The field having swollen to 11, and still counting, seeking the Democratic nod to replace veteran U.S. Rep. James P. Moran in Northern Virginia’s 8th Congressional District that includes the City of Falls Church, Arlington, Alexandria and parts of Fairfax County, Falls Church’s Donald S. Beyer Jr. kicked off his campaign at his Falls Church car dealership on W. Broad Monday.
The deadline to submit 3,000 petition signatures is early next month for the June 10 Democratic primary. In an overwhelmingly pro-Democratic district, it is the winner of the primary who almost surely will win the November general election.
Meanwhile, in the neighboring 10th District stretching from McLean to Loudoun County, Democrats are eager to take the seat away from the GOP upon the retirement of veteran Republican Rep. Frank Wolf. Fairfax County’s Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust is emerging as the favorite to win the Democratic nomination. On the GOP side, McLean-based State Del. Barbara Comstock’s early announcement of her candidacy was thrown a monkey wrench last week by the announcement by arch-conservative Del. Bob Marshall of Prince William County that he will also run.
In the 8th District race, Beyer is the only Falls Church-based candidate in the race so far. Technically a resident of Alexandria with his wife Megan, he started his business in Falls Church, where its flagship dealership remains under the direction of his brother, Mike, was president of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and recipient of the Chamber’s venerable “Pillar of the Community” award.
He assembled a large contingent of powerful and influential women to join him at his kick-off event here Monday, speaking to his commitment to full equality, including income equality, for all. One speaker, business owner LuAnn Bennett, formerly married to Moran, touted what Beyer’s own experience as a successful business owner would bring to his job.
At an event in the home of former State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple in North Arlington Saturday, Beyer was introduced by a long-partnered gay couple, again underscoring his commitment to full equality for all. Lynda Robb, daughter of former U.S. president Lyndon Johnson, was also there.
Beyer also brings the most political chops to his candidacy, even as he is running against such high profile public officials as Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille, Democratic Party of Virginia State Chair and Delegate Charniele L. Herring, State Senator Adam Ebbin, and State Delegates Patrick Hope, Alfonso H. Lopez and Mark Sickles.
Beyer won two statewide elections for Virginia lieutenant governor in 1989 and 1993 and was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee to run for governor in 1997, the last time before now that he’s sought public office through an election.
His high profile political involvement carried on, as he was an early supporter of Howard Dean for president in the 2004 campaign and of the Barack Obama for president in 2008, serving as the national campaign financing chief for both.
He was instrumental bringing both presidential campaigns right into the City of Falls Church. The “Sleepless Summer” tour of August 2003 brought the Dean campaign to the City’s Cherry Hill Park for the biggest gathering in the City in memory. He set up Dean’s Virginia campaign headquarters on Park Avenue in Falls Church where scores of volunteers, including from George Mason High School, could come and be exposed to the campaign process, and in 2008 Obama’s biggest regional campaign office was also in the City limits.
Beyer spent the last four years as an Obama-appointed ambassador to Switzerland, returning last summer in time to contribute to the election of three Democrats to their current statewide posts in Richmond.
However, his rivals see Beyer’s lengthy absence from the direct election process (his last race was unsuccessful for governor in 1997) as a vulnerability they can exploit.
Many of the other candidates have solid roots in the two other communities – Arlington County and the City of Alexandria – in the 8th District much larger than Falls Church, although by virtue of his elections to lieutenant governor in the 1990s Beyer arguably brings the best name recognition, overall.
Rep. Moran, who will serve out his term until January 2015, said when he announced his retirement last month that he would endorse no one candidate in the Democratic primary, although Beyer claimed that Moran called him very shortly after Moran made his decision.
The most distinguishing feature among the other candidates is the fact that State Sen. Ebbin is the only openly-gay member in the Virginia legislature, serving with distinction since the 1990s. With the recent headlines of a federal circuit court judge in Norfolk ruling the state’s anti-gay marriage law unconstitutional, the marriage equality sentiment now surging through Democrats in the state will undoubtedly favor Ebbin.
But Patrick Hope demonstrated his support for gay rights by signing a petition for marriage equality circulated by Equality Virginia and the People of Faith for Equality in Virginia.
In addition to the candidates who are currently elected officials are ex-Urban League of Northern Virginia head Lavern Chatman, businessman Bruce Shuttleworth, Virginia Tech professor Derek Hyra and Mark Levine, a liberal radio talk show host.
There is only one Republican so far who has said he will compete for the job, and for the GOP in the 10th District, Comstock and Marshall will face off in a “firehouse primary” on June 10.