Voters in Virginia’s 8th congressional district go to the polls Tuesday to choose a Democratic nominee in the race to succeed retiring Rep. James P. Moran (D) in what is considered one of the safest Democratic seats in the nation.
While the primary has been extraordinarily polite, the few points of contention that have occurred happen when candidates try to position themselves as deep blue, and others as lighter shades of blue.
All seven candidates support the Affordable Care Act. They oppose offshore oil drilling in Virginia. They want the minimum wage raised and Medicaid expanded. Immigration laws should be revised, they agree, and the social safety net strengthened. Women’s reproductive rights should be defended, and equal pay, gay marriage and Net neutrality get unanimous support.
Absentee voting ended Saturday. Election Day turnout is expected to be low. The winner will face Republican Micah Edmond, Libertarian Jeffrey Carson, Independent Green Gerry Blais and independent Gwendolyn Beck in November.
Here is a look at each of the candidates.
Beyer — co-owner of nine auto dealerships, a former two-term lieutenant governor of Virginia and a former ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein — has raised the most money of any candidate and is the presumed leader in the race.
He urges “a new American economy” starting with a carbon tax, which is “the best solution for controlling greenhouse gases.”
At a May 15 candidates forum, Beyer easily parsed questions about sanctions on Iran and whether the Obama administration erred in not declaring Boko Haram a terrorist organization before it seized the Nigerian schoolgirls. He went on to discuss the necessity of balancing security needs while maintaining relationships with foreign countries.
The 63-year-old has garnered support from many establishment Democrats in the district and has been endorsed by former top-ranking Obama officials, including David Axelrod, Jim Messina and Juliana Smoot, and former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, for whom Beyer worked.
Beyer’s role in welfare reform during his time in Richmond has come under attack from opposing candidate Patrick Hope. Hope says Beyer did not provide permanent funding for subsidized child care for welfare families and refused to provide welfare to any children born to participants during the benefit period.
Beyer says he sought to “forge the most compassionate welfare program possible, given that I was working with a Republican governor.” He said he eliminated provisions that would bar welfare if the father lived with the mother and children, and funded child care, job training, and transportation for two years.
Chatman, former chief executive and president of the Northern Virginia Urban League, positions herself as a community leader who wants to bring change to Congress.
She’s never been elected to political office, so she leans heavily on her biography as the daughter of a postal worker and an auto mechanic, and the first in her family to graduate from college. Chatman, 57, co-founded the NOVA Coalition, a group of more than 30 churches, nonprofit groups, fraternities and sororities focused on increasing voter participation, restoration of voting rights and civic engagement.
Chatman says her top priority is “ensuring women receive equal pay for equal work.” She also pledges to “protect federal employees from extremists who would deny them pay and shut down the government as a negotiation tactic.”
She drew headlines early in the campaign by organizing a fundraiser featuring Oprah Winfrey, a longtime friend. But the media attention resurrected a 2001 court case in which Chatman was found civilly liable for her role in a scheme to defraud hundreds of District nursing home employees of at least $1.4 million in owed wages. Chatman said she was duped into offering loans to someone she thought was a friend and that she did not benefit from the scheme.
Ebbin, a state senator representing Alexandria, South Arlington and the southeast section of Fairfax County, calls himself an effective legislator whose 10 years in Richmond have been marked by accomplishments in a divided legislative body.
Ebbin, 50, has avoided the progressive nicknames that other candidates have adopted, simply calling himself a liberal. He was a leader in overturning a tax on hybrid vehicles and strengthening penalties for human trafficking. He led the Democratic fight against former state attorney general Ken Cuccinelli II (R) by writing a bill to limit Cuccinelli’s powers and co-sponsored a bill to repeal the requirement for Virginia women to get an ultrasound before an abortion.
The first openly gay member of the General Assembly, Ebbin has the support of the Laborers and Electrical Workers unions, national and state drug reform groups and a number of local leaders, including Rep. Mark Sickles who dropped out of this race earlier in the spring.
He has expressed strong opposition to new foreign aid to Egypt while press freedom is curtailed and journalists are imprisoned.
Ebbin surprised campaign observers before by staging a come-from-behind victory in 2011 primary race for state Senate over now-Del. Rob Krupicka and current Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey.
Euille, Alexandria’s first African American mayor, has a long record in local government. He’s been mayor since 2003 and a city council member since 1994 and previously served for 10 years on the local school board. A native Alexandrian who grew up in public housing, Euille, 64, worked for a general contracting firm after college and started his own construction services firm, which he still operates.
Most of his platform is based on his accomplishments in Alexandria. Moving from the city’s top job to Congress has a precedent; it’s the same route that Moran took in 1990.
Euille passed the first living-wage law in Northern Virginia and has led efforts to expand access to affordable housing for middle-class families as prices skyrocketed in the region. He was a founding member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Under his watch, the city pushed for the shutdown of the GenOn/Mirant coal-fired power plant on the city waterfront.
Euille says that the way to solve federal budget problems is to grow the economy, starting with fully funding the highway transportation act to bring new jobs and fix aging infrastructure.
Hope, a three-term state delegate from Arlington and founder of the Virginia Progressive Caucus, makes his living as a health-care lobbyist for the American College of Cardiology — which, he says, gives him insight into the Affordable Care Act.
Hope, 42, has been endorsed by the Progressive Democrats of America. He worked in Congress for Sen. Bob Kerry (D-Neb.) and Rep. Henry Gonzalez (D-Tex.) after college. His own first bill in Congress, he said, would help provide insurance coverage for the 20 million Americans who will still lack it after the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. He promises to support the disability community, expand Social Security and lessen income inequality and oppose building the Keystone pipeline.
Closer to home, Hope has called for a voter referendum on Arlington County’s plans for a streetcar along Columbia Pike. Hope supports the streetcar project and the neighborhood revitalization that has gone with it but said, “I think it’s time we have a full public debate and a public referendum . . . and we need to respect whatever the public decides.”
He fell down a staircase while campaigning May 25, breaking and fracturing his ribs, but was back on the trail less than 48 hours later. With his three young daughters around him, he told a gathering of female voters that he doesn’t want them to have to fight for equal pay or opportunity.
Hyra, an associate professor of urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech, entered the race decrying the partisan gridlock in Congress and suggesting that “partnership politics” are necessary to renew the public’s trust.
He almost immediately ran into opposition from the well-read progressive Democratic blog, BlueVirginia, which objected to his choice for his top economic policy adviser, a Republican who works for the National Association of Manufacturers.
Such criticism, Hyra said, “is exactly what’s wrong with our politics today. . . . There can be no doubt that both I and the majority of people involved in my campaign are progressive Democrats.”
Hyra, 40, has never run for elected office, but he has served on the Alexandria Housing Authority and Planning Commission. He urges either fully privatizing or having the federal government completely run Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two major housing finance companies. As part of a multi-pronged approach to keeping Social Security solvent, he supports raising the age of eligibility. He also calls for making college more affordable while increasing research and development work at the university level.
Levine, 48, calls himself the “aggressive progressive.”
A nationally syndicated radio and television talk show host and former chief legislative counsel to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), he anchors the Democratic field on the left, giving full-throated support to marriage equality, immigration reform, prosecution of corporate polluters, subsidizing student loans while lowering tuition costs and decrying the tea party.
Companies that take jobs off-shore should be punished, he says, and those that bring them back should be rewarded. Although Edward Snowden should have gone through “proper channels” instead of leaking National Security Agency files to the press, Levine says, “the mass collection of information is blatantly unconstitutional.”
After his sister was killed by her husband in Tennessee, Levine — who was living in California — drafted a state law that allowed custody of children to be taken away from someone who commits domestic violence. A Tennessee state legislator introduced the bill, which passed unanimously. Levine then helped track down the husband, who had fled to Mexico. He’s a gay activist who also helped craft the District’s law on gay marriage and defended it in court.
Levine said he learned to work behind the scenes during his years on Frank’s staff. His campaign is largely self-funded, with a $400,000 loan making up the bulk of his campaign fund, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports.