Beyer wins first straw poll in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District race

Former Virginia lieutenant governor Don Beyer decisively won the first straw poll in the Democratic race to succeed retiring Rep. James P. Moran Jr. in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District.

Beyer beat 11 other Democrats by taking 105 of the 416 votes cast Saturday night at the Mount Vernon District Democratic Committee’s event, held at one of Beyer’s auto dealerships.

“We want to win all the little battles, but I’m under no illusion that this is the race,” Beyer said Sunday. “Head-to-head polls at this point are silly because the vast number of people are undecided.”

Beyer, 63, who served two terms as Virginia’s lieutenant governor in the 1990s, was a major fundraiser for President Obama and most recently served as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein from 2009 to 2013.

The race is attracting much interest because Moran served for more than two decades before announcing his retirement in mid-January. The Virginia 8th is traditionally won by Democrats, and its economy continues to be strong because of the strong presence of federal offices and federal contractors. Obama won it with 67 percent of the vote in 2012. It has significant numbers of Latino and African American voters, and despite its overall wealth, there are pockets of hard-pressed residents scattered across the district, which includes Arlington County, Alexandria, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County.

The Democratic primary isn’t until June 10, but whoever gets a qualifying petition in first on March 10 will be listed at the top of the ballot. Candidates have until March 27 to qualify. The first financial reporting deadline is at the end of March.

Saturday’s straw poll was the first of the season, and though it’s neither representative nor official, “it’s an early indication of strength, organization and appeal,” Beyer said.

The runners up were: Lavern Chatman, former president and chief executive of the Northern Virginia Urban League, 83 votes; Del. Patrick A. Hope (Arlington), 81 votes; Del. Mark D. Sickles (Fairfax), 51 votes; state Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (Alexandria), 42 votes; Del. Charniele L. Herring (Alexandria), 15 votes; Del. Alfonso F. Lopez (Arlington), 11 votes; Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille, 11 votes; radio talk-show host Mark Levine, 7 votes; Virginia Tech professor Derek Hyra, 7 votes; and Navy veteran and former Moran challenger Bruce Shuttleworth, 3 votes.

Patricia Sullivan seeks out news about Alexandria and Arlington County for the Washington Post.
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