Prosecutor Biberaj wins reelection nomination in Virginia Democratic primary

Jun 20, 2023, 5:31 PM

LEESBURG, Va. (AP) — Incumbent Buta Biberaj, one of three prosecutors in northern Virginia who faced tough challenges after being elected four years ago on a reform agenda, has won her Democratic primary over challenger Elizabeth Lancaster.

Biberaj, the commonwealth’s attorney in Loudoun County, raised significantly more money, but Lancaster had earned the endorsement of The Washington Post. Biberaj faced criticism, including some within her own party, over her day-to-day management of the office and as Loudoun found itself in the national spotlight over issues like school safety and her handling of two sex assaults at two different high schools in 2021.

Biberaj will face Republican Bob Anderson, who held the commonwealth attorney’s post in Loudoun more than 20 years ago, in November.

Biberaj’s race was one of three in northern Virginia where candidates elected as reformers in 2019 faced primary challenges.

In Arlington County, incumbent Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, a former public defender, faced Josh Katcher, who had been one of Dehghani-Tafti’s deputies before leaving the office.

In Fairfax County, incumbent Steve Descano faced Ed Nuttall, a former prosecutor and trial attorney who is best known for representing police officers accused of misconduct.

Political analysts often look to Virginia’s odd-year elections for insights on voter sentiment heading into midterm and presidential years. This year, the prosecutor races in northern Virginia might shed light on whether suburban voters are still committed to criminal justice reform after years of Republican criticism that reformers are soft on crime.

Lancaster, a former public defender, faced skepticism from some Democrats because she currently works for a law firm led by a prominent local Republican. But Lancaster said her career as a public defender highlighted her commitment to reform, particularly her longstanding efforts to reform the county’s juvenile justice system.

In their campaigns, the challengers have questioned the incumbents’ day-to-day management of their offices and have, to varying degrees, endorsed the need for criminal justice reform.

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Prosecutor Biberaj wins reelection nomination in Virginia Democratic primary