The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The endless recalls in Virginia are pointless and must stop

Loudoun County Commonwealth's Atttorney Buta Biberaj on Dec. 17, 2019. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
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Buta Biberaj is the Loudoun County commonwealth’s attorney.

In November 2019, the voters of Loudoun County made history, choosing a new path for a safer, fairer justice system. The voters gave me the most votes ever for a commonwealth’s attorney, electing the first immigrant, the first woman and first Muslim American as Loudoun’s top prosecutor.

Not surprisingly, the choice made by Loudoun County voters left some outside special interests unhappy.

In July, a Fairfax County-based right-wing group made the trip west to Leesburg to announce a recall campaign against me, and began gathering signatures for that effort. The next month, a different group, backed by national Republican operatives and special-interest money, announced in the New York Times that it would attempt to recall me.

Fast-forward 11 months, and these operatives still could not get Loudoun to fall victim to their antics. Three months ago came a third recall attempt, as the two groups came together to announce they were joining forces in an attempt to meet the signature threshold by this summer.

This coordinated attempt to undo the will of the voters should outrage every Virginian committed to democracy and fairness. It is time for legislators in Richmond to reform the recall process. It has no deadline for signatures and enables year-long campaigns of political shenanigans disguised as “signature gathering.”

This recall attempt is intended to intimidate me and prevent me from doing the job Loudoun County voters elected me to do. My promise to the good people of Loudoun County is that I will never be intimidated by a bunch of outside political operatives who don’t represent our community.

And let’s face it: This is not the only attempt I have seen attempting to undermine my work. Since being elected, I have faced numerous death threats as well as threats from the attorney general to illegally usurp local power out from under me and deny Loudoun County residents the representation for which they voted. An ill-advised, politically charged attempt to recall my position only adds to the list of unsuccessful attempts to prevent the work that the people of Loudoun County elected me to do.

It is time to tone down the rhetoric and focus on what matters to Loudoun residents: a safer, fairer justice system. While these outside groups play political games, I have been hard at work to serve the people of this county.

For example, over my first year in office, serious crime decreased by 11 percent in Loudoun County, even as the crime rate rose in the region overall. This includes a drop in rape, robbery and aggravated assault. For more than two years, my team in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has delivered on the promise of a safer and fairer community that saves taxpayer dollars. We have additionally increased protections for victims of domestic violence, increasing the number of Special Victims Unit attorneys handling domestic violence cases from two to five, and nearly doubled the number of victim witness managers. We received a competitive $330,000 grant from the Justice Department that we’ve deployed to increase education and prevention of sexual assault offenses. And we redirected the use of pretrial incarceration away from nonviolent, low-level offenders, reducing the daily jail population from 425 in 2020 to approximately 250 in 2022. This will save Loudoun residents millions of dollars every year.

In short, we have built a safer community with less violent crime and more support for victims, and have saved millions in taxpayer dollars. That’s the change that a record number of Loudoun County voters chose in 2019. And that’s what we’ve been delivering — and will continue to deliver. It’s time for outside groups to end the political shenanigans so we can all focus on the work ahead.

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