Pettitt wins Montgomery County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s race
Mary Pettitt became the first woman elected to the Montgomery County commonwealth’s attorney’s office tonight, retaining a job she stepped into on a temporary basis last summer.
Pettitt, 46, a Republican who had worked as an assistant prosecutor for eight years in Montgomery County, took about 52 percent of the Montgomery County vote. The total was delayed for hours as results from a precinct that includes Virginia Tech’s campus and its student housing were slow to come in.
Pettitt became commonwealth’s attorney in June, when then-top prosecutor Brad Finch was sworn in as a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge.
Tonight’s special election was for the remaining three years of Finch’s term. Pettitt was challenged by Democrat Peggy Frank, 57, an assistant prosecutor in Pulaski County and before that, Montgomery County.
“I thought we gave it our best effort,” Frank said after results had come in.
Pettitt could not be immediately reached for comment on her victory.
Throughout the campaign, the two candidates clashed over the direction and philosophy of the prosecutor’s office. Pettitt argued that it was working well and did not need significant changes, and Frank countered that computerizing records and revising the collections process for unpaid fines and court fees would lead to greater efficiency and savings for taxpayers.
Frank’s campaign hit a bump after a League of Women Voters candidate forum in Blacksburg last month. Asked by Pettitt when her last jury trial was, Frank answered it was in 2000. Pettitt told the moderator that her most recent jury trial was in June. She promptly incorporated Frank’s answer into her campaigning, asking on Facebook if voters really wanted to a prosecutor who had not taken a case to a jury in a dozen years.
Three days later, Frank issued a statement saying she had misunderstood Pettitt’s question and actually had prosecuted a jury trial in February. But after a few more days, and questions from Pettitt, Frank said the February case had ended with a plea before a jury heard it, and said the last time she argued a case before a jury was in November 2009.
Frank said she did not think it mattered precisely when she had last presented a case to a jury, saying her experience included all manner of charges and trials. Pettitt, however, said the changing answers pointed to problems with her opponent’s integrity.
– Mike Gangloff
For other races, see roanoke.com
You can find analysis of the returns on our Blue Ridge Caucus politics blog.
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