A crowded field of 11 Democrats have already declared their eagerness to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, a fellow Democrat who has represented Virginia’s 8th District since January 1991, and the filing deadline isn’t until March 27.
Included in the primary slate for Moran’s seat so far are a former lieutenant governor and many state and local elected officials.
Don Beyer, who served as lieutenant governor from 1990 to 1998 and more recently was the ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, is perceived to be the front-runner.
However, Toni-Michelle Travis, an assistant professor of government and politics at George Mason University, said that while Beyer may be able to raise a lot of money, his name is not nearly as recognizable to voters as it was several years ago. Residents who have moved into Virginia over the past few years may not have heard of him, she said.
The candidate with the advantage is the one with “the best community contacts who can get out the vote,” said Travis. In a field of at least 11 candidates, the victor is likely to win the primary race with support from far less than a majority of voters.
Travis attributed the large number of candidates vying for the job to the fact that whoever wins has the advantage of holding that “seat for years to come.”
Either someone is going to win with a minority of voters or, as the race nears the June election, some candidates “may drop out and support others.” She considers the biggest issue in the race to be which candidate best represents federal employees. Keeping federal jobs in Northern Virginia and fighting sequestration are important to the district, she contended.
Bringing in other, private sector, jobs also will be an issue, she predicted.
Debbie Linick, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington’s director of Northern Virginia and D.C., said the Jewish community is keeping a close eye on this race. “We did form agreement with Congressman Moran on several of our domestic issues,” she said. “He is attuned to the needs of the most vulnerable.”
However, “we had a lot of challenges on his lacking the nuances of understanding the peace process” and the Middle East in general, she said, adding it is “crucial” for the next representative in Congress from the 8th District to be a strong supporter of Israel.
The JCRC, which is not permitted to endorse a candidate, will hold a political forum Sunday, May 1 at Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria. All the candidates will be invited, and all area synagogues will be asked to participate, she said.
Candidate Adam Ebbin served in the House of Delegates for eight years before moving into the state Senate in January 2012. He is co-chair of the General Assembly’s Progressive Caucus and calls himself “the first openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly.”
“Over the last 11 years, I have been working in the General Assembly to see that people without a loud voice still get heard,” he said, adding he believed he could help them “even more” if elected to Congress.
Ebbin’s main concerns include making sure health care is affordable for all, raising the minimum wage and tackling climate change, he said. He believes those issues are important to him due to “the Jewish tradition that was imparted to me in looking out for the wider community.”
Also hoping to replace Moran, who famously blamed the Jewish community for the unfolding war in Iraq in 2003 before apologizing days later, is radio talk show host Mark Levine, a former chief legislative counsel to former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). He calls himself “the aggressive progressive. That’s my title, that’s what I am known as.”
If elected, Levine said, he would work to make college more affordable and lessen the amount of student debt a graduate faces. He also would like to clean up the environment, including the Potomac River, expand Social Security and provide universal health care.
Graduates struggling to repay college loans are not buying houses, cars and other items, he said. As for corporate polluters, Levine would push for jail time rather than just making the company pay a financial penalty, declare bankruptcy and then walk away, he said in a recent phone interview.
“Tikkun olam drives me,” said Levine, who taught Jewish history in France at a Jewish school.
Like Ebbin, Levine is “openly gay.”
Having candidates talk freely about being gay is probably not an issue with voters in Northern Virginia, said Travis. “Not in any other part of the state could this happen,” she added.
Also running are Lavern Chatman, who served as president and CEO of the Urban League of Northern Virginia from 2004 to 2011; Bill Euille, mayor of Alexandria; Charniele Herring, who represents the 46th District in the House of Delegates and has been the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia; Patrick Hope, who represents the 47th District of the House of Delegates; and Derek Hyra, an associate professor at Virginia Tech and a member of the Alexandria planning commission.
Rounding out the ballot are Alfonso Lopez, who represents the 49th District in the House of Delegates; Bruce Shuttleworth, a Navy veteran who ran unsuccessfully against Moran in 2012; and Mark Sickles, who represents the 43rd District in the House of Delegates.
Virginia’s 8th District includes Arlington County, parts of Fairfax County and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church.
It has a population of about 775,000, according to the latest available U.S. Census Bureau data. Its population consists of about 500,000 whites, 100,000 African Americans and 145,000 Hispanics.
It tends to be a Democratic district and President Barack Obama received 68 percent of the vote there in the 2012 election. Micah Edmond, an African American and member of the greater D.C. Orthodox community, is the lone Republican to declare his candidacy in the race.