Six candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination for delegate from Virginia's 45th District, where voters will be choosing a new Democratic candidate for the first time since 1982.
The half-dozen hopefuls, a mix of political veterans and neophytes, filed candidacy papers after Del. Marian Van Landingham (D-Alexandria) announced in December that she'd had a recurrence of cancer and would not be running in the fall.
The veterans are Libby Garvey, 54, chairman of the Arlington School Board; Richard R.G. Hobson, 73, who served as delegate from the district from 1976 to 1980; and Elsie M. Mosqueda, 61, legislative aide to Del. Brian J. Moran (D-Alexandria).
Relative newcomers are former Air Force Capt. David L. Englin, 30; former Alexandria prosecutor James K. Lay, 39; and Laura J. Mandala, 43, a businesswoman.
The winner of the primary will face Republican candidate Christopher J.T. Gregerson, 55, a defense consultant and retired Navy commander, in the fall.
The 45th District consists of the eastern side of Alexandria as well as three precincts near Shirlington in Arlington and six precincts in southeastern Fairfax County.
Van Landingham -- a well-known figure on the Democratic political landscape for more than 20 years -- has been careful not to make an endorsement, although she has mused publicly about Garvey's strong chances, her political experience and the fact that she is the only Arlingtonian in the race. The rest of the candidates live in Alexandria and could divide the vote there, Van Landingham said.
Garvey, who has been a member of the school board in Arlington since 1996, said her experience working with a consortium of school superintendents and board members to lobby for more education funding would serve her well in Richmond.
"It's a natural progression for me," Garvey said. "I got involved in PTA, and I started seeing how things needed to be changed. And now that I'm on the school board, you start to realize how much can be done at the state."
Mosqueda -- who stressed her General Assembly experience as Moran's top aide for 10 years -- would be one of the few female Latino elected officials in the state and, she said, an "advocate for new citizens and new immigrants."
Two of the newcomers, Lay and Englin, have run high-energy campaigns that have attracted attention.
Lay, a lawyer in private practice, said he wants to go to Richmond to counter a Republican majority that he believes has lost its way.
He said the district's voters have been "disrespected" by Republican lawmakers from other areas of the state who have meddled in local issues such as affordable housing and judicial appointments. Lay also said the state should opt out of the federal No Child Left Behind law, an action that his opponents said would cost the state millions in federal funds.
Englin moved with his wife, Shayna, to Del Ray two years ago and serves on Alexandria's Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. He said affordable housing is one of his top priorities, as is health care. Englin said he would like to see Virginia become one of several states that have adopted the I-SaveRx program, which allows U.S. citizens to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and other countries.
Englin has impressed some longtime politicos with his well-organized campaign, which relies on the help of energetic volunteers who crowd into his two-bedroom home each weeknight to work a specially installed phone bank.
Hobson, who previously represented the district, stepped down in 1980 to focus on his law job and on supporting his young family but has remained active in Democratic politics in Alexandria, serving on the Democratic Central Committee, the library board and the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
Mandala is the owner of Mandala Research, a corporate research company based in Alexandria. She has been an advocate for women's issues in the city, serving as the chair of the Alexandria Commission for Women. She said her priorities include increasing aid to small businesses, affordable health care and human rights.