The long-expected, even from the beginning of the campaign in March, lopsided victory for Falls Church businessman, U.S. Ambassador and former Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Donald S. Beyer Jr. in the 8th District Democratic primary Tuesday was achieved with a bare minimum of internal party rancor and had the effect of tuning up activists in the region for bigger battles in the fall.
Such battles will not involve Beyer – he’s expected to roll without difficulty to a win in the November general election – but will involve Democratic Senator Mark Warner, who needs a heavy pull of votes from the 8th District to win a second term.
Governor Terry McAuliffe set the tone at Beyer’s victory rally in Alexandria Tuesday night when in his usual enthusiastic fashion he exclaimed, “What a fantastic group of candidates we had running for this seat!”
“There were so many incredible candidates,” added former State Senator Mary Margaret Whipple, “and the voters chose the correct one to win.”
Also extending his praise to the entire field of seven candidates was Beyer himself, and he also offered a shout-out for President Obama, who chose the day to come over from D.C. and have lunch in the Del Ray Alexandria section of the 8th District.
While Beyer’s win was not a surprise (he officially declared himself the winner just barely an hour after the polls closed Tuesday), most of the buzz at the very upbeat victory celebration on the Alexandria waterfront Tuesday was around the stunning upset defeat of Virginia’s GOP majority leader Eric Cantor in his own primary that day.
Despite the praise for all the candidates running for the 8th District Democratic nomination, however, there was no doubt about the winner. Beyer won 45.8 percent of the vote, way more than twice anyone else, in the low-turnout election.
State Del. Patrick Hope of North Arlington, the most aggressive in going after Beyer on his record, came in second with 18 percent, and State Sen. Adam Ebbin, the first openly-gay member of the Virginia State Legislature, came in third at 14 percent. Fourth was Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille at 8 percent, Alexandria activist and former Rep. Barney Frank aide Mark Levine at 7 percent, former regional Urban League leader Lavern Chatman at 5 percent and Virginia Tech professor Derek Hyra at just over 1 percent.
In the City of Falls Church, Beyer, endorsed early on by the News-Press as the City’s “Favorite Son,” won a whopping 71 percent. Falls Church is not only the home of his first car dealership, but to his parents, and his brother, Mike, and his family.
Beyer put in time as president of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and was awarded the local Chamber’s Pillar of the Community Award in the 1980s before he launched his first campaign for elective office 25 years ago, which resulted in an upset win for lieutenant governor in 1989.
Compared to his 71 percent in Falls Church Tuesday, he had 50 percent in Fairfax, 44 percent in Alexandria and 39 percent in Arlington.
Beyer had the most praise for Ebbin, crediting his activism on LGBT issues for helping Beyer to come around to full support for gay marriage.
Kicking off his victory speech Tuesday by evoking the solemn image of St. Augustine of Hippo, who said long ago that “hope has two daughters, one is anger, the other is courage.”
“All life asks of us is to live with courage,” he said, and then listed a number of political fights of the present day where courage will be the deciding ingredient.
“Politics is the most human of all endeavors,” Beyer said. “It requires of us to engage with others to find our differences and work for a common ground.”
He hailed retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, who bolted to the speaker’s stand to embrace Beyer and speak in his own right. (He will, after all, remain the congressman from the district until January 2015).
Beyer “is going to be my congressman, too,” Moran said. “He has never wavered in what he believes in, and these things matter.” He said that the Democratic Party leadership in the House has been paying attention, and “has plans for Don, because they know how important he is. We’re going to be so proud of him.”
Beyer will go up against the Republican nominee, Micah Edmond, and Libertarian Party candidate Jeffrey Carson in November.