Congressman Jim Moran’s (D-8-VA) stunning announcement that he will not seek re-election this fall was a complete surprise to most, if not all, of his constituents. Jim’s quarter-century of service on Capitol Hill spans four Republican and Democratic administrations, from George H.W. Bush to Barack Obama. His departure from Congress at the end of this year means that thousands of federal employees will lose one of their best advocates in Congress. Jim’s active support of the environment also will be missed. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee’s Interior Subcommittee, which he chaired when Democrats were in the majority, Jim always could be counted on to be a strong voice for the environment. Whether closing the Mirant generating plant in Old Town, or working to ensure the environmental integrity of the Potomac shoreline, Jim has been a great friend to improving the quality of life in our urban community.
Jim and I first came to the House on the very same day, January 3, 1991. Jim had defeated incumbent Stan Parris in the November elections, and my new boss, Mike Kopetski (D-5-OR), had defeated incumbent Denny Smith at the same time. As often happens, there was a small fender bender that morning in the approach to the 3rd Street tunnel, and Jim, a few cars ahead of me, had been bloodied a bit when his car was rear-ended by another motorist. Fortunately, the incident was quickly resolved, and Jim made it to the Capitol for the historic swearing-in of the 102nd Congress. Jim and Mike had drawn offices across the hall from each other in the Longworth Building, so we ran into each other often. When Mike retired after two terms, I decided to run for the Board of Supervisors, and so I continued working with Jim, albeit in a different capacity.
After the 2000 Census, the 8th and 11th Congressional Districts were redrawn significantly, effectively splitting Mason District in half (it previously had been entirely within the 11th). Now we had two Members of Congress, Jim Moran and Tom Davis, to represent Mason District interests at the federal level. The 8th District had a significant east-west orientation, running from the Potomac shoreline to Reston. After the 2010 Census, the 8th was redrawn again, this time removing Reston to the 11th, and giving Jim’s district a north-south orientation from Arlington to Prince William County.
This fall marks the only time since 1980 that the 8th District seat will have no incumbent running. The pent-up desire of candidates to run for the open seat suddenly is becoming apparent, and it is expected that many hats will be thrown into the ring. Jim’s recent margins of election have been in the mid-60 percent range, but any new candidate probably will have a narrower margin, even in the solidly Democratic 8th. With 10th District Congressman Frank Wolf’s retirement announcement in December, and Jim’s surprise announcement last week, what was thought to be a ho-hum Congressional election cycle takes on new urgency and drama. For political junkies, it promises to be a wild ride.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at email@example.com.