Virginia Democrats choose Brian Moran to lead party

By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 4, 2010; 7:56 PM

Virginia Democrats elected former legislator Brian Moran as their new leader Saturday as they look to turn their party around after two years of punishing defeats.

The Democratic State Central Committee chose Moran, who made a failed run for governor in 2009, over former Arlington County Democratic Committee chairman Peter Rousselot. The vote was by secret ballot, with no debate.

Democrats say their new chairman must help the party be more aggressive against Republicans including Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, who has quickly become a national figure; Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who is already running for governor in 2013; and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, who has received an extraordinary amount of attention for his legal opinions and lawsuits against the federal government.

"We need to have somebody be an effective voice in opposition to the governor,'' said Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax), a State Central Committee member who served as chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. "There hasn't been anything in the last year. There's been silence."

Moran will be expected to immediately concentrate on energizing a discouraged party, unify multiple factions and work to hold onto the state Senate's slim Democratic majority while trying to pick up seats in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.

But first Democrats are waging uphill battles to win a pair of Republican-leaning legislative seats next month.

Moran said he will then begin working to recruit Democrats for all 140 legislative seats on the ballots next year. "We need to return to our winning ways,'' he said.

Many are looking to him to design a new strategy for the future, whether it involves better communication with Virginians or advocating new policies.

"He needs to be able to formulate the message,'' said Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond), a member of the State Central Committee. "I think the message is more than a slogan. It's who we are as a party."

The race for chairman showed that the beleaguered party still suffers from sharp divisions as it heads into next year's legislative elections, with activists split between the establishment and grass roots.

Top Democrats, including Sens. Mark R. Warner and James Webb and former governor Timothy M. Kaine, urged Moran to run, causing some activists to accuse them of trying to dictate the party chairmanship.

But Moran, 51, said he received support from all types of people across the state from Arlington to Abingdon. "The divisions don't exist,'' he said. "We are unified."

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