On June 8, voters in the 8th Congressional District of Virginia will see something they haven’t seen in almost 20 years: a Democratic primary.
Challenger Andrew Rosenberg, an Alexandria attorney, will seek to unseat incumbent Jim Moran, a 14-year veteran as Democratic nominee for the 8th district, which includes Arlington, Alexandria, Reston and parts of Springfield and Falls Church. The winner of the primary will face a yet-do-be-determined Republican nominee in November. The 8th district last saw a Democratic primary in 1986, before the last two rounds of redistricting.
Rosenberg called the primary the “first true contest” for the overwhelmingly Democratic district.
“It makes me feel good that our effort and our campaign is playing a fundamental role in offering voters a real choice for the first time,” said Rosenberg.
But both the Rosenberg and the Moran camps predicted that turnout will be low, around 10 percent.
“I don’t have a strong sense there’s going to be a lot of people voting,” said Moran. “I won’t blame them really. There’s a lot more important things to be doing than voting in a Democratic primary but we’ll try to get the vote out nonetheless.”
Rosenberg, for his part, has been knocking on doors since last November. Many of the people he talks to are unaware of the primary, he said.
“We’re bringing news of an election.”
Ginny Peters, chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, said the party traditionally has difficulty turning people out to vote until November.
“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of interest,” she said. “Whether [people] think Jim [Moran] has got a shoe in and they don’t need to worry about him, who knows? But I sure don’t see a lot of movement.”
On the Republican side, Eric Lundberg, the recently-elected chairman of the county’s Republican Committee, said the party will choose from four potential candidates for the seat at its convention May 15. The four GOP candidates are Lisa Marie Cheney, Jane Eshagpoor, Matt Mueda and Mike Riccardi. The winner will face the democratic nominee in November.
“We certainly will have a challenge for Mr. Moran or Mr. Rosenberg,” said Lundberg.
<b>ROSENBERG SAID</b> he was running because he was upset by Moran’s “ poor judgment” which, he said, “severely undercuts his effectiveness to represent the 8th District with honor and integrity.”
Moran has come under criticism for accepting a $25,000 loan from lobbyist Terry Lierman and then supporting drug legislation that benefited one of Lierman’s clients. In 2002, Moran took a loan from an executive with credit card giant MBNA in 2002, then voted to support a bankruptcy bill that MBNA favored.
Also, at a March 2003 town hall meeting in Reston, Moran made remarks that seemed to blame Jewish leaders in the United States for the war in Iraq.
Rosenberg said he wasn’t motivated by policy differences so much as by personal disappointment in his bid.
“We need the right kind of people in Congress first and foremost,” he said. “We both agree that the war in Iraq was a mistake; we both generally agree on our opposition to Bush economic policies; we both share a similar commitment to environmental protection. There’s no question but that in a Democratic primary similarities in our positions are likely to be more common than our differences.”
In particular, Rosenberg pointed to exchanges on the Moran campaign’s web site last month where Dan Lucas, Moran’s campaign manager denied statements attributed to Moran at the Reston meeting last year, even though Moran had later apologized for the remarks which were denounced by some at the time as anti-Semitic.
Lucas has since apologized but Rosenberg said the incident could resonate among voters.
“I think [this incident is] emblematic of [Moran’s] style, of the way he reacts under pressure and it’s all pretty predictable.”
Moran dismissed the significance of the web site exchanges. “I don’t think that there are more than a dozen people who followed it, about nine of them in Andy Rosenberg’s camp,” he said.
<b>ALTHOUGH ROSENBERG</b> said he generally agrees with Moran on policy matters, he added he would have voted against the Patriot Act in 2001 and against the ban on late term abortions, both of which Moran supported.
“I’m absolutely cut of a more progressive cloth,” he said.
Moran countered that Rosenberg has never held elected office and has never had to make difficult decisions on votes.
“It’s easy when you’ve never been in a position of having to make decisions and be held accountable for them to say, ‘I would never have done anything that’s unpopular.”
He added he has since changed his mind on the Patriot Act and would vote to repeal it.
“The problem with it is the implementation of it by the Attorney General which has been, I think un-American.”
Moran also said that his seniority and his position on the House Appropriations Committee gives him influence on Capitol Hill that Rosenberg would not have, as a freshman lawmaker of the minority party.
“I’ve achieved the position within the Congress and among my colleagues to be able to address many of the district’s needs economically and socially notwithstanding the fact that I’m in the democratic minority.”
<b>In Their Own Words</b>
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<tr><td></td><td><b>Jim Moran</b></td><td><b>Andrew Rosenberg</b></td></tr><tr><td><b><lst>On Dulles Rail</b></td><td>“I’m sponsoring with [U.S. Rep.] Frank [Wolf (R-10)] and [U.S. Rep.] Tom [David (D-11)] the authority to extend rail out to Dulles and $600 million in funding for the first tranche.”</td><td>“It’s one of my priorities. One of the areas of the great failure I see so far is the inability of our congressional delegation to secure a dedicated federal funding source for Metro improvements and expansion.”</td><td></td></tr><tr><td><b>On Widening I-66</b></td><td>“I’m not requesting money for that.”</td><td>“I do not see that as something I would support at this time.”</td></tr><tr><td><b>On Federal Funding for Transportation</td><td></b>“I’ve got two projects for light rail through Potomac Yards, Crystal City, Pentagon City and over to the foot of Columbia Pike and all the way up Columbia Pike to Route 7 and I think we’re going to get that authorized.”</td><td>“We need to make improvements to our bridges and to do smart things, whether it’s the widening of roads at interchanges or make traffic flow faster. … I would not make road construction my funding priority above improvements in mass transportation.”</td></tr><tr><td><b>On Building a Professional Stadium</td><td>“I don’t think the stadium is going to locate in Arlington. My guess is it’s going to locate off the Dulles Toll Road.”</td><td>“I am not opposed to the notion of baseball in Northern Virginia. However I have not seen a plan that I think follows the necessary requirements for approval. You cannot force a neighborhood to absorb a stadium that it doesn’t want.:</td></tr></td></tr><tr><td><b>On the Mirant Plant in Alexandria</b></td><td>“I think it ought to be closed down and converted to a more efficient modern source of energy. … I’ve got a bill to prevent utilities to be able to purchase emissions credits in nonattainment areas like Northern Virginia.”</td><td>“It absolutely has to be dealt with. In theory that notion of emissions trading seems like a great idea nationwide. It’s a great idea unless you happen to live downwind of a nonattaining facility especially in an area like Northern Virginia that suffers from poor air quality.”</td></tr>