Alexandria voters will head to the polls Nov. 5 to place ballots in some heated statewide races as well as some local contests that are, well, not races at all.
Sheriff Dana Lawhorne (D) is running unopposed for a third term, while Bryan Porter has no challenger to succeed Randy Sengel as the city’s commonwealth’s attorney.
“The good news is I’m running unopposed,” Lawhorne said to the Del Ray Business Association this week. “The bad news is I’m behind in the polls.”
Ed McMahon laugh track aside, Lawhorne said he’s honored to be looking ahead to another term overseeing operations at the city’s jail and courthouse.
Lawhorne’s office manages the William Truesdale Detention Center on Mill Road, which has roughly 425 inmates on average. About 40 percent of them are federal detainees from the U.S. District Court Eastern District.
“We have everything from terrorists to people committing all sorts stuff in the Eastern District,” Lawhorne said.
Lawhorne—a lifelong city resident and 27-year veteran of the Alexandria Police Department—also spoke of work he’s done expanding the office’s profile in the community. Deputies now contribute to safety and crowd control operations at city events and other festivities. Eight deputies will be assigned to busy intersections across the city on Halloween night to ensure the safety of trick-or-treaters.
Lawhorne added that he’s actualized an inmate work detail to pick up trash around town and assist in other nonprofit or municipal functions like First Night Alexandria.
This summer, the sheriff’s office also rolled out appointment-based child car seat safety inspections. The fire department had previously offered the service, but the program was terminated several years ago due to budget cuts.
Lawhorne said his office has conducted more than 50 inspections in the last three months.
“It’s a great feeling to live here, grow up here and serve the community here,” Lawhorne said. “This is a great job.”
Like Lawhorne, Porter is a former Alexandria police officer. The son of two longtime Alexandria educators (his father, John, was principal at T.C. Williams High School for 22 years), Porter worked his way through law school taking night classes and was offered a job as an assistant attorney in Sengel’s office in 2001.
“Dana was my mentor,” Porter said. “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him. He sat me down and pitched me on becoming a police officer in this city.”
Sengel announced last year he would not seek re-election, creating the vacancy. Porter has worked on murder trials as well as complex narcotics and human trafficking cases over the last 12 years as Sengel’s assistant.
“Our office prosecutes every local offense, from traffic offenses to homicides,” Porter said. “Alexandria is a safe city but the bad news is that it is a city and that there is some crime. … If there’s a larceny or burglary at your businesses, one attorney is assigned to the case. We strive to be consumer friendly, victim friendly. We’ll do anything we can to help you.”
Porter said he’s committed to maintaining transparent and ethical prosecutions in the city. At his campaign kickoff in February, Porter promised to “vigorously prosecute” individuals who have exhibited a lifelong course of criminal behavior but also said he “understands people make mistakes” and would make sure rehabilitation is available for first-time offenders.
Commonwealth’s attorney, called a district or state attorney in other states, is elected to a four-year term. Alexandria’s sheriff is elected to a three-year term.