Dems press Obama to relax deportation policy in forum for Jim Moran’s seat

Democrats running for an open U.S. House seat in Northern Virginia pressed the Obama administration to relax its policy on deporting undocumented immigrants at a Thursday evening candidate forum in which a pair of candidates were especially critical of the president's policy on the matter.

"It's the White House and this administration that's the biggest problem on this," said state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D). "The federal government should not be deporting people the way that it is."

State Del. Patrick Hope (D) said the Obama administration has been "more aggressive than even George W. Bush in deporting immigrants. And we need to engage the White House to make them stop."

The administration recently started a review of its deportation policy.

Former lieutenant governor Don Beyer (D), an early frontrunner who has raised more money than the rest of the field, said, "I think we use everything we can to put pressure" on the White House and Obama "to stop the deportations." Beyer bundled campaign contributions for Obama and later served as his ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

The candidates made their remarks at a forum hosted by the Alexandria chapter of the NAACP. All 10 Democrats running for the 8th district seat of retiring Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.) participated, as did two Republican candidates, Micah Edmond and Paul Haring.

The winner of the Democratic nomination will be heavily favored in the general election given the Democratic tilt of the district, which includes Arlington County, Alexandria, Falls Church and part of of Fairfax County. Thursday's forum was the second time the crowded Democratic field came together in one setting. As was the case the first time, they mostly emphasized staunchly liberal positions on issues like climate change, marijuana, economic inequality and organized labor.

Edmond, a former congressional aide and Marine Corps veteran, positioned himself as a moderate Republican option, saying he is not bound by political ideology. Haring, a former Texas state legislator, prompted groans from the audience when he called for religious groups to "teach morals" in schools and called Planned Parenthood "evil." He said, "if you keep on electing these Democrats who support abortion, there will be no blacks in this country."

The debate grew personal when the discussion turned to awareness and prevention of HIV. "I haven't talked about this in public before, but on Sept. 21, 1995 my boyfriend died of AIDS. I buried him myself," said radio talk-show host Mark Levine (D), who called for making treatment drugs more affordable.

Beyer; former Northern Virginia Urban League president Lavern Chatman; Ebbin; director of the Democratic Business Council of Northern Virginia Satish Korpe; Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille; state Del. Charniele Herring; Hope; Levine, Virginia Tech professor Patrick Hyra; and former Navy pilot Bruce Shuttleworth were the Democrats who participated in Thursday's forum.

Democrats will choose their nominee in a June 10 primary. Republicans will select theirs in a Saturday convention.

Related: Clear winners emerge in primary races in Northern Virginia, finance reports show

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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