After losing by a margin of just 27 votes four years ago, Page Higginbotham is making another run for Orange County commonwealth’s attorney against 2019 victor Diana O’Connell.
This time, he enters the arena with a pair of endorsements from a pair of high-ranking Republicans: Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares and Del. Nick Freitas, who represents part of Orange County in the General Assembly.
“I hope these endorsements will show people that people in positions to know about law enforcement, particularly with the attorney general’s office, believe that I’m the right man for the job,” Higginbotham told The Daily Progress. “I’m the right person to run for Orange County commonwealth’s attorney’s office.”
Higginbotham, who despite the Republican backing is running as an independent, recently opened up his own law practice. But he said he will give that up if he wins in November, claiming that Orange County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney needs an injection of new blood.
“Four years ago I said that my opponent had been in office too long and she was no longer running her shop effectively,” he said. “She no longer seemed to have the drive to make sure everything was getting done correctly.”
It’s his view that O’Connell’s office is losing cases it should not lose.
“Everyone loses cases, but you shouldn’t lose cases because you’re unprepared,” he said. “The public has become more aware of that ,and I’m more aware of what it takes to win.”
O’Connell denied the accusation in a statement, defending her record and attacking Higginbotham’s.
“I have a 90% conviction rate. My opponent has tried 10 circuit court criminal cases in the last four years and won one,” she told The Daily Progress in an email. “I win cases, and he has no record to stand on.”
The last time these two squared off, the race was so close that Higginbotham asked for a recount. Come November, voters will have another chance to determine if they’re comfortable with O’Connell and her conviction rate or if they have more faith in Higginbotham backed by his new endorsements.
Asked for an explanation on his choice to make an endorsement in the race, Miyares’ office sent The Daily Progress the following statement: “The AG was happy to join Delegate Nick Freitas in endorsing Page Higginbotham, after hearing countless complaints from victims about the current CA of Orange County.”
It was the same point that Higginbotham alluded to in an interview; in addition to what he called a “broken” relationship with law enforcement, he claims his opponent’s office is not doing enough to communicate with victims.
“There’s a duty to communicate with victims they represent,” he said. “Victims need to know that the people representing them care about them.”
Asked to be more specific about what he considers “unforced errors”, the candidate said that the current office sometimes doesn’t provide the discovery that they owe to the defense attorney or doesn’t have the witness list or plea agreement owed to the opposing side.
“That’s what I see on the regular as a defense attorney that practices in that court,” he said.
O’Connell is standing by her conviction rate, playing down the potential impact of Miyares and Freitas siding with her opponent.
“This race is not about endorsements. It is about results,” she wrote. “It is about who has the successful record. The voters of Orange County understand this.”