U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) radiated confidence Tuesday night as he greeted potential voters after a campaign forum at Virginia Hospital Center.
Beyer, a first-term federal lawmaker who represents Alexandria and Arlington, stuck to progressive tenets in addressing a crowd of several dozen neighborhood activists. He said his top goals are addressing climate change, which he called “the existential crisis of our age”; imposing tougher gun-safety laws; and supporting civil rights for women, minorities and immigrants.
Virginia’s 8th Congressional District “is a good district” for a Democrat, he said, noting that “President Obama got 68 percent [of the vote] — twice.”
Just like two years ago, when he won the general election with 63 percent of the vote, Beyer has amassed a campaign fund that swamps his opponents. He reported about $1.4 million raised as of June 30.
His Republican challenger, first-time candidate Charles Hernick, has raised about $31,500. Independent Julio Gracia, a retired FBI special agent, said Tuesday that he will spend no more than $2,000 on his race and does not plan to raise funds. (A write-in candidate who did not participate in the forum, Michael D. Webb, has reported $13,000 in mostly self-funded receipts.)
“The conventional wisdom is Don Beyer has already won this race,” Hernick said during the forum.
“What?” exclaimed Gracia, in mock surprise, prompting laughter from the audience.
Hernick, an economist and environmental consultant, said that if elected to Congress he would push for economic growth, including tax restructuring, stronger national security and more efficient government.
“We’re in the slowest economic recovery since World War II. The world does not feel safe,” he said. “Quite frankly, I expect more from my congressman.”
Beyer cited strong employment statistics and said the nation is still building back from the 2008 recession.
Beyer and Hernick split on whether universal health care should be required of employers, with Hernick saying the 30 million Americans who remain uninsured are a testament that the Affordable Care Act is not working. Beyer said the 20 million who signed up for health insurance through the act is “not trivial” and that a public option is needed for health insurance.
On foreign affairs, Beyer said that, like it or not, the United States is the “policeman of the world.” He predicted that Islamic State terrorists will “have gone the way of al-Qaeda” in two years.
Hernick said he is not nearly so optimistic about the Islamic State. “If I get to Congress, I will declare war on radical Islamic terrorism,” he said.
Gracia, who outlined generally liberal positions on universal health care, tax restructuring, campaign finance reform and other issues, said he would be an antidote to gridlocked national politics.
The Cook Political Report ranks the district as “solid Democratic,” giving Beyer — a former lieutenant governor — a 16-point advantage.