Vote in the primaries. They’re important.

Elisabeth Synder

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Right now, the news cycle is consumed with the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries. Joe Biden entered the third presidential race of his career after much anticipation. Bernie Sanders entered for a second time, already with over 20% of Democratic Party primary voters’ support in all of the polls. Elizabeth Warren has stunned the field with her detailed economic policies at such an early time in the race. Every candidate is scrambling to define themselves and resonate with voters as we begin approaching the most defining election in decades.

However,  primaries aren’t only important at the national level.

Man holds microphone and speaks

Dick Saslaw is pictured here while debating a bill. He has served in Virginia’s Senate since 1980. This is the first time that he has faced a primary challenger in decades (photo via ggwash.org).

In a primary election which could be compared to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s against incumbent representative and Chair of the House Democratic Caucus Joe Crowley, Yasmine Taeb is challenging incumbent state senator and Minority Leader Dick Saslaw from the left. Saslaw hasn’t faced a primary challenger for decades.

Taeb calls herself a progressive, and her positions include eliminating corporate money from politics and establishing an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission. Her position on corporate money is one of many that are starkly different from her opponent’s. Dick Saslaw has taken in $77,500 from Dominion Energy since 2016 and does not align with the Democratic Party’s platform on some key issues, including the death penalty.

Profile of Parisa Tafti

Parisa Dehghani-Tafti has been a public defender, innocence protection attorney, and law professor for twenty years. Like any primary challenge, her presence in the race has brought up many new and important issues. (Photo via Twitter)

Falls Church is faced with another, similar primary in June – Parisa Dehghani-Tafti is running for Commonwealth’s Attorney against incumbent Theo Stamos. Tafti wants to eliminate cash bail, repair damage done by sentencing disparities based on race or economic status, treat addiction as a medical, not criminal, problem, and legalize marijuana.

Stamos says on her website that she is “tough on crime and reform-minded,” and her policies include using a program called Second Chance to divert students from criminal activity and back to schools and increase funding to ensure that trial dates don’t require detained persons to stay in jail for long periods of time before trial. Stamos’ alignment with Northern Virginia progressives has been challenged: in Arlington, she endorsed independent John Vihstadt for County Board over Democratic opponents and she refused to grant voting rights to convicted felons after Governor Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order. She also supports the death penalty.

Woman with arms crossed in front of flag

Theo Stamos, pictured here, was elected to serve as the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and Falls Church in 2011. Not only is she the incumbent, but she has worked in various roles in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office since 1987.

Though fewer people vote in the primaries than general elections, primaries are one of the most important markers of changing ideology in American politics, especially at the local level. Falls Church, a district which voted 75% for Hillary Clinton in 2016, will not have a highly contested general election, which makes voting in the primaries all the more important.