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ANDREW SHURTLEFF/THE DAILY PROGRESS Public defender Jim Hingeley launches his campaign for commonwealth's attorney Wednesday outside the Albemarle County courthouse.

University of Virginia adjunct professor and former public defender Jim Hingeley announced his campaign for Albemarle County commonwealth’s attorney Wednesday.

Hingeley, who is running as a Democrat, said his experience as the founder and former chief defender for the Albemarle-Charlottesville Public Defender Office and as a trial lawyer makes him well equipped to serve as county’s top prosecutor.

“At the end of the day, I’m not a politician,” he said. “I never planned on running for office, and I will not run for any other office; this is my last stop.”

If elected, Hingeley said 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.

High incarceration rates do not make a community safer, Hingeley said, and can make it difficult for those who serve time to fold back into the community.

“Why is Albemarle incarcerating community members at a high rate even though we know it doesn’t make us safer?” he said.

Hingeley was joined at his announcement by Andrew Sneathern, a former prosecutor who ran for the Democratic nomination in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District last year.

Sneathern highlighted Hingeley’s shared values and wealth of experience. Because of work as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney, Hingeley has the necessary experience to lead, Sneathern said.

“Jim understands the critical role played by the defendant,” he said. “He knows the role is every bit as important as the prosecutor.”

Per campaign finance reports, Sneathern previously had created a committee to run as a Democrat for Albemarle commonwealth’s attorney and received $21,000 in donations.

Big-time Democratic donor Sonjia Smith, who has injected nearly $150,000 into local elections this cycle, provided $20,000 of that amount.

Sneathern’s committee then spent nearly half of the funds setting up a campaign before he decided not to run. He then donated the rest of his campaign money to Hingeley in November.

Hingeley has raised $10,260 since July 1, 2018, including $9,635 from Sneathern’s campaign committee, and had $8,204 on hand as of Dec. 31.

Robert Tracci, the incumbent Republican commonwealth’s attorney, said he is seeking another four-year term. He has not yet begun raising funds for the election.

The former special assistant U.S. attorney was elected in 2015, ousting Democrat Denise Lunsford, who had held the position since 2007.

No other candidates have announced for the position. The general election is Nov. 5.

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Tyler Hammel is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact him at (434) 978-7268, or @TylerHammelVA on Twitter.

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