The Race to Richmond Brian Moran

Brian Moran, Democrats' Dutiful Son, Steps Into Spotlight in Va. Governor's Race

Brian Moran's upbringing in his large, relatively poor Irish Catholic family taught him the values of hard work, political engagement and compromise.
By Brigid Schulte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

All his life, Brian Moran has been the dutiful son. The youngest of seven in a sprawling, working-class Irish Catholic family in the Boston area, he was the one who was sent, uncomplaining, to spend the summer in a trailer with a disagreeable aunt in the remote Maine woods when he was 9. He studied economics instead of history at the request of his mother. He left college his junior year to move home to care for his dying father.

For 13 years, Moran was the go-to guy, the water carrier for the Democrats, the minority party in the Virginia House of Delegates. If a Republican got up to insult then-Gov. Mark Warner or Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, Moran, in an increasing crescendo, was the one who jumped to the microphone in protest. If a Republican signaled a willingness to negotiate, Moran was often the one called in to hammer out a deal, once at a diner over beers with the details spelled out on a bar napkin. Moran was the one who knew which delegate needed what and how to knit together the unruly votes to pass legislation, including a landmark increase in education spending in 2004.

For eight years, as Democratic caucus chair in the House of Delegates, he put 200,000 miles on his gold Toyota Highlander, traveling the state recruiting candidates, raising money, shaking hands at countless local gatherings, all with the aim of recapturing a Democratic majority in the House. His efforts netted 13 new Democratic seats, four seats shy of a majority, and some in areas so conservative that skeptics had told him he was crazy to try.

For the past two years, he has made the same dutiful circuit, this time to convince people that he should be the next governor of Virginia. He has patiently explained how he was instrumental in passing laws to protect children from online sexual predators and in making third-time drunk driving offenses a felony. He carefully moderated his voting record in the House and took the ribbings of his colleagues, who shouted "Statewaaaahde!" when he carried bills to, for instance, provide $3 million for a film to be set in Big Stone Gap (about 500 miles from his Northern Virginia district).

He has foregone vacations and instead taken his family on what it calls "work-cations" to such places as Breaks Park on Virginia's Kentucky border so he can greet the party faithful and spend time with his family. He quit his law practice in Alexandria and resigned from the House of Delegates to devote himself full time to the effort.

And now, after all those years of hard work, with a hotly contested three-way Democratic primary less than two weeks away, Brian Moran is finding that a whole bunch of voters still don't have any idea who he is.

On a recent Thursday, Moran was the only candidate invited to address African American ministers at the Virginia Baptist State Convention in Chesapeake. As the ministers and Moran prepared to file into the main hall, Moran began introducing himself.

"You Clinton's guy?" one minister asked

"No, that's the other guy," Moran said.

"What's his name?"

"I'm not telling," Moran replied, reddening and laughing, and refusing to give up the name of Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, newcomer to Virginia politics and surprise candidate who has out-raised, out-spent and sought to out-campaign Moran and state Sen. Creigh Deeds (Bath).

It is the curse of the inside man. Brian Moran, 49, has toiled the old-school way in the political vineyard. He has learned the ropes, cut the deals and paid his dues. His Web site is filled with the fruits of his labor: a long list of endorsements by local officials, such as the sheriff of Pulaski County and the city of Bristol's commissioner of the revenue, as well as bigger names such as Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), his older brother, and Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.). But at a time of economic crisis, when voters have shown a clear preference for the outsider, can the inside man prevail?

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