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Woman running for DA in Calif. county.

Iranian-American Elle Falahat is running for district attorney of her Northern California county in a non-partisan election to be held next June.

Falahat is focusing her campaign on bringing reform to the Contra Costa County's DA office by addressing issues including inefficient management, high staff turnover, and poor resource management. She is seeking to raise a minimum of $250,000 to be able to run a competitive race.

In an interview last month with the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) and its connected PAC, the Iranian American Political Action Committee, Falahat laid out why she feels she is qualified for the position.

She said she decided to run because the current DA office is in need of reform and because the top positions in the DA's office have never been held by a minority.

"I began my career as a key member of a trial team in the Polly Klaas murder trial. This was one of the most high profile cases in California history, and led to the passage in California in 1995 of what is now known as the Three Strikes law, which has reduced serious crime in California by 45 percent in the past 14 years. I'm extremely proud of the role I played in that case and the passage of the Three Strikes law.

"Additionally, I have worked as a deputy district attorney in the Ventura County DA's offices under District Attorney Michael Bradbury. Legendary for creating one of the safest communities in the western United States, Mr. Bradbury is the only person to be elected twice as the president of the California District Attorneys Association. His support of my campaign speaks volumes about my qualifications for this position," Falahat told PAAIA.

Falahat is focusing on what she calls inefficiency and mismanagement.

"The Contra Costa County DA's office has been described by head of the DA's union, Barry Grove, as 'an office in crisis.' I agree with that statement. The DA's office faces numerous problems not being addressed by inefficient management, including high staff turnover, poor resource management and poor trial results. As an experienced prosecutor, I feel an obligation to step forward to see that these problems are addressed. It's for this reason that I am running for public office."

Falahat told the Iran Times, "I am the first woman to run for the District Attorney position in 160 years of the history of this office. If elected, I will be the first woman in the history of Contra Costa County to hold this post. I will also be the first Iranian-American in the U.S. to hold the top law enforcement position. We are intelligent, driven, successful, accomplished and hard working people without a voice in public office. We need to change that. I am working very hard to create the opportunity for my children and the Iranian-American children across the board.

Falahat also hopes to deal with the Contra Costa County's gang problem. The county is located on the east side of San Francisco Bay just north of Berkeley and Oakland

"Contra Costa County is an extremely diverse county with an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 criminal gang members. Although law enforcement can easily identify the majority of these individuals, only 350 are currently in custody. There is no coordinated countywide law enforcement gang task force and no gang prosecution unit in the District Attorney's office. This would be the first issue which I would address," she said.

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Falahat described how she stands out from her opponents. "All three of my opponents who have emerged thus far are District Attorney's office insiders. The last time an outsider was elected to be district attorney in Contra Costa County was in 1958. The culture of the office needs to be changed. Keeping our neighborhoods safe must be the top priority. The office needs to refocus its efforts on managing its limited resources to make the greatest impact on lowering the crime rate. This will only be accomplished by significant change in leadership that only an outsider can bring. Fortunately, this need for change is widely understood by the community and is generating many supporters for my candidacy," Falahat said.

When PAAIA asked what role the Iranian-American community could play in her campaign, Falahat said, "Contra Costa County has a population of just over one million people. It has been estimated that there may be as many as 30,000 Iranians. Their votes alone could make the difference between success and failure in this election campaign. Their resources could ensure that the issues reach the voters."

The Iranian-born attorney, who last visited Iran with her family 12 years ago, told the Iran Times she was born in Tehran, and moved to the United States with her parents and older sister before the 1979 Iranian revolution--settling in Santa Clara, California. After receiving her bachelor's degree from San Jose State, Falahat pursued her interest in law and continued her education at the Lincoln University School of Law.

During her education, Falahat volunteered with the Santa Clara District Attorney's office and later worked as a deputy district attorney in Ventura County. She is currently running her own private practice.

When the Iran Times asked Falahat what the Iranian-American community could do to help her campaign, she said, "I need your help, my Iranian-American family, to make this a successful race and make history for us. We elected the first African-American president, the first Hispanic-American Supreme Court justice and now we need to elect the first Iranian-American district attorney.

"As with any campaign, 75 percent is about the money you raise. I need the Iranian family to help in that regard. My website is ellefalahatforda.com and there they can read about me and make any contribution they wish," she said.

There are currently 10 Iranians holding elective office in North America--six in California, two in Canada and two in Texas. Of the 10, five were born in the United States and the rest in Iran. The eight Americans were all elected in non-partisan contests; the two Canadians won in partisan elections.
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Title Annotation:Diaspora: Around the globe
Author:Nasri, Grace
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Dec 4, 2009
Words:1016
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