I live in the 8th Congressional District of Virginia. At the end of this, his 12th term, Jim Moran is retiring.
The district is heavily Democratic, having been carried by Obama in 2010 69-30. It contains all of the cities Falls Church and Alexandria, all of Arlington County (where I live), and a portion of Fairfax County (which is split among 3 Congressional districts, also the 10th and the 11th).
Whoever wins the Democratic primary will be the next Congressman and will be able to hold the seat as long as s/he wants barring being upset in a primary.
Thus the context drew a large and varied field. This was especially true of state legislators, who since Virginia legislative elections are held in odd-numbered years, did not have to give up their seats to run in this primary.
11 Dems qualified for the ballot, one of whom, Delegate Alphonso Lopez of Arlington, has already dropped out. Another Delegate, Mark Sickles of Fairfax, had previously withdrawn before those qualifying for the ballot were announced.
Until recently there was no public polling, but Lowell Feld of Blue Virginia, the preeminent Democratic blog in the Old Dominion (of which I have served as an editor), commissioned a poll and is slowly rolling out the result at the blog. More about that below the fold.
Once he entered the race, I offered my support to former Virginia Lt. Governor Don Beyer, whom at this point seems like the heavy favorite to win in June.
I will also explain my support below the fold.
For someone who has been politically active in local and state politics, this has been tough because I have people I support and consider friends running against one another.
Please keep reading.
Of the two candidates who dropped out, I am a strong supporter of Alphonso Lopez. I do not live in his District (my Delegate is Robert Brink, who did not seek the Congressional seat). Alphonso and I are both graduates of the Political Leadership Program of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at UVa (and he is now on the statewide Sorensen board).
Similarly, State Senator Adam Ebbin who represents part of Arlington (not where I live) and Alexandria is a true progressive and someone I like and greatly admire.
I am friends with Mark Sickles, who dropped out.
I am friendly with Delegate Patrick Hope, also of Arlington.
Being as active as I am, I just got a personal phone call from Charnielle Herring, who represents part of Alexandria in the House of Delegates, and who served as chair of the Virginia Democratic Party (being the immediate successor to Jim Moran's brother Brian). She did not know I was already committed to Don, because in fact I had not been blogging about it.
Don is going to win. I have no doubt about that.
He ran statewide 3 times, twice being elected Lt. Gov., and losing the Governor's race to Jim Gilmore in 2001, in part because he refuse to demagogue the personal property tax the way Gilmore did. Thus he was last elected in 1997, and last ran 13 years ago.
He has remained active in politics, primarily on the finance side.
I first got to know Don when I went to an event he organized on behalf of Howard Dean in the Fall of 2003. He was the national treasurer of the campaign. Don persuaded me to sign on to the Dean campaign, in which I was very active both locally (often sitting next to Don as we made calls into other states which voted early) and nationally (I was one of the organizers of the national Educators for Dean grassroots effort, and regularly participated in conference calls of leaders of a batch of grassroots organizations).
Had Mark Warner run, Don would have supported him. He was an early supporter of Obama, hosting him at his Old Town Alexandria home, serving as a regional finance chair. He oversaw the transition for the Commerce Department and during the first term served as Ambassador to Switzerland and Lichtenstein.
Don is articulate.
He is knowledgeable on a wide range of issues - at one candidate event held by Brigades, the organization formed to keep the former volunteers for Jim Webb's 2006 Senate campaign together, he clearly outshone everyone else speaking. Lowell Feld posted this video of the remarks he made to Brigades:
He has an unusual ability to bridge gaps. He is a very successful businessman - he and his brother run car dealerships known for the quality of service, vehicles, and professionalism. His first tv ad touches on that while simultaneously positioning himself as a champion of women's rights (two of his opponents are African-American women, Herring, and a woman named Lavern Chatman who is a close friend of Oprah Winfrey):
I should note that the woman speaking at the start of the add, Mary Margaret Whipple, just retired as a long-term State Senator (where she served as Democratic Caucus chair) from Arlington, where she had also served on the County and School Boards. She is one of a large number of current and former elected officials supporting Don.
On the issues, Don is very much of a progressive. As you can see from the issues page of his website he supports
- pay equity
- paid family and medical leave
- stronger gun control
- a carbon tax
- a meaningful path to citizenship for undocumented aliens
- preserving the environment and addressing global warming
Early on in the process, some argued that the district should elect someone younger in order to build up seniority on behalf of the district.
I argued that Don could be an immediately effective Congressman.
He has close ties to the administration.
He helped both Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, get elected.
Apparently the voters of the 8th district like Don.
In the Blue Virginia Post that first announced results of the poll, in the portion of the district represented by Charnielle Herring, Beyer draws 33.8% to 26.4% for undecided, 13.8% for Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille, and 10.3% for Delegate Herring - in HER DISTRICT.
Similarly, Feld posted poll results for the Senate district of Adam Ebbin, which he notes represents perhaps 25-30% of the turnout in the primary:
In the City of Alexandria, whose Mayor Bill Euille is in the primary, we see in this Blue Virginia post the following results:
In short, the numbers seem to heavily favor Beyer.
Which is to be expected.
What might not have been expected is how far ahead of these incumbent legislators he runs in THEIR districts, and the mayor in Alexandria (which by the way in where Don Beyer lives - as do also Lavern Chatman, Charnielle Herring, and Adam Ebbin).
It is a very different situation in the 47th Congressional District in Arlington, represented by Patrick Hope as we see in this post by Lowell Feld:
But before anyone starts to wonder whether in fact Hope represents a real threat to Beyer outside his district, as one comment observes:
Look at the YOUR TOTAL numbers in all four polls and you tell me who should be worried:
Charniele Herring's District:
Beyer - 33.3%
Hope - 1.9%
City of Alexandria:
Beyer - 36.6%
Hope - 1.9%
Adam Ebbins District:
Beyer - 37.7%
Hope - 1.9%
Patrick Hope's District:
Hope - 43.6%
Beyer - 20.6%
Beyer is crushing Hope across the entire 8th CD, save North Arlington.
No one ever doubted Don could raise money. That of course gives him an advantage. But others have money as well - Chatman had a major fundraiser with Oprah Winfrey.
Some wondered that since it had been so long since he ran for office whether the large number of newcomers to the district and/or younger voters would know who he is.
Several responses to that
1. Older voters, who know him and his record, are far more likely to vote in a primary like this
2. Don keeps name recognition. Don Beyer Volvo in Falls Church is a well-known company, one that regular runs humorous radio ads, which helps Don with name recognition.
3. The ad I have embedded is running on MS-NBC. I regularly see it on shows such as The Rachel Maddow Show. Since those voters in district who watch the show are likely to be Democrats, he is getting a very effective bang for his buck.
4. One last key point - in Virginia, we do not register by party. Any registered voter may participate in either party's primary. Don has strong appeal to many independent minded voters, and even to a number of moderate Republicans (yes, we have those in Northern Virginia). Given that the Democratic primary is the whole ball game, I suspect that a decent number will choose to participate in the primary, and Don will be their heavy favorite.
I am a Virginia voter, a long-term (since 1982) resident of what is now the 8th Congressional District.
My sense is that Don Beyer will handily win the primary, defeating his nearest opponent by a margin of better than 2-1 - and no, we do not have run-offs.
I think he is superbly qualified, and is a very nice person as well.
Make of this what you will.