Bookmark and Share

Falahat Aims to Make History: Iranian American Runs for District Attorney in Contra Costa County California


Source: Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)

Elle Falahat

Iranian American Elle Falahat has a goal, and an impressive one at that: to become the first ever-female district attorney for Contra Costa County. Furthermore, if elected, Falahat would be the first Iranian American ever to serve as District Attorney in the United States. According to her, "I'm running for this position because the time has come. I'm the only candidate in this race committed to changing the culture of the office to bring it into the 21st century."  The non-partisan election will be held in June of 2010. 
Raised in Santa Clara, Elle Falahat had her sights set on working in the legal profession from an early age. She helped turn this dream into a reality when she entered Lincoln University, school of law, after receiving her bachelor's degree from San Jose State. It was during this period that Falahat took a volunteer job with the Santa Clara District Attorney's office and fell under the mentorship of District Attorney, Judge Sharon Chatman. She was later chosen from a multitude of applicants to serve on the trial team in the Polly Klaas murder case. This historical trial ultimately led to the state of California establishing its "Three Strikes" law. Since then, Falahat has worked as a Deputy District Attorney in Ventura County District Attorney's offices and is currently running her own private practice. 

Falahat's campaign is focused on bringing much needed reform to the Contra Costa D.A. office by addressing issues such as inefficient management, high staff turnover, and poor resource management. Furthermore, her campaign is mounting a grass roots campaign to reach residents of Contra Costa County via telephone calls and the Internet. According to Falahat, her campaign needs to raise a minimum of $250,000 in order to run a competitive race. 

Click here to learn more about Falahat's campaign.

Recently, PAAIA and its connected PAC, the Iranian American Political Action Committee, had the opportunity to sit down with Elle Falahat and discuss her campaign for District Attorney in Contra Costa County.

PAAIA/IAPAC: Why are you running for public office?

FALAHAT: The Contra Costa County D.A. office has been described by head of the D.A.'s union, Barry Grove, as "an office in crisis". I agree with that statement. The D.A.'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.

PAAIA/IAPAC: Why are you running for this particular position?

FALAHAT: In its 150-year history, no woman or minority has ever held any of the top three positions in the District Attorney's office in Contra Costa County.  Thirty-four female attorneys have left the office in the past six years. Senior female attorneys have openly complained about management practices. It's clear that current management doesn't believe there is a place at the table for female and minority attorneys. I'm running for this position because the time has come. I'm the only candidate in this race committed to changing the culture of the office to bring it into the 21st century.

PAAIA/IAPC: What are your qualifications for this job?

FALAHAT: My experience in the field of prosecution is extensive. 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% in the past fourteen 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 Ventura County D.A.'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 California District Attorneys Association.  His support of my campaign speaks volumes about my qualifications for this position. 

PAAIA/IAPAC: What are some of the challenges you believe your campaign committee must overcome to mount a successful run-off campaign?

FLAHAT: Money, Money & Money! Contra Costa County has a population of 1 million people. To reach that number of voters requires the use of television, direct mailing and numerous public appearances. To mount a successful campaign will take a bare minimum of $250K. Raising that money in this economic climate is a real challenge. Groups such as the Iranian American Political Action Committee are doing a tremendous public service in supporting qualified Iranian candidates for public office. I would be grateful for your support and any assistant you can provide.

PAAIA/IAPAC: What are the fundraising goals of your committee?

To mount a successful campaign it would be necessary to raise money in a variety of ways. One of the most obvious ways is through PAC donations from groups such as yours. We are also mounting a grass root fundraising campaign through phone contacts and an internet fundraising site. With energy and enthusiasm we should reach our goals.

PAAIA/IAPAC: What differentiates you from your opponent(s)?

FALAHAT: All three of my opponents who have emerged thus far are District Attorney's office insiders. The last time an outsider was elected to the District Attorney in Contra Costa County was in 1958. The culture of the office needs to be changed. Keeping our neighborhood 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.

PAAIA/IAPAC: What are the most critical issues facing Contra Costa County?

FALAHAT: In a nutshell, our gang problem. 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.

PAAIA/IAPAC: What role do you think Iranian Americans can play in your campaign and what do you expect from the community? 

FALAHAT: Contra Costa County has a population of just over one million people.  It has been estimated that there may be as many as thirty thousand 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.  With your assistance we can reach out to the Iranian American community in Contra Costa County and in other communities nation wide.     

PAAIA/IAPAC: What role can organizations like IAPAC play in assisting your campaign?

IAPAC can help target and identify influential Iranians in the community that can assist with the campaign, and can contribute resources to get our message out to the public. 

© Copyright 2009 (All Rights Reserved)