INCUMBENTS IN THE House of Representatives from Northern Virginia have contrived by gerrymandering to assure themselves of near-certain electoral victories every two years. That serves voters poorly; we'd like to see the state institute a less partisan system of drawing lines. In the meantime, though, the region is fortunate to have two incumbents -- Republicans Thomas M. Davis III of the 11th District and Frank R. Wolf of the 10th District -- who are effective, respected lawmakers with clout and expertise that transcend the boundaries of their districts. The third, Democratic Rep. James P. Moran Jr. of the 8th District, lacks the temperament for the job, as he himself once said publicly.
Whatever his merits as a legislator and his experience as a public servant -- which he has been for more than two decades -- Mr. Moran has largely negated them by his own blunders and character flaws. This newspaper has documented his ethical failings involving cozy financial deals with special interests whose causes he helped advance in Congress, as well as his hot-tempered penchant for confrontations and scuffles -- in one instance involving an 8-year-old boy. To this record he has added insidious remarks suggesting Jewish Americans bear special responsibility for pushing the nation into war in Iraq.
Unfortunately, his Republican challenger this year, defense contractor Lisa Marie Cheney, is a lackluster alternative whose party-line orthodoxy and evident reluctance to challenge the powers-that-be make her a poor fit for the district. She is content to prescribe ambitious spending on transportation and infrastructure but loath to say honestly that higher taxes would be the price. It is an uninspiring choice. In a heavily Democratic district such as Virginia's 8th, we have no illusions that Mr. Moran will be easily displaced. We make no endorsement, but once again express the hope that next time his party will show the self-respect to nominate someone of greater stature.
In the 10th, Mr. Wolf, now in his 12th term in Congress, deserves reelection against an energetic young challenger, former investment banker James Socas. Mr. Wolf -- serious-minded, diligent and willing to take the initiative -- is a leader in dealing with the regional transportation muddle that tops many Northern Virginians' please-solve list. He has taken the lead in focusing resources on the region's growing problem with teen gangs. In addition, he has distinguished himself by making a concerted effort to call attention to the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. That has been the latest in a series of missions Mr. Wolf has undertaken over the years to bring help to areas of hunger, conflict and suffering.
The 11th District's Mr. Davis is a powerhouse not only in this region but nationally too; he was a leader in Republican efforts to expand the party's majority in the House. That puts him and us on opposite sides of many issues. But Mr. Davis is not doctrinaire, and he puts his influence and political acumen to work on behalf of his district, Washington and the greater region as well. He works well across the aisle and at times has bucked his party's leadership to stick up for residents of the District of Columbia. Savvy, quick on his feet and endowed with a preternatural aptitude for the mechanics of electoral politics, he is a valuable asset to his constituents. His Democratic challenger, former diplomat Ken Longmyer, has not offered a persuasive argument for change.