Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert D. Anderson (R) won a decisive victory over Leesburg defense lawyer Jerry L. Johnson (D), with about 60 percent of the votes.
The race, which was among the most contentious in local campaigns, was driven by Johnson's allegations that Anderson had mishandled cases, "abused" the power of his office and led "political witch hunts." Johnson mailed a flurry of anti-Anderson ads in the final days of the campaign.
Anderson, 52, said yesterday that, in the end, the negative campaigning may have worked against Johnson. "It's been unpleasant, but it's over," Anderson said. "This race wasn't run on the issues. He tweaked the facts to the point where they've been misrepresented."
Johnson, 42, a partner at the Leesburg firm Johnson, Young & Ault, did not return calls seeking comment yesterday. A campaign spokesman said he was with family and could not be reached.
Anderson, a former defense lawyer who in 1995 defeated longtime top prosecutor William T. Burch Jr., said he has been "uncomfortable" with the campaign but is now ready to turn his attention to the future of the office.
In the next two years, Anderson said, he will fight for state and county funding to add three new assistant prosecutors to his staff of 10 to handle the increasing caseload. In the past year, 54,000 traffic, misdemeanor and juvenile and domestic court cases have been handled in Loudoun courts, compared with 28,000 the year before, prosecutors said. The number of felony cases also has increased.
"I'm looking forward to building on what we've got," Anderson said. "As we continue to grow, we will need additional resources. The caseload demand on the office has to be addressed."
Anderson also said he will work to link the computers at the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office with those of local law enforcement agencies so that investigators and prosecutors can work from computerized case files and avoid the danger of misplacing documents. The system also would allow audiotaped and videotaped testimony to be recorded as part of the computer file.
During the heated race, Anderson tried to focus his campaign on changes he made in his first term. Since taking office, he has doubled the number of assistant prosecutors and added computer software that allows the lawyers to track cases more easily. He also added an investigator who presents cases to the grand jury, saving overtime costs for police officers.
"I think this office has done the job that we were put there to do in very extenuating circumstances, which include high growth rate and trying to scratch and claw to get the resources we needed," Anderson said.
Johnson criticized Anderson's handling of several cases, saying he prematurely sought a special prosecutor to investigate allegations that Board of Supervisors Chairman Dale Polen Myers violated campaign finance laws. In an agreement with prosecutors, Myers was fined but was not charged criminally.
Johnson also attacked Anderson's handling of an investigation into alleged misuse of Leesburg credit cards by town officials, saying Anderson "tried the case in the press." That case concluded when two officials agreed to resign as part of an agreement with prosecutors to drop the investigation.
The contest grew increasingly bitter in final days, with Johnson dubbing Anderson "Bargain Bob" in a mailing that accused prosecutors of letting criminals make plea bargains in exchange for light sentences.
One glossy pamphlet featured Anderson's picture and the statement: "Boy, has this guy got a deal for you! If you're a violent felon, that is."
Anderson said that the last-minute barrage gave him no time to rebut the characterizations, and that he defends his office's decisions. He noted that prosecutors decide how to handle each case based on the evidence and legal issues.
"You will always have a situation where the evidence is not as strong as you would like it," Anderson said. "You have to make a decision: whether you will risk losing the case altogether or get a conviction on a plea agreement."