For months, some Virginia Democrats have grumbled that party chairman Brian Moran is not the leader they thought he would be.
Moran, a former legislator who made a failed run for governor in 2009, was expected to be a visible chairman who would aggressively attack the new Republican governor.
But, instead, some Democrats complain that he has not attended enough events or sent out e-mails except for an occasional fundraising plea, that he usually leaves media interviews to his staff, and that he failed to recruit as many candidates he said he would for November's legislative elections.
Top Democrats, including Sens. Mark R. Warner and James Webb and former governor Timothy M. Kaine, now a U.S. Senate candidate, urged Moran to run, causing some activists to accuse them of trying to dictate the party chairmanship.
Less than a year later, some Democratic legislators and prominent party activists who supported Moran, including some who sit on the committee who voted for him, say they are disappointed, though they are reluctant to speak publicly so as not to embarrass the party’s elder statesmen.
Moran said activists constantly complain that the party is not doing enough — something even he did before he was elected — because they don’t understand the limitations of the party.
“I’m out,’’ he said. “I’m working hard.”
The Democratic State Central Committee overwhelmingly chose Moran in December over former Arlington County Democratic Committee chairman Peter Rousselot.
Rousselot pledged to be a full-time chairman while Moran worked as executive vice president for government relations of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. Moran has since taken on the job of interim CEO and president.
Moran replaced C. Richard Cranwell, a 30-year fixture in the House of Delegates, who resigned the volunteer position after leading the party for five years, including the year that Democrats won the majority of the Senate.
Moran’s job, though, is far different than Cranwell’s who served when Democrats were in the governor’s mansion and ostensibly led the party.
His term expires in 2013, and he said he has every attention of filling. If the Democrats lose the Senate November, activists are likely to blame the party, though there are numerous other factors in play, including fundraising and redistricting.
Moran said he attends events every week and weekend. He and his staff acknowledged that they may not have done a good job of letting people know about what he is doing.
In response to a request for Moran’s activists, party spokesman Brian Coy released a list of lengthy events that both he and staff have participated in — but did not say which Moran’s attended. They did say he also appeared on numerous television and radio shows and weighed in and a number of issues, including those on Gov. Bob McDonnell.
His staff said under Moran’s leadership, the party held the first summit, a training event for more than 500 Democrats, increased the number of low-dollar fundraising and regional training events and news releases, overhauled the party’s Promote and Protect the Vote program, offered a new candidate toolkit and developed a new DPVA iPhone/iPad app.
Moran, who had pledged when elected to recruit candidates for all 140 legislative races this fall, said he tried to aggressively to find candidates but that it was difficult to get people to run after Republicans drew some districts to be Republican-leaning districts. Republicans in both chambers have far more candidates than Democrats, and the House the least competitive it has been in years.
“I would have loved to have more candidates,’’ he said. “The fact is people weren’t willing to run.”
As caucus chairman in House of Delegates and then a gubernatorial candidate, Moran was known for being aggressive — a style many thought that would translate to the chairmanship.
In 2009, Republicans swept all three statewide races - governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general - and picked up six seats in the House of Delegates.
Democrats were left trying to combat McDonnell, who has quickly become a national figure; Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who is already running for governor in 2013; and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, who has received an extraordinary amount of attention for his legal opinions and lawsuits against the federal government.
“We had hoped Brian would use his jousting skills to really take it to McDonnell, (U.S. Senate candidate George) Allen and Cuccinelli, but he has been largely silent,” said a longtime party activist. “Since Republicans hold all three state offices, it is important to have an active chairman who will hold their feet to the fire but unfortunately our chairman seems to lack any desire to attack the Republicans.”
Democrats, who have been losing ground in Virginia since 2009, are aggressively trying to hold onto their slim majority in the Senate.
Party staff, concerned about bad publicity, emailed several Moran supporters with talking points asking them to contact The Washington Post. Sen. Dave Marsden (D-Fairfax) and George Burke, Rep. Gerry Connolly’s spokesman who serves on of the Central Committee, called to express support for Moran.
Update, 6 p.m.: Coy clarified that Moran has been to all five dozen events provided by the party.