Jim Moran, 67
A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Moran was raised in Natick, Mass., and moved to Northern Virginia in the 1970s to work as a stockbroker. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the College of the Holy Cross and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Pittsburgh. He was first elected to the Alexandria City Council in 1979, and was elected mayor in 1985. He ran for Congress in 1990, and has been reelected 10 times.
Patrick Murray, 53
A native of Oklahoma City, Okla., Murray moved to the Carlyle neighborhood after retiring from the Army in 2009. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Oklahoma State University, a master’s degree ancient history from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree in Russian Studies from Ohio State University. He served in the Army from 1986 to 2009, retiring as a colonel who was stationed in New York City as part of the diplomatic corps.
Jason Howell, 38
A native of Anaheim, Calif., Howell was raised in Northern Virginia. He has an associate’s degree from Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from George Mason University. He worked in banking and accounting before founding his own company and writing “America: Still the Land of Opportunity,” which was self-published in 2011.
Janet Murphy, 61
A native of Boston, Murphy was raised in Beverly, Mass. She has a bachelor’s degree in English drama from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She has a master’s degree in counseling from the University of the District of Columbia. She is a former real-estate agent who is currently a property manager for two buildings in Dupont Circle and a building in Brightwood.
A trio of challengers will oppose longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) this November, although the Northern Virginia district is solidly blue and not considered competitive. Challengers include a conservative Republican, a liberal Independent Green and an independent candidate hoping to steer clear of partisan influence.
“It’s not realistic to think that any of these candidates poses a serious threat to Moran,” said Toni-Michelle Travis, political science professor at George Mason University. “But our democracy is founded on the idea that members of Congress should be challenged every election, so it’s good to have the debate.”
And there’s a lot to debate. The congressman’s opponents are calling for everything from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act to reopening the 9/11 Commission. They face an uphill battle in the Eighth Congressional District, where Moran is well known for using his position on the Appropriations Committee to steer federal money to Northern Virginia. As a member of the House of Representatives for the last 22 years, Moran is one of the most recognizable members of the Virginia delegation.
“With so many Democrats in Northern Virginia, this seat is as safe as you can get,” said Kyle Kondick, analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “If he was ever in any trouble, it would be in a primary and not in a general election.”
WHEN ASKED ABOUT his goals for the next term, Moran said his top priority is avoiding any negative impact of the “sequester” — $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that would be triggered if Congress cannot reach a deal to reduce the deficit by the end of the year. The congressman said sequestration would have a particularly devastating influence in Northern Virginia, where cuts to defense spending plays an important role in the local economy.
“We’ve got to avoid it,” said Moran. “And I think the way to avoid it is to reset the budget table by letting the Bush tax cuts expire and getting enough revenue on the table that we can afford government at a reasonable level.”
Moran also said he wants to invest in early childhood education and research into early childhood development. He noted that the budget proposal submitted by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who is the vice presidential nominee on the presidential ticket, eliminated the Child Care Tax Credit. Moran said that’s a mistake. The congressman said he wants a “large piece” of funding for pre-Kindergarten in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization, although he wasn’t willing to say how much because the numbers are still being negotiated. He also wants to start investing in public transit in southeast Fairfax County, eventually extending the Metro system south from the Springfield Metro station toward Fort Belvoir.
“We have got to start reinvesting in our nation’s infrastructure, particularly public transit,” said Moran. “We’ve disinvested over the last several years, so it’s going to cost us more now to get back to where we ought to be.”
IN THE LAST election, Republican Patrick Murray was able to score about 37 percent against Moran, who won with a solid 61 percent of the vote. This year, Murray is hoping to improve on that performance. If elected, Murray said that he would try to balance the budget by reforming entitlement programs. Specifically, he said, he would raise the age of eligibility for Social Security from 67 to 70 and implement a system of means testing.
“I’m proud of picking Mitt Romney for picking Paul Ryan because we want to rescue Medicare and Social Security,” said Murray. “If you ask anybody under 40 years old if they think they are going to have Social Security or Medicare, they laugh because they know they are not going to under the current system.”
Another priority for Murray would be to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which Murray said is a drain on small businesses. Murray sees overturning the landmark health-care act as a way to help the economy because he said small businesses would hire more employees, which would reduce unemployment. The Republican candidate also said he wants to extend the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and expand drilling for oil off the coast of Virginia.
“We need to pursue more of our own natural resources,” said Murray. “To me, that’s a huge no-brainer.”
IN ADDITION to the Democrat and Republican, voters will also have an independent and an Independent Green candidate to choose from. The independent candidate is Jason Howell, author of the 2011 book “America: Still the Land of Opportunity.” Howell said the inspiration for the book came from his experiences as recruiter working during the economic collapse in 2009. If elected, Howell said he would revise the Dodd-Frank Act so small and regional banks do not have to meet as many compliance rules as large banks. He said the details of how that would work have yet to be worked out.
“I don’t have all of that written out,” said Howell. “But we know what a regional bank is. We just have to write it out.”
Howell said he would also work to reduce the level of paperwork that is needed for small companies to go public. Like the banking reform, Howell says that many of the reforms instituted after the 2009 economic crash don’t make enough distinctions between big businesses that created the problem and smaller businesses that might be unnecessarily stifled by new regulations. He said he would also like to become a champion for telecommuting among federal agencies, using the Patent and Trademark Office as an example that should be followed by the rest of the federal government.
“Somebody needs to be a spokesman for telecommuting policy,” said Howell. “I want to be that spokesman.”
INDEPENDENT GREEN candidate Janet Murphy offers yet another perspective to the ballot. Like many of her colleagues in the Independent Green movement, Murphy believes voters should have choices beyond the two major parties. That’s why she’s spent the last few months getting several third-party candidates on the presidential ballot, including Green Party Jill Stein, Libertarian Party Gary Johnson and Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode. Now that the ballot qualification is over, Murphy is turning her attention elsewhere.
“I need a job,” said Murphy. “I don’t have one.”
If elected, Murphy said she would work to reopen the investigation into 9/11 because she feels the official story has a number of discrepancies. She said she would also work to repeal the Patriot Act, which she said was unnecessary and encourages an abuse of the justice system. Murphy would also ban mountaintop removal mining, which she says is dangerous to the environment.
“It’s so egregiously bad, and they keep on doing it,” said Murphy. “They work around the EPA rules, and it’s very corrupt.”