“I remember where I was sitting when I read that,” Shuttleworth said of a 2002 Washington Post story. “And I thought, ‘Well, we’re going to have a new congressman.’ I was amazed that did not happen.”
Moran continued to be reelected. And now, a decade later, Shuttleworth is running against him in the June 12 Democratic primary.
On the surface, the plot in Northern Virginia is familiar: Moran is the entrenched incumbent, reelected with relative ease for more than two decades. Shuttleworth is the underdog, a challenger eager to win the party’s nomination but lacking the funds and familiarity to do so.
With the primary looming, two developments have made this contest a departure from the norm.
The first was the revelation in March that the Campaign for Primary Accountability, an unusual group that seeks to oust incumbents of both parties, planned to target Moran. The group has weighed in in a handful of races this year, boosting challengers by funding television ads against sitting lawmakers.
But the group’s pledge to intervene in Virginia never translated into action — or cash.
“We are not involved in that race any longer,” CPA spokesman Curtis Ellis said last week. “We constantly reevaluate the map and the targets based on the performance of the challenger and other factors. . . . Going forward, we are careful in assigning our resources to those races where challengers understand what they must do to prevail.”
The second twist was that Shuttleworth, a 47-year-old former Navy pilot turned management consultant, almost didn’t qualify for the ballot, under circumstances that remain murky.
In April, Shuttleworth filed a federal lawsuit against state Democratic party officials — including Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Brian Moran, the congressman’s brother— after being told he had not filed enough valid signatures to make the primary contest.
After Shuttleworth sued, party officials quickly reversed course and put him on the ballot. State Democrats strongly deny any wrongdoing, saying they discovered petitions that had not been properly counted. Shuttleworth eventually withdrew the lawsuit and his campaign dubbed the incident “Petitiongate,” claiming it is evidence that the race is rigged in Moran’s favor.
Moran has a mostly liberal voting record, making him an unlikely target for a primary challenge. But Shuttleworth said his motivation goes beyond policy differences.
“I think [Moran] has a big heart on many issues,” Shuttleworth said in a interview. “I think he votes the right way on social values, but he brazenly embraces conflicts of interest, and I think that’s unacceptable.”
In 2002, The Washington Post reported that Moran had gotten favorable terms on a home-refinancing package from MBNA, even as a he backed a bankruptcy reform bill supported by the credit card industry. He also drew scrutiny for taking personal loans in 1999 from a friend who was a drug-company lobbyist and in 2002 from the co-founder of America Online.