Anne H. Moore leaned toward the microphone and finished attacking her opponent, Virginia state Del. Bernard S. Cohen of Alexandria, with a flourish:
"The reason I will be elected is that I have different priorities," she said, her voice rising, then falling. For a person convicted of killing a child during a kidnaping, Moore said: "My opponent voted against the maximum punishment death ."
As the audience listening to the League of Women Voters debate at T.C. Williams High School applauded wildly, Cohen, about to begin his closing remarks, quickly took the microphone from Moore and said to the crowd: "Thank you for that introduction."
The audience broke into appreciative applause and laughter. As his quip illustrated, Cohen, a seasoned trial attorney and a Democratic member of the Virginia House since 1980, is not to be taken lightly on the campaign trail.
He is giving Moore, a Republican and a former U.S. Senate legislative aide, an uphill fight in her effort to unseat him in the Nov. 5 elections.
But Moore is fighting back strong. As of Monday, she had raised twice as much campaign funds as Cohen -- $40,027 to $21,221 -- with substantial backing from the medical profession. Concerned about Cohen's legislative efforts to remove $1 million cap on malpractice suits, medical associations, lobbyists and doctors contributed $8,590 to Moore's campaign.
In aggressive newspaper advertisements, Moore has portrayed Cohen as tough on taxpayers but not on criminals. On Monday, these remarks prompted Cohen to call a press conference blasting Moore for running a campaign "of distortions, omissions and misrepresentations."
Cohen, 51, the delegate from the 46th House District, which includes Alexandria's West End and an adjacent precinct in Fairfax County, is considered by many of his colleagues and constituents as an outspoken, and, by Virginia standards, liberal candidate. "A very, very sharp guy," is how former Alexandria mayor and fellow Democrat Charles E. Beatley Jr. describes him.
"I really believe I reflect the people, the way they live, their views and their priorities," far more closely than Cohen, Moore said during a recent interview.
"These people didn't vote for Jimmy Carter, they voted for Ronald Reagan," she said.
Moore said voters in the 46th District are primarily concerned with transportation, taxation, crime, safety and education problems. They are not, she emphasized, worried about "Mr. Cohen's priorities -- making it easier for people to sue one another, increasing taxes . . . allowing sex with animals."
Moore alleges the last was possible under a version of an unsuccessful Cohen bill she says was aimed at legalizing homosexual acts between consenting adults, a charge Cohen denies. He says his bill was aimed at allowing "intimate sexual acts among consenting adults in private or for noncommercial purposes."
As though being challenged not to waste a single word, Cohen curtly described his opponent and his Richmond record recently in his Old Town law office.
"She is a very negative person with no constructive positions on the important, progressive issues of our day," he said. Then, without pause, he noted Moore's opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion, and called her "an antifeminist masquerading as a woman."
As for himself, Cohen recalled being named an outstanding freshman delegate in a Richmond Times-Dispatch article.
He said that since 1979 he has successfully sponsored more than 40 bills, including the Natural Death Act, which allows terminally ill patients to decide for themselves if they want to be kept alive on artifical life-support systems.
Cohen said he did not vote against capital punishment per se, as Moore suggested at the League of Woman Voters debate.
Rather, he said, he voted against a bill advocating the death penalty in the case of child abduction and murder, because he believed the measure was poorly drafted and raised constitutional questions.
Cohen also said Moore is misrepresenting his views on taxes. He said he does not want to increase them, but rather make them more fair by repealing the Virginia state tax on food and at the same time raising the 5 3/4 percent state income tax on incomes $12,000 and above.
"It's unfair that those who make $12,000 or $12 million are taxed the same," Cohen said.
He said that under his plan, poor people would pay less, middle-income families would pay about the same as now and wealthy residents would pay about 1 percent more to the state.
Moore, who quit her $34,500 a year job as staff manager of the Department of Agriculture's Federal Crop Insurance Corp. to run for office, says she also wants to repeal the food tax but would not increase taxes for those in higher income brackets. She said she would make transportation a high priority, particularly through commitments to more bus routes, more parking at Metro stops and the completion of the proposed Van Dorn Metro station.
Moore said that Cohen's legislative priorities reflect "the agenda of trial attorneys" and that hers mirror the views of the civic-minded Northern Virginian. While she favors informing a jury of an offender's criminal record after they decide guilt but before sentencing, she said, "true to form" Cohen does not.
State Sen. Wiley F. Mitchell, the only Republican in the city's legislative delegation, said the race "is very close."
"Anne Moore is an attractive candidate campaigning hard in a section of the city which demographically is voting more Republican than the rest of the city."
Cohen, however, said that he has little time to canvass door-to-door and doesn't think he'll need to.
As in the past, he said: "I'll win with 55 to 60 percent of the vote."