Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Tracci formally announced his re-election campaign Tuesday.
Tracci delivered his speech to the gathered crowd outside Albemarle’s Circuit Court, highlighting his work as the county’s top prosecutor.
The former special assistant U.S. attorney first was elected in 2015, ousting Democrat Denise Lunsford, who had held the position since 2007.
Tracci, who is running again as a Republican, talked generally about the legal fallout of the white supremacist Unite the Right rally, which ended with the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer.
The rally has had a significant legal impact — mostly in the Charlottesville court system — however, Tracci said he believes the community has come together since the summer of 2017.
“White supremacy came to divide our community, but only unified us. As Pastor Alvin Edwards made clear, we must never become defined by those who hate us,” he said. “They sought to undermine our institutions, but affirmed their resilience. They came to break our spirit, but only strengthened it. And we sought lawful accountability, not unprincipled vengeance.”
Reiterating his campaign slogan, “equal justice under law,” Tracci said he would continue to prosecute cases in a way he believes is fair to victims, as well as the community.
“True humility as a prosecutor lies in fairly applying the law, not willfully disregarding it,” he said. “With prosecution comes accountability. With accountability comes deterrence. With deterrence comes community safety. And with safety comes the dignity owed to all citizens to live without fear in our community.”
Though not named, Tracci’s comments appeared to be a response to his Democratic opponent, University of Virginia adjunct professor and former public defender Jim Hingeley.
Hingeley, who announced his candidacy in January, has said that, if elected, he would seek to lower the number of incarcerated individuals by bringing fewer general district court cases to circuit court and better utilizing alternative programs such as drug court and mental health court.
Hingeley has claimed that higher incarceration rates do not make a community safer and can make it difficult for those who serve time to fold back into the community.
Tracci was flanked Tuesday by supporters Gil Harrington, founder of Help Save the Next Girl, and Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding.
Harrington, whose daughter Morgan was murdered in 2009, said she got to know Tracci when he prosecuted Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. Matthew ending up entering guilty pleas for the murders of Morgan, as well as UVa student Hannah Graham, and is serving a life sentence in prison.
Harrington said she had come to respect and trust Tracci.
“I do not support Republican candidates, nor do I support Democratic candidates,” she said. “Instead, I choose to give my determined love and support to individuals that I know have intelligence and integrity.”
Harding highlighted Tracci’s role in DNA data bank expansion, which added trespassing and assault and battery to the list of qualifying crimes last year. Harding himself pushed to add indecent exposure to the list in 2015, which he claimed could have implicated Matthew as a suspect and potentially saved the life of Morgan Harrington.
“[Tracci] has promised to continue fighting for database expansion,” Harding said.
Tracci and Hingeley will face off in the Nov. 5 general election.