Endorsements for the Northern Virginia Primaries

Saturday, May 30, 2009

AS THE NUMBER of Republican delegates in Northern Virginia dwindles, the Democratic primaries take on added importance; often the candidates who emerge have a clear path to Richmond. Here are our endorsements for the contested House of Delegates primaries in Northern Virginia on June 9.

35th District: Three lawyers and a doctor are vying to succeed Del. Stephen C. Shannon (D), the respected lawmaker who has represented this Fairfax County district that includes Vienna, Oakton and Dunn Loring since 2004 and who is running for attorney general. Surgeon Esam Omeish says the right things, but his controversial statements -- in a 2000 speech, he told Palestinian sympathizers that "the jihad way is the way to liberate your land" -- led to his resignation from Virginia's Commission on Immigration, and it should be a disqualifier. There's a lot to like about John Carroll, a former Fairfax County prosecutor who emphasizes public safety, but the Vienna native doesn't have as impressive a record as some of his opponents. Roy Baldwin, a longtime resident of the district, has been active in his church, the PTA and the Cub Scouts.

Mr. Carroll and Mr. Baldwin are qualified candidates, but Mark Keam deserves to be the nominee. Mr. Keam has a compelling life story (his family fled Vietnam after it fell to the communists) and an impressive résumé: Mr. Keam, who would be the first Asian American elected to the House, worked for the Federal Communications Commission during the Clinton administration and served as chief counsel to Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

38th District: Del. Robert D. Hull (D) is the only Northern Virginia incumbent to face a primary challenge. That's not an accident. Many Democrats in the General Assembly have only lukewarm things to say about their colleague. Mr. Hull has served 17 years in the House, but he has done little with his seniority. Still, he speaks knowledgably about issues in both Richmond and his district, which spans parts of eastern Fairfax County and includes Lincolnia and Lake Barcroft. Likewise, Mr. Hull supports bumping up the gasoline tax to pay for roads, and he sponsored legislation to ban firearms in recreation centers.

His challenger, Kaye Kory, has earned plaudits as the Mason District representative on the county School Board, a position she's held since 1999. Ms. Kory's push to rebuild Glasgow Middle School near Holmes Run Park is notable, as is her long record of civic involvement. She says she would bring more energy to the job than her opponent would, but she lacks a clear vision of what she would do in Richmond. There's not much that separates the candidates on policy; Mr. Hull's experience is the tiebreaker.

47th District: Voters in this Arlington district, which includes Ballston and Clarendon, are lucky to have five energetic candidates vying to replace retiring Del. Albert C. Eisenberg (D). There's little that distinguishes the candidates on substance -- even they admit as much. All are strong Democrats who oppose widening Interstate 66 (except in some limited circumstances) and who make similar arguments about the need to expand mass transit and fight for same-sex marriage. So the question becomes: Who will have the most success advancing Arlington's agenda in Richmond?

Miles Grant and Adam Parkhomenko are arguably the most liberal candidates. Mr. Grant, a blogger and an employee of the National Wildlife Federation, has made the environment the centerpiece of his campaign. Mr. Parkhomenko, still working on his college degree, is a lifelong district resident who worked on Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and who is surely the only 23-year-old to boast an endorsement from a former president (Bill Clinton). Andres Tobar directs a day-laborer center in Shirlington and has a keen understanding of immigrant issues. No one of them is a bad choice, yet they all lack legislative experience and would face a steep learning curve in Richmond.

That leaves Alan Howze and Patrick Hope. As an adjunct professor of public health at Johns Hopkins University, Mr. Hope possesses a deep understanding of preventive medicine; as the director of legislative policy for the American College of Cardiology, he also understands the legislative process. Mr. Hope -- endorsed by Robert H. Brink (D-Arlington) and Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington) -- has amassed considerable community experience since moving to the Buckingham neighborhood in 2000, starting a popular civic association and serving on committees to address homelessness and mental disabilities. Mr. Howze, an IBM consultant who was a senior adviser to then-governor Mark R. Warner, is a pragmatist familiar with Richmond. But, on the basis of civic involvement, the edge goes to Mr. Hope.

52nd District: Incumbent Jeffrey M. Frederick (R), the beleaguered former head of the state GOP, won't be running for reelection, and this Prince William district tops the list of those that Democratic party leaders believe they can switch from red to blue. Either Democratic candidate, Mike Hodge or Luke Torian, would be a major upgrade from Mr. Frederick, but Mr. Torian's extensive community involvement makes him the better choice.

Transportation is the top issue in the district, which includes Quantico, Dumfries and most of Woodbridge, and both candidates support raising revenue to ease congestion. Mr. Hodge, who works for a security firm, has an impressive record of service as a former Marine and longtime Secret Service agent. But he's lived in the district for only seven years, and his résumé is light on civic involvement. His opponent, Mr. Torian, became pastor of First Mount Zion Baptist Church near Dumfries in 1995 and has expanded its membership by thousands. He's one of the founders of Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, which brings Northern Virginia congregations together to promote worthy initiatives, including affordable housing and dental care. Some liberal voters may worry about how Mr. Torian's religious views will affect his lawmaking, but the candidate says he favors civil unions for gay couples and would support Roe v. Wade.

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