ARLINGTON, Va. — Gunning for the front-runner in a seven-way congressional primary in Virginia, Democrat Patrick Hope figured he couldn’t let a minor setback like a broken rib get in the way.
Just two days after suffering the injury from a fall down some stairs, Hope sat at a campaign event with his three young daughters in his lap, choking up when he told the assembled crowd why he’s running.
“Sitting right here is probably the …” — the 42-year-old Virginia state delegate paused while his girls giggled — “… is probably the most important reason. Because I do wonder what this world’s going to look like, what this country will look like, in 15 years. Are we going to have equal pay for equal work?”
Rep. Jim Moran’s announcement he would not seek election set off the multi-candidate race in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District seat, which borders the nation’s capital and includes Alexandria, Falls Church, Arlington County and parts of Fairfax County. Moran, a liberal Democrat who has held the seat for the last 24 years, has not endorsed a successor.
The establishment choice, former Virginia Lt. Gov. Don Beyer, has raised more than $1 million so far, the only one of the seven candidates to do so. He’s received the backing of several Obama administration officials, including David Axelrod, Peter Rouse and Jim Messina, as well as former presidential candidate Howard Dean.
The winner of next Tuesday’s primary is expected to easily win the general election against Republican Micah Edmond; President Barack Obama carried this liberal district 68 percent to Mitt Romney’s 31 percent in 2012.
The other five candidates in the primary are:
— State Sen. Adam Ebbin, 50, the first openly gay member of the Virginia Legislature.
— Radio talk show host and constitutional attorney Mark Levine, 48, who also is gay.
— Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille, 64.
— Former Northern Virginia Urban League President Lavern Chatman, 57.
— Virginia Tech professor Derek Hyra, 40.
The candidates agree on much: strong environmental and gun control regulations, the rights of gay people to get married and abortion rights. Some of the differences have come down to style. Levine called Beyer “a standard issue Democrat.”
“I don’t see him shaking up or changing Congress at all,” Levine said. “I’m the kind of person who wants to shake up Congress.”
Beyer, 63, said his goal is not to shake up Capitol Hill.
“Congress has been so frozen by bitter partisan gridlock,” he said. “I want to go help heal Congress. I want to go build relationships of friendship and trust and respect — across party lines. And try to move things forward and get things done.”
Levine, former chief legislative counsel to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., calls himself the “aggressive progressive” in the race. His campaign website includes TV appearances where he goes toe-to-toe with Fox News personalities, including one in which Bill O’Reilly calls him a “smart guy.”
Levine’s politics actually sound hawkish on foreign policy. He said, for example, that “sometimes I fear that our President Obama speaks loudly and his stick isn’t that big,” and criticized the president for not doing enough when Russia annexed Crimea.
Levine laughed off the suggestion he was a hawk, citing, among things, his opposition to the Iraq war. But he added: “I actually think you prevent war by making a very strong stance in the first place.”
Like Levine, Ebbin talks up his liberal bona fides. He touted his endorsement by Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and his record on gay rights.
“I have not only been on the front line for the fight for equality, I have moved it forward,” Ebbin said.
Beyer called climate change “the single most important issue of our time” and urged passage of a carbon tax. He also said he’d continue Moran’s work on animal rights. The incumbent has pushed legislation ranging from banning animal-tested cosmetics to prohibiting horse slaughter for human consumption.
To knock off Beyer, his opponents need to overcome some long odds, and in a TV commercial, Euille says he’s done so throughout his life. Euille, who is black, attended segregated schools and was raised by a single mother.
“Now, my life is about changing the game,” he said. “I can do more in Congress to make the odds of success a little better for everyone.”
Chatman compared her quest to Obama’s: “If we can put a community organizer in the White House, we can put a community leader in the U.S. House.”
Hyra said his years studying economic and community development help him understand how to build the middle class and strengthen communities. “I am not a politician,” he said.
At Hope’s event in Arlington, Jennifer Bodie, a 29-year-old event planner from Ballston, said the candidate stands up for women’s rights and young people.
“I want someone who’s younger, who will represent Arlington for a long time — not someone who’s been out of office for 17 years,” she said.
Kelly Rucker Bingel, 47, said that as a small business owner she wants to be represented by someone who successfully ran a business.
“I also want a congressman who shares my support for social programs to lift up the less fortunate among us. Don Beyer is the guy for me,” she said.
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