Home 2019 Elections Why I’m Endorsing Parisa Tafti, by Delegate Mark Levine

Why I’m Endorsing Parisa Tafti, by Delegate Mark Levine

4

The following endorsement is from Del. Mark Levine. To my mind, paragraph #3 is crucial – that, in addition to all the fine, progressive reforms Parisa Tafti has been talking about, she ALSO a) “shares an equal passion for locking up those who pose a danger to our community and prosecuting those who prey on the powerless”; b) will advocate for and pay a great deal of attention to *victims* of crime, who in my mind are far more important than criminals. Those are things I haven’t really heard Tafti talk about in public, or in her campaign literature, yet to me they are absolutely crucial — THE top two priorities, in my mind. So, yeah, I want to hear Tafti talk about these things in public, frequently and with conviction/passion, in addition to all the other good stuff she’s bringing up. By the way, I had a long talk with Del. Levine last  night about all this, and he encouraged me to add these thoughts to the beginning of his piece. – Lowell

When it comes to a Democratic Primary in Arlington, voters have the opportunity – nay, the responsibility – to choose the very best person to represent our values. We can elect someone who will go beyond begrudgingly doing the right thing when it comes to issues like cash bail, open-file discovery, and voting rights. We need someone who can lead the way in reforming a criminal justice system that, all too often, prosecutes the poor, vulnerable, and unsophisticated while allowing rich and influential people to escape justice.

I’m confident that Parisa Dehghani-Tafti has the vision to take Arlington, and Virginia, in a bold direction as Commonwealth’s Attorney: one where mental health and drug addiction are seen as treatable afflictions more than offenses to be punished; one where slick financial crimes like wage theft and elder abuse are taken more seriously than petty, non-violent victimless offenses; and one where sexual and domestic assault suffered by someone who knows the perpetrator is treated as gravely as attacks by a stranger.

With her legal work on innocence protection, who can doubt Parisa’s commitment to protecting the innocent from being railroaded? But in my discussions with her, I’ve found she shares an equal passion for locking up those who pose a danger to our community and prosecuting those who prey on the powerless. Parisa understands that our safety and sense of security are of the same paramount importance to Arlingtonians as our disposition towards due process and equality under the law. I’m confident she will work to correct – but not shatter – the hapless defendant who is more trapped in life circumstances than dedicated to a life of crime. But I’m also satisfied she will have the full attention of the suffering crime victim seeking a restoration of justice.

I would expect Parisa to work hand in hand with the Arlington Delegation to Richmond as we seek profound criminal justice reform to combat racial disparities, mistreatment of immigrants, and the criminalization of poverty. We need a solid voice by our side if we take over the legislature this fall and work to remake Virginia to protect the vulnerable. She can, for example, help us reform Virginia laws to stop prosecuting marijuana possession – and start prosecuting unscrupulous employers.

I don’t take endorsing candidates in primaries lightly. And when someone challenging a competent Democratic incumbent seeks my endorsement, I hold them to a very high standard.

To meet that standard, I would need to find someone who could set up a prosecutorial system in Arlington that seeks to become the model for the Commonwealth, perhaps even the nation. It would take an out-of-the-box thinker to do this heavy lift: someone who has worked her entire life to find and plug holes in the system and someone with an openness to exploring creative solutions and working with neighboring jurisdictions.

That’s a very high standard, but I believe Parisa can reach it. I therefore endorse her candidacy.

I want to thank Theo Stamos for her 32 years of dedicated service to Arlington. In many jurisdictions in Virginia, Theo would be the best prosecutor such a jurisdiction could hope for.

But in Arlington, we can do better.