McAuliffe endorses challenger in commonwealth’s attorney race

Descano and McAuliffe posing for picture
Steve Descano, left, and Terry McAuliffe. (Image from

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has endorsed Steve Descano in his bid to unseat incumbent Ray Morrogh in the Democratic primary race for Fairfax County Commonweatlh’s Attorney.

McAuliffe noted in his endorsement that Morrogh opposed McAuliffe’s 2016 executive order to restore the voting rights of state residents convicted of felonies who were no longer incarcerated. Morrogh was one of only three Democratic prosecutors who signed on with 19 Republicans and 19 independents to file an amicus brief to the Virginia Supreme Court opposing McAuliffe’s measure.

That decision, McAuliffe said, put Morrogh on the “wrong side of history.”

“As Governor, I moved to restore the voting and civil rights of all Virginians who had been convicted of felonies, served their time, and returned to the community free of state supervision,” McAuliffe said. “Unfortunately, some elected officials opposed that initiative — succumbing to the politics of fear … .”

Descano has said previously that he supported McAuliffe’s executive order, and said Morrogh’s opposition factored into his decision to challenge the incumbent.

Descano is now the second Democratic primary challenger in a commonwealth’s attorney race to be endorsed by McAuliffe. Earlier this month he threw his support behind Parisa Tafti, who is challenging incumbent Theo Stamos in Arlington County’s commonwealth’s attorney race. Stamos, like Morrogh, signed on to the brief opposing McAuliffe’s executive order.

Descano, 38, served as a federal prosecutor under the Obama administration. He is running on a platform that rejects past “tough on crime” policies and calls for major reforms to the commonwealth’s attorney office. Descano said he will work to eliminate cash bail, craft a new approach to dealing with low-level drug offenses, and increase transparency in the county’s justice system.

Descano is also critical of Morrogh’s low-profile approach, saying the commonwealth’s attorney, as an elected official, needs to be in the community more.

“I’m proud to have our former Governor’s official endorsement, I’m committed to bringing our community’s values to the courtroom, and I’m eager to continue this conversation with every voter in Fairfax County,” Descano said in the release.

Morrogh, who has served as a prosecutor in the county for more than 35 years, is running for re-election to a fourth term. He was re-elected unopposed in 2011 and 2015.

This year’s Democratic primary will be held June 11.

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