rights restoration, healthcare, and education,” said Rossi, who had more than 110 trials during a prolific 27-year career in the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria.  Added Rossi, “In countless trials, I’ve battled violent and corrupt interests on behalf of the United States.  For close to thirty years, I gave voice to those who could not speak:  victims, those who lived in fear, the forgotten.  As Lieutenant Governor, I will continue this fight for all Virginians.”

As an Assistant United States Attorney with a record 65 felony jury trials in Alexandria alone, Rossi won respect and accolades from all sides as a formidable trial advocate who worked hard to win convictions, while also fully respecting the right of every defendant to a fair trial. His notable career cases include a jury tax judgment against a corrupt Chicago Alderman; a jury conviction of an international drug kingpin who murdered over thirty-five persons; a cash smuggling prosecution against the Commanding General of the 54-nation African Union (and former president of Guinea); and a jury conviction of a notorious chronic pain doctor who ran a McLean, Virginia, “pill mill” and prescribed 1,200 daily doses of oxycodone to a single patient.  The doctor’s two high-profile trials are the subject of the documentary “Dr. Feelgood.”

Rossi, a recognized expert in trial advocacy, has been a teacher for over twenty years.  He has trained thousands of federal prosecutors and agents.  He is a trial instructor at Harvard Law School and teaches constitutional law at George Mason University in Fairfax. While working in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia, Rossi served with federal judges, probation, addiction specialists, and defense counsel in the “SCORE” program — an innovative second-chance drug court. SCORE made use of novel and cooperative approaches to critical reentry issues for drug offenders, including addiction, mental health, recidivism, and employment.  “I strongly believe in second chances,” added Rossi.

Gene and his wife Diane Deaton Rossi live in Alexandria and have three children, all educated in Alexandria’s public schools, including T.C. Williams High.  Gene has served as a volunteer youth and AAU basketball coach and is also a volunteer board member of Friends of Guest House, a nonprofit that helps women transition from confinement to the community.

  • Anonymous Is A Woman

    He has a very impressive record as a prosecutor. My concern, though, is that his skill set and interests may be a mismatch for Lt. Governor. He would make an excellent attorney general. For Lt. governor, I would want somebody with some experience with the legislative process and more interest and experience in the state economy, social service needs, education, business development, and infrastructure improvement. Whoever serves as Lt. governor should know their way around the political process in the state.

    I realize Mark Herring is already running to defend his seat as Attorney General and that closes off that office to a Democratic challenger (since Herring has done a good job). But I am still looking for somebody with more of the experience and skills I described above for Lt. Governor.

    My suggestion would be for him to run for a delegate or senate seat first and get some experience and a feel for the dynamics of legislating in Virginia.

    • “For Lt. governor, I would want somebody with some experience with the legislative process and more interest and experience in the state economy, social service needs, education, business development, and infrastructure improvement.”

      Would Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (or anyone else who might run for LG in 2017) fit that description in your view?

      • Anonymous Is A Woman

        Ironically, Mark Herring would fit it too. I almost suggested he and Rossi flip positions as in Herring run for Lt. Governor and Rossi run for Attorney General. That really is Rossi’s strong suit.

        If Eileen chooses to run, I would probably support her because I have been very pleased with her as a delegate. She worked her way up to leadership, is a strong supporter of women’s issues, education, and business development. She also has been labor friendly. But it would be jumping the gun to support her until she actually announces.

        I also was going to say, but refrained because I didn’t want to sound too negative about Rossi or any other candidate, that I wonder why everybody thinks they need to run for a top leadership position before getting any experience in the legislature. I don’t think everybody has to “pay dues” by starting as a commissioner or supervisor on a local board. But having people in leadership of the House of Delegates and state Senate who actually served in at least one of those bodies is not necessarily the worst idea.

        I know Terry McAuliffe did not have that experience. But he has been around politics all his life, so that counts somewhat. Still, he might have been more realistic about what he could accomplish with the legislature had he been part of it.I just believe experience is not a disqualifier and being an amateur is not necessarily a plus.

        • In general, I have no problem with people running for what they want to run for, as long as they’re well-qualified and sincerely interested in the position. If people want to work their way up the ladder, that’s fine too, but of course there aren’t always opportunities to do that, for instance in solidly “blue” districts where the incumbent is deeply entrenched and not going anywhere soon…

          • Anonymous Is A Woman

            It is a good point that in some parts of Virginia there aren’t many openings for a Democrat seeking office, except to run against an incumbent in their own party. And if candidates are uniquely qualified for a position, even if they haven’t worked their way up or “paid their dues,” I don’t have a problem with it.

            But it seems that Rossi’s main passion, at this point is legal policy, as he himself has said. I think a Lt. Governor needs to have that passion for other policy issues like education, infrastructure, the environment, business development, tax policy, and health and welfare issues.

            I remain open to seeing what Rossi says about all these things going forward. But for now, I am seeing a focus on things more suitable to an Attorney General race. The problem is Rossi may wisely not want to run against a popular incument AG in his own party. Which, at least, shows political savvy.

          • “I am seeing a focus on things more suitable to an Attorney General race”

            Perhaps, but AG isn’t available this cycle, as Mark Herring (rightfully, because he’s done a great job and is very popular among Dems) has it locked up.

          • Anonymous Is A Woman

            Correct. Rossi is showing realism and wisdom in not picking an AG race against Herring, who is popular and effective. I absolutely agree.

            Unfortunately, the AG position seems the one, right now, that he would be the most qualified for. Of course, on the campaign trail, he may show a great grasp of the issues mentioned above, have really good ideas for how to improve things in Richmond, and may be very impressive. That is why I do remain open, though skeptical. I really do want to hear what he has to say about other issues, besides the law enforcement ones.

      • John Farrell

        Given Eileen’s lobbying on behalf of the Cigar and Pipe Institute and other corporate clients, I would prefer another LG nominee.

        Too many No. Va. Ds in the General Assembly spend 10 months a year lobbying for corporate interests in Congress. Which makes one wonder who are they representing in Richmond, their Congressional clients

        or their constituents and our Party.

  • John Farrell

    Mr. Rossi spent most of his career assisting in the creation of the mass incarceration phenomenon that we are trying to reverse today.

    There’s no evidence of Mr. Rossi engaging in support of Democratic candidates or ideals during his adult life.

    So what makes us think he really is a Democrat?

    • Anonymous Is A Woman

      In fairness, he was a career civil servant and one in law enforcement, as a federal prosecutor. Given his position he really could not be active in partisan activities. It’s called being “Hatched” after the Hatch Act, which prevents all federal employees from engaging in certain partisan activities.

      It can be stricter in the cases of certain career paths, such as Mr. Rossi’s. That’s not one I’d hold against him.