#VA08: Get to Know (Some of) The Democratic Candidates

When representatives in safe districts on either side retire, the primaries to replace said representative are normally very large on the side of whichever party for which the district is safe. This is certainly true — to a great extent — in Virginia’s liberal 8th Congressional District. As soon as long-time incumbent Democrat Jim Moran announced his retirement from the D+16 district, candidates started lining up — and they didn’t stop until the filing deadline in late March.

There are currently 10 candidates running on the Democratic side — and there was even three on the Republican side, surprisingly for such a liberal district.

This past week, 12 of the candidates attended a forum sponsored by the NAACP — and the Down With Tyranny blog has a good write-up from a VA-08 constituent with descriptions of each candidate’s best debate moment, worst debate moment, and “what they’re about.” It’s very helpful to get a sense of what’s going on in this very crowded primary.

Currently, there has been no polling on this race, so it’s hard to gauge a snapshot without knowing some additional information. The on-hand favorite is former Virginia Lt. Gov Don Beyer, but the anecdotal evidence on Mr. Beyer is that he’s a very safe, Democratic choice and a polished politician. Some progressives in the 8th seem a bit weary about Mr. Beyer giving a fair representation of progressive values in such a liberal seat. Though he seems like a solid Democratic choice — he may potentially be mainly positioning himself for a future gubernatorial run.

Beyer also currently leads big in fundraising — raking in over twice as much this past quarter as Former Northern Virginia Urban League Chief Lavern Chatman, who raised the second most. These are the fundraising totals thus far in the primary overall:

VA08DemPrimaryFundApril

As you can see above, the second and third candidates with most cash-on-hand are Radio Talk Show Host Mark Levine and former candidate Bruce Shuttleworth — despite having fairly poor first quarters — but they each loaned themselves a good deal of money to compete: $250,000 and $275,000, respectively — so it’s fair to say these numbers don’t necessarily translate into existing support.

The candidate who ended up impressing the contributor to the Down With Tyranny blog most was State Delegate Patrick Hope. With regards to the money race, Mr. Hope is up against a lot of cash having only $139,000 left on-hand — but with a field this crowded, it’s hard not to see some candidates dropping out. (Mr. Sickles, for example, dropped out last month and endorsed Mr. Ebbin.)

Here’s a piece what they had to say about Mr. Hope:

Patrick is the founder of the Progressive Caucus in the legislature down in Richmond, and is the candidate who probably most completely understands the systemic issues [Down With Tyranny] readers care about when it comes to confronting power and promoting change.

Obviously this race isn’t all about money — but in politics today, it’s obviously always a (big) factor. It’s tough for a progressive candidate to pull through past another candidate who currently has $450,000 on-hand — but it’s not impossible with five weeks remaining.

One of the more interesting things about the deep blue VA-08 is that, for a D+16, Mr. Moran could have voted as progressively as the majority of his constituents likely wanted — but he didn’t all the time, having an ~85% progressive voting score. He’s certainly not a representative that you regularly hear progressives calling for him to leave office, but it’s undoubtable that he could have voted more liberally with no electoral consequences — having won every election since 1994 with approximately 60% or more of the vote.

This means that a true progressive in this seat would bring real change to the United States House of Representatives — as we would get a big net gain — and Democratic constituents of Virginia’s 8th Congressional District should unite behind one come June 10th.