Liberal Democrats vying to succeed Moran appear at forum at George Mason University

The 10 Democrats running for Virginia’s 8th Congressional District seat began to differentiate themselves Monday, a little more than a month before the party’s primary.

At a forum before about 200 people at the Arlington campus of George Mason University, the unabashedly liberal candidates, who agree on most major issues, listed top legislative priorities that included, education, jobs and climate change.

“I was homeless; education was my key out,” said Del. Charniele L. Herring (Alexandria), a graduate of the school where the forum was held.

“Equal pay for equal work for women,” said Lavern Chatman, former leader of the regional Urban League. “A living wage, not a minimum wage, is what we should be pushing.”

Former lieutenant governor Don Beyer argued passionately for attention to climate change. State Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (Alexandria) agreed with that focus and pointed out his willingness to take on tea party opponents. Del. Patrick A. Hope (Arlington) said he’d work to expand the Affordable Care Act to provide free preventive care and cover catastrophic loss for everyone. Virginia Tech professor Derek Hyra argued for stabilizing the housing market first because of its importance to the national economy.

Each candidate was allowed to make an opening and closing statement and was asked two questions. The first was what their top priority would be if elected, and the second question probed each candidate’s position on the use of military force.

The 8th District is home to the Pentagon and thousands of federal contracting jobs, but — reflecting the liberal tilt of most voters in the district — those vying for the nomination expressed conflicted feelings about the U.S. military’s activity overseas.

Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille vowed to vote to send troops to war “only to defend our own borders.”

But talk show host Mark Levine disagreed. “If we are isolationist, trouble comes to us,” Levine said. “Treaties are vitally important, and if a NATO country is attacked, we have to defend them . . . and we have to take action to stop genocide as well.”

Satish Korpe, an entrepreneur, urged more attention to cybersecurity.

Former Navy fighter pilot Bruce Shuttleworth said there are “very real limits” to American military power. “We need to over-invest in our Peace Corps, we need to over-invest in our State Department,” he said.

Virginia’s 8th Congressional District includes Alexandria, Falls Church, Arlington County and a portion of Fairfax County. It’s considered one of the most reliably Democratic congressional districts in the nation, and it has been represented for the past 24 years by James P. Moran.

“It’s a diverse district; there are even some Republicans,” said Moran, who was honored before the forum. The winner of the June 10 Democratic primary will face Republican Micah Edmond in November’s general election.

The candidates were polite in their presentations and refrained from attacks on each other at the forum, as has been the case throughout the campaign. The audience, made up mostly of students and campaign workers, was also polite: quiet while the candidates spoke and offering general applause at the end of each round.

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