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Some prosecutor primaries will be decided next month

Jahd Khalil
Radio IQ

Voters will go to the polls next month to choose candidates in dozens of races across Virginia. Some of those races will be for prosecutors.

Four years ago, a group of Commonwealth's Attorneys were elected and started taking a new approach to law and order. They called themselves the Progressive Prosecutors for Justice, and they advocated for things like the abolition of the death penalty, ending cash bail and getting rid of mandatory minimum sentences. Now, a few of their most prominent members have challengers in the Democratic primary in Fairfax and Loudoun and in Arlington.

Carl Tobias at the University of Richmond Law School says voters will determine if this is an experiment that worked.

"So that's, I think, the way the people can speak if they're not satisfied with what the prosecutors are doing," Tobias explains.

Legal expert Rich Kelsey says the incumbents in Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington might be in trouble.

“When you look at some of the bad press and some of the actions taken by these prosecutors who have blurred the line between advocacy, which they have an absolute right to do, and how they execute the function of their job," Kelsey says. "I think voters are concerned about where that line is."

Only some of the progressive prosecutors are on the ballot this year, the ones that are elected in counties. City prosecutors are on a different election cycle, so those challengers will have to wait two years to take on incumbents in Alexandria, Charlottesville, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Portsmouth.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.