The Washington Post editorial board has given Republican-backed Independent John Vihstadt its endorsement for Tuesday’s Arlington County Board election.
The Post said Vihstadt would be a “badly needed independent voice” on the otherwise all-Democratic, five-member County Board. Vihstadt was elected to the Board in April in a special election, when he defeated Democrat Alan Howze by a 57-to-41 percent margin.
Howze is again running against Vihstadt, and local prognosticators are predicting this race will be closer; former Arlington treasurer Francis O’Leary thinks Howze will win because of a greater turnout of Democratic “party line” voters. However, the Post writes, the issues that led voters to choose Vihstadt in April haven’t changed.
The editorial board writes:
… Many Democrats have accorded Mr. Vihstadt grudging respect as someone who formulates and presents his views intelligently; he is no tea party bomb thrower. Equally important, in our view, is his insistence that the county reevaluate other expensive projects, such as a proposal for a state-of-the-art aquatic center, which he regards as unaffordable.
Whether Mr. Vihstadt prevails or not, it’s important for Arlington to have the debate; without him, the board runs the risk of groupthink.
The Post writes that it supports the Columbia Pike streetcar, and praised Howze as “a very capable candidate,” but said Vihstadt’s “civil and cogent” arguments against the streetcar have earned him the chance to serve a four-year term. Vihstadt has also been endorsed by Arlington County firefighters for his commitment to public safety
In its editorial, the Post also endorses Barbara Kanninen over Audrey Clement for School Board, citing Kanninen’s experience working with children’s issues.
The community center closed temporarily for major renovations on Oct. 1, but voters in Arlington’s 15th voting precinct — generally, homes south of 10th Street N., east of N. Garfield Street and north and west of Arlington Blvd — have yet to be notified of their new voting center, at 925 N. Garfield Street.
Arlington County General Registrar Linda Lindberg told ARLnow.com today “we are in the process of mailing notices to voters,” and signs are posted at the community center. After they were notified of the community center’s long-term closure, the county struggled to find a suitable replacement.
“Because of a shortage of suitable facilities within the precinct, finding an alternative took a little longer than we would have preferred, but Garfield Park came through for us,” Lindberg said in an email. “Voting will remain there until the community center reopens.”
The Sun Gazette reported on Friday that a June 2015 primary — such as for County Board and Arlington’s General Assembly seats — would also likely have Garfield Park as its polling place before an expected switch back to the community center for next November.
Polling places are determined by local governments, Lindberg said, but because of the short notice before the election, the Electoral Board decided to make an “emergency” switch. The new polling place location must be approved by the County Board with a public hearing, the process for which will happen after the election.
Garfield Park is at the northwestern most corner of the voting precinct, several blocks from the community center, which is on the district’s western edge but more centrally located (it’s the location in yellow on the map in the above photo gallery). At least one resident is concerned about the last-minute change and how it affects voter accessibility.
“This change will certainly result in a much lower turnout for this precinct and prevent many elderly and disabled from voting,” Lyon Park resident Martin Lee told ARLnow.com in an email.
Lindberg said that, like all other polling places in the county, “there will be specific parking blocked off for voters who need accessible spaces.” Voters will enter the apartment building through the community room, and signs will be posted to direct them to the ballot box.
That’s the message from the two candidates for County Board, incumbent John Vihstadt and Democratic challenger Alan Howze, in response to a questionnaire from the Arlington Parks Coalition.
Both Vihstadt and Howze said that Arlington needs more parkland and recreational space to meet existing needs, let alone future demands. Both said they would support the acquisition of new parkland by Arlington County.
In addition, Vihstadt floated a number of specific ideas, like “building up rather than out, in schools and public facilities construction and additions to maximize green space,” and “examining the feasibility of air rights over I-66 in Rosslyn and East Falls Church for fields development.”
On the topic of the “Public Land for Public Good” affordable housing initiative, both candidates rejected the idea of using parkland for affordable housing, schools or other purposes.
Howze, however, kept the door open to potentially redeveloping existing recreational facilities to include housing. His response to the Parks Coalition:
I do not support the development of existing parkland for other purposes. Parks are a public good that are available to all members of the community and it is important that we preserve these public spaces.
When current recreational facilities are renovated or rebuilt, I believe it is appropriate to engage in a community conversation about potential uses. For example, could pre-K and on-site childcare be integrated into a site – making it easier for parents to use a facility? Could housing for seniors be integrated on a site to make recreational amenities and wellness activities more accessible to them? There is no one size fits all answer to these questions – but by engaging the community I am confident that the appropriate solutions will emerge. In fact, it is this confidence in our community that led me to call earlier this year for a broad public process to bring people together to work towards solutions to address school overcrowding, park needs, affordable housing, and public safety infrastructure. By bringing the community together we can emerge with a broader consensus for how to move forward in protecting our parks – while meeting other important community needs in schools, recreational, housing and infrastructure.
Vihstadt said Arlington should find creative solutions for preserving affordable housing and building more school capacity that do not require the loss of parkland.
In my view, Arlington’s 149 parks and our many community/recreation centers are the very essence of “public land for public good” and should be preserved for their intended purpose and adequately maintained. It is both counterintuitive and counterproductive to locate housing, schools, or any other non-parks and recreation-related development on our increasingly precious parkland and recreational sites, and I will work and vote to keep our green space green. As we add ever more population and density to our County, we must more carefully assess how our development decisions are impacting the diversity and character of our neighborhoods and our public parks, as well as our schools and infrastructure. We must also endeavor to ensure that our core services, including our parks and recreation resources, keep pace with our population growth. Clearly, our County faces challenges in ensuring adequate school capacity and preserving our affordable housing stock, but I believe we also possess the resources and creativity to address these challenges while preserving and, indeed, enhancing, our parkland and recreational resources, including sports fields.
On a related note, I believe that our regional parks and nature centers should remain substantially as they are, absent community-driven upgrades and maintenance improvements.
Gillespie is behind by double-digits in statewide polls, but he sees an opportunity in Arlington to connect with young voters frustrated by the lagging economic recovery.
“We enjoy a lot of strong support here from a lot of young professionals,” he said. “There’s big numbers here, and we have to get our numbers up. It’s an important part of the Commonwealth. I want to be a servant leader for all Virginians, that means taking your message everywhere, including places that I know historically, in the voting patterns, aren’t Republican strongholds. But that doesn’t matter to me. I think it’s important to take your message everywhere.”
Gillespie served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee and counsel to President George W. Bush, and started his own lobbying and consulting firms. His consulting firm, Ed Gillespie Strategies, closed in Old Town Alexandria earlier this year to allow Gillespie to focus on his campaign.
Gillespie is against same-sex marriage, but said he prefers to let the states legislate their own marriage laws.
Gillespie lives in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County, and said “there was a time when I used to play golf,” but he spend most of his time on the campaign trail or with family nowadays. The time he spends in Arlington, he said, is either campaigning or making the occasional trip to the Pentagon City mall. Gillespie visited Rosslyn’s ÜberOffices last week and sat down with ARLnow.com for an interview.
Around his favorite Arlington hangout, office vacancies have skyrocketed in the years since the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure plan that moved thousands of defense jobs out of Arlington. Gillespie said he doesn’t think the BRAC process needs to be changed, but admitted “it has made mistakes.”
“We’ve cut about $986 billion from our military and our defense since Sen. Warner took office, $500 billion through the sequester, which is a random, arbitrary and deep cut,” he said. “I would work to restore those cuts because I think our military does need to be a higher priority than it is under this administration. ”
Gillespie wants to replace the Affordable Care Act and “supports oil, coal and natural gas production, including deep sea drilling.” He also said he advocates widening I-66, both inside and outside the Beltway.
Gillespie said he realizes Arlington “has got a set of priorities” — county leaders have repeatedly opposed proposals to widen the Arlington stretch of I-66 — but thinks the highway should be widened regardless.
Democratic Arlington County Board candidate Alan Howze, trying to unseat the first non-Democratic Board member since 1999, is using buttons with issue buzzwords on them to try to generate a new wave of enthusiasm for his campaign.
The buttons, instead of being splashed with the candidate’s name in big letters, instead feature issues Howze’s campaign believes are most important to Arlington voters, like “great schools,” “mobility” and “affordability.”
“We created these campaign buttons after listening to residents express what makes Arlington special and what issues matter most to them,” Howze said in a press release. “From great schools to thinking ahead to open space, the buttons capture essential elements of our community. The buttons are a great way to start a conversation about our vision for the future of Arlington.”
Howze is trailing behind Vihstadt — who won the April special election by a 57-41 percent margin after former Board member Chris Zimmerman resigned in February — in fundraising less than a month before Election Day on Nov. 4. This morning, Howze issued a separate press release announcing his goal of “zero pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths from vehicle accidents,” and a plan to accomplish that, including accelerating the Intersection of Doom improvements.
Howze’s plan calls for “complete safe routes to ALL Arlington schools,” expanding sidewalks and increasing police attention toward drivers making unsafe maneuvers for pedestrians and cyclists. He has also recently released campaign plans for improving the Columbia Pike streetcar and enhancing discussion on public land use.
This morning, the Sun Gazette endorsed Vihstadt, saying his months of service on the County Board have proven he’s willing to ask questions other Board members do not:
In another year, Howze might well be our choice, as we think he does want to tackle significant issues.
But the message his election would send to the Democratic oligarchy that has run Arlington — sometimes exceptionally well, but not always so – over past decades is that the public has gotten the anger out of its system, and it’s back to business as usual. That can’t be allowed to happen.
“It’s not divisive to ask questions, and question authority,” Vihstadt said at a recent candidate forum. “If I lose, the status quo prevails.”
He’s right, and while Alan Howze likely would be a fine County Board member — far better than he has been as a candidate – we think it’s the wrong time to turn back the clock. Vihstadt deserves a four-year term.
According to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project, Vihstadt enters the home stretch of the election with $89,058 in cash on hand after raising $42,908 last month. Howze has $22,800 in cash on hand after raising $36,847 last month.
Vihstadt’s biggest donation was a $5,000 gift from Arlington County firefighters, who gave him $2,500 during his special election campaign against Howze in April. That election, in which Vihstadt also outraised Howze, the Republican-endorsed independent became the first non-Democrat member of the County Board in more than a decade.
Outside of the firefighters group, all of Vihstadt’s receipts of $1,000 or more came from individuals in Arlington, except for $1,000 from Christopher Brigham in Fairfax.
Howze received just two donations of more than $1,000: $2,500 each from Jennifer Marie Bodie and the Reston-based “Laborers Mid Atlantic Regional Organizing Coalition.” Several of Howze’s donations came from elected officials and their campaign war chests, including Walter Tejada, Del. Alfonso Lopez and state Sen. Barbara Favola.
In the race for the 8th Congressional District, Democrat Don Beyer raised almost $570,000, according to federal election filings, in the period from July 1 to Sept. 30, and has $168,468 in cash on hand. Beyer raised almost $400,000 for the Democratic primary in June, far outpacing his opponents.
Republican Micah Edmond raised $37,177 in the past quarter, and has $25,686 in cash on hand for the final month in his bid to upset Beyer, the heavy favorite.
In Virginia’s Senate race, incumbent Sen. Mark Warner (D) raised just over $2 million last month to enter the final month before the election with $8.1 million in cash on hand. Republican challenger Ed Gillespie’s raised $1.8 million in the last quarter.
The Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board and School Board released a joint statement Tuesday regarding public lands and the school capacity crunch.
County Board candidate Alan Howze and School Board candidates Barbara Kanninen and Nancy Van Doren said that while the school system should address capacity needs “expeditiously and cost-effectively,” it should do so following a “broadly inclusive community process” to discuss the use of public lands for schools, parks and affordable housing.
In response, incumbent County Board candidate John Vihstadt said that while a community process is currently underway, “what is also needed is a recognition that some difficult choices will have to be made and that hard trade-offs must occur.”
School Board candidate Audrey Clement, who is running against Kanninen (Van Doren is running unopposed), in turn questioned why the county’s school construction costs and per-pupil costs are significantly higher than other Northern Virginia jurisdictions.
The full statements from the candidates, after the jump.
File photo courtesy APS
Party members recommend voters say no to the bonds because they are too broad. They believe approving the bonds would be the equivalent of offering blank checks to the Arlington School Board and the Arlington County Board to spend money on non-specific items.
The four bonds total nearly $219 million and include issues such as funding a new elementary school adjacent to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, as well as continuing funding for the Metro system.
“Arlington parents distrust the school board, and many feel duped by the School Board’s failure to approve a detailed CIP (Capital Improvement Plan),” said Arlington Green Party Chairman John Reeder. “South Arlington parents were promised years ago a new elementary school, now proposed to be built on scarce parkland next to TJ Middle School. Arlington parents should remember that critical on-going school programs were put on the chopping block in the past spring; and now a confused school board and a superintendent propose to rush spending $106 million on plans that are less than educationally optimal for our students.”
Party members point to past bonds approved by voters that apparently were vaguely worded and ended up funding controversial developments around the county.
“This county board built a million dollar bus stop on Columbia Pike, diverted many millions of park bond dollars approved by voters for park land acquisition to remodeling a failed Artisphere, and now proposes to spend over $300 million on a doomed trolley,” said Reeder. “Voters should be wary of allowing the county board to spend over $100 million without detailed engineering and vetted plans because of these past abuses.”
Although it has traditionally has run its own candidates in recent County Board elections, the Arlington Green Party has endorsed independent board member John Vihstadt in the November election.
(Updated on 9/6/14) Bipartisanship or libertarianism. Those were the two primary messages from the half-dozen congressional candidates participating in Tuesday’s Arlington Civic Federation candidates forum.
Democrat Don Beyer, the odds-on favorite in the race to replace retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), stuck to the “proven, principled progressive” theme of his successful primary campaign, while also promising to work across the aisle.
“Anything I need to get done in my first term will likely have to be done with Republicans,” Beyer said, acknowledging the GOP’s majority in the House and potential future majority in the Senate. “This is a very important reason why I want to run… I want to go there as a strong Northern Virginia Democrat to work across party lines.”
Beyer, a former Virginia lieutenant governor and U.S. ambassador under President Obama, also touted his business acumen as co-owner of his eponymous car dealership chain.
“We need to build a new American economy, based on the deepest possible investments in human capital,” he said, while listing a litany of his progressive positions: support for a national carbon tax, tighter gun controls focusing on criminals and the mentally ill, making “improvements” to Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act), universal pre-kindergarten, marriage equality and immigration reform.
Republican Micah Edmond, a former Marine Corps officer, said bipartisanship and a balanced budget would be his first order of business in Congress.
“I see my campaign as a mission to make the American dream achievable again for all people,” he said. “If elected, my top priority will be to work with Republicans and Democrats alike to [enact] a 10-year economic plan that ends sequestration, allows us to pay down our debt responsibly, balances our budget, reforms our tax code, strengthens our entitlement system and allows us to… [make] direct investment into… education, infrastructure and national security.”
“I’m working hard to earn your vote,” Edmond told the packed crowd. A South Carolina native who served as a senior staffer for members of the House Armed Services Committee after leaving the Marine Corps, Edmond described himself as a “pragmatic problem solver.”
Jeffrey Carson, a Libertarian whose website sports an illustration of a star-spangled porcupine, was true to form as the evening’s prickly firebrand.
A former U.S. Army captain, Carson decried the nation’s “meddlesome, haphazard and dangerous interventionist foreign policy; our failed and unconstitutional drug war; NSA domestic spying; militarized police forces and the erosion of our civil liberties.” He accused Edmond of talking about lower taxes while proposing spending hikes rather than spending cuts, then accused Beyer of ignoring the problem of the national debt altogether.
Carson said he would “strip Congress of its power to overspend” by passing a business cycle-balanced budget amendment to stimulate the economy.
“We continue to allow our politicians to continue kicking the can down the road for another year, another election cycle, another generation,” he said. “Is it scary to face these problems head on? You bet.”
Gerard Blais, a candidate under the banner of the Independent Green party, espoused many of the libertarian ideals of Carson, with a pro-transit and social spending twist. He kept his remarks brief in comparison to his fellow candidates.
“I was inspired to run when, working as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. government, I noticed our flawed strategies continuing to fail abroad,” Blais said in his opening statement. “That’s why I would support an immediate pullout from all wars of aggression and choice abroad. I would also support drug legalization… a massive increase in public transportation, universal healthcare and an elimination of the federal income tax on the first $100,000 of income.”
Blais added a free college education and immigration reform to the list of policies he would pursue.
“As an IT worker, I enjoy a very bloated salary” because we’re not allowing enough skilled workers in, he said. “More immigrants will pay more U.S. taxes.”
Gwendolyn Beck, who’s running for Moran’s seat as an independent, said she wants to help facilitate compromise between the two parties.
“I think everyone is disappointed with the gridlock in Congress,” she said. “The Republicans and the Democrats are not talking to each other. I decided to run because I believe that we need to build badly needed coalitions in Congress.”
Beck, who lives near Rosslyn and describes herself as “fiscally responsible, socially inclusive,” said she is “very concerned about the waste of taxpayer money” and wants to fight for the rights of “seniors, children, women — everybody.”
Also participating in the candidates forum was Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Robert Sarvis. Democratic incumbent Mark Warner and Republican Ed Gillespie declined their invitations.
(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) Vying for a seat on the Arlington County Board, challenger Alan Howze and incumbent John Vihstadt made their cases for and against the big-ticket Columbia Pike streetcar and described other goals should they be elected November 4.
Speaking before the Arlington Civic Federation last night, Howze, a streetcar backer, repeated his call for a public referendum on the transportation option, calling it a huge economic opportunity for the county.
“When you look at the capacity and the economic development that will be driven by the streetcar versus the buses, it’s a smart investment to make,” he said. “We’re talking about passing on thousands of jobs in our community and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue that can go toward funding our schools and our social services.”
Howze suggested looking at renewable energy to power the streetcar. “If we can get into a long-term power purchasing agreement, it may actually not cost anything” beyond current energy rates, he said.
Vihstadt countered that the streetcar’s operating costs will have to be funded by bonds and tax dollars and that improved buses are a cheaper and more flexible option.
“The way to keep taxes under control in this county is not to spend so much,” he said. “People want to get from point A to point B in the fastest amount of time, in reasonable comfort and at a good price. The bus is the way to do that.”
Vihstadt said he is not a “single-issue candidate” and stated he would focus on creating affordable housing if elected.
“We want an Arlington that’s welcoming, that’s diverse and that’s affordable to everybody and it’s just really a question of how we’re going to do that — whether it’s through additional committed affordable units or additional housing grants or a special program for workforce housing, I am completely open to that,” he said.
Howze said he was also committed to making affordable housing a priority.
Vihstadt touted his successes thus far in bringing “balance and accountability” to the Board and reminded audience members that he won their vote in April. Vihstadt, a Republican who ran as an independent, won the special election in April to replace Chris Zimmerman (D) on the board. He captured 57 percent of the vote, to Democrat Howze’s 41 percent.
“Since I’ve been on the Board, we have lowered the property tax rate for the first time in nine years, freed up more bonding authority for more new schools and additions to address our capacity crisis, and we’ve directed the County Manager to examine staffing levels for our fire and police,” Vihstadt’s opening statement said.
In his opening statement, Howze criticized Vihstadt’s work on the board thus far.
“He put politics ahead of the needs of our community when he voted this summer against funding for school construction, Metro and parks in the Capital Improvement Plan, just to make a political point,” the statement said. “But political obstruction won’t build schools for our children or secure a more prosperous future.”
Also participating in the Civic Federation candidate forum were the three candidates running for two open Arlington School Board seats. Nancy Van Doren, who is running unopposed, addressed the capacity crowd at Virginia Hospital Center’s Hazel conference center, as did Nov. 4 opponents Barbara Kanninen and Audrey Clement.
Rep. Jim Moran is 69 years old and thrice-divorced, with the last split leaving him nearly broke. Moran reported no assets or liabilities in his financial disclosure report in 2010, in the middle of his divorce with businesswoman LuAnn Bennett, according to The Washington Post. He took home his congressional salary and a $10,000 teaching fee from George Mason University.
No longer as strapped for cash, the former stockbroker says he has no plans to retire from working when he leaves Congress, and will seek a high-paying job.
“It’s a little embarrassing that I don’t own my own home or even my own car,” Moran says. “I need to make a little money because I’ve got four grandkids and my daughter is getting married. I’d like to have something to leave to them.”
Moran can’t conduct job negotiations while he’s still in Congress and said he can’t speculate much on what his next move will be. But he has two criteria, in addition to being paid a comfortable salary: doing something “meaningful” and “purposeful,” and working with people “I like, respect and [who] share my values.”
Though he’ll be a septuagenarian just a handful of months after he leaves office, Moran doesn’t act or look the part of a doddering senior.
“I still have the physical and mental capacity to take on a new career,” he says, “so I think it’s time to do that.”
The two men seeking to replace Moran in the Nov. 4 general election, Democrat Don Beyer and Republican Micah Edmond, couldn’t be more different.
Beyer, 64, is the heavy favorite in the race and has Moran’s endorsement. He’s a former lieutenant governor, a former U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and the owner of four Volvo dealerships that bear his name. During the heated Democratic primary, during which as many as 12 candidates competed, Beyer’s opponents criticized him for running ads for his car dealerships on local news stations, including Del. Patrick Hope (D-47). “Nobody should be allowed to buy an election,” he said.
Edmond, 40, is a Jewish and African-American Marine Corps veteran and former congressional staffer. He was chosen as the Republican candidate in a nominating convention. Described by Patrick Murray, the Republican challenger to Moran in the past two elections, as a candidate with “a lot of energy,” Edmond says Moran hasn’t tried nearly as hard in recent years.
“There seems to be no focus. It’s like he’s just there,” Edmond said in a phone interview with ARLnow.com. “That happens when people serve a long time… People just got really sick and tired of not having a real choice and a real race. Every two years, the Republican party was just throwing someone up there and it hasn’t been competitive.”
Edmond said he wants to focus on advocating for minorities and immigrants who he feels have been under-represented under Moran’s leadership.
“This district is now about 43 percent minority, and he doesn’t represent that diversity,” Edmond says. “Since I came [to Alexandria] in ’98, the minority community has just been shocked at how the level of influence and access to things has shrunk, and I don’t think Jim Moran has been a voice for that.”
Beyer’s lone criticism of Moran’s tenure was the remark Moran made in 2003 about the “Jewish community’s” push for the Iraq War. Outside of that gaffe, Beyer said he can only hope to fill Moran’s shoes.
“People talk a lot about what we’re going to miss,” Beyer told ARLnow.com from his home in Old Town Alexandria. “The defense contractor market is really going to miss his appropriations chairmanship. Animal rights advocates are going to miss him and federal employees are going to miss him.
“I don’t have any unrealistic expectations that I’m going to step into his shoes,” Beyer said. He said he’s trying to avoid “measuring the drapes” before the election, but if elected, “we have to be authentic, we have to be who we are. Forty years in business, as an ambassador and lieutenant governor have positioned me to hit the ground running better. We’re thinking about how do I be more than just another freshman? How can I have a greater influence?”
Although Beyer isn’t measuring the drapes — and Republicans certainly aren’t counting themselves out, considering it’s the first time they’re not facing an incumbent for more than two decades — most in the area consider the seat Beyer’s to lose.
That group includes Moran. In all of his campaigns, Moran never once called Beyer and asked for a campaign donation. Beyer was puzzled and bemused by that — he would have happily donated, and did anyway — while Moran said he didn’t call because “Don’s just such a nice guy.”
Moran said he thinks that quality will serve Beyer well if elected.
“I know he’s going to listen to all of the district, not just the first in line,” Moran said. “Don’s going to be terrific. I’m hoping he can raise enough money that he can move into the leadership.” (more…)
The controversies that began to pile up for Rep. Jim Moran in the late 1990s and 2000s galvanized his critics and spurred more organized efforts to unseat him.
All the while, the federal government continued to grow and as Moran’s district became more affluent and stayed as liberal as ever, the politician continued to get re-elected by a comfortable margin.
There was always a fight, however — until this year.
“It’s the first time in 35 years that I haven’t had an opponent in the primary or the general election,” Moran says. “Nobody had emerged wanting to challenge me. If someone was challenging me, I wasn’t going to let them suggest for a moment that I would back down from the competition.”
Few believe Moran would back down from a fight, even if it were in his best interest. They say that’s what makes him unique.
“He never seemed like a rank-and-file member,” said Don Beyer, a long-time constituent of Moran’s and now the Democratic candidate to replace him. “His personality is too big and his heart is too big. He’s incredibly bright, but he has incredible compassion, which can come off as anger.”
But Moran’s critics describe his outbursts as thuggery, bringing up that his wife reportedly told police that the former boxer grabbed her.
“He’s like a mafia don,” says Patrick Murray, a Republican who ran against Moran in 2010 and 2012. “He’s a big, scary angry guy and you don’t want to get on his bad side. That’s part of how he maintained his power here.”
The image of Moran the intimidator was reinforced in 2010, when a group of Tea Party protesters were heard shouting at his staff in his Capitol Hill office. It didn’t sit well with Moran, who former press secretary Anne Hughes says acted as a caring — and protective — father to his staff.
Moran confronted the protesters, according to a Politico story published at the time. His staffers got between him and the activists, who asked why he needed “bodyguards” to protect him. That prompted a memorable line from an unidentified staffer.
“We’re not protecting him from you,” the staffer told the unwelcome visitors, “we’re protecting you from him.”
Moran downplays the “former amateur boxer” reputation, though he says he did once fight an exhibition match with one-time world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier.
“He toyed with me,” Moran says with a smile. “He let me punch him when he could have dropped me anytime he wanted.”
Moran’s father, James P. Moran, Sr., was a phenomenal athlete. He was an offensive guard at Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., where he was an All-American before he continued his career with the Boston Redskins, before they moved to Washington.
Moran, Jr., also played football at Holy Cross on a dual athletic/academic scholarship. His father taught him to fight — “he drilled into our minds that only sissies need guns” — and to stick up for those less fortunate.
“I used to get in fights when I was young, but never to defend myself,” Moran says. “There were two or three cases where I saw a bunch of bullies harassing a young kid who couldn’t defend himself and I intervened.”
In his adult life, Moran said he isn’t thrilled with being labeled a fighter outside of the political arena.
“I think most of it is exaggerated,” he says. (more…)
(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Alan Howze, the Democratic candidate for the Arlington County Board, has announced a new platform to improve the planned Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar.
Howze reiterated his support for the half-billion-dollar system that is slated to run from the Skyline area of Fairfax County to Crystal City to Alexandria. He also reiterated his support for a public referendum on the streetcar — which needs General Assembly approval to be placed on the ballot — and called the project a “once-in-a-generation investment.”
“The streetcar has been used as a wedge issue by those who seek political gain by dividing our community,” Howze said in a press release. “Rather than use the streetcar to score political points, let’s focus on responding to community questions and using innovation to make the planned streetcar even better.”
After “talking to thousands of Arlington residents at their doors,” Howze created five proposals to improve the streetcar system. The proposals are:
- “Speed and accountability in government matters. Timely construction should be a key contract requirement. This will minimize disruption, protect taxpayers, and accelerate the benefits from the streetcar.”
- “Create a small business contingency plan to support small businesses affected by streetcar construction.”
- “Create a business and residents advisory council to ensure community issues that arise during construction are dealt with in a timely manner.”
- “Examine the feasibility of using streetcars that can run without wires for sections of the streetcar line to reduce the use of overhead wires.”
- “Secure 100% renewable energy power supply for the streetcar. This would ensure that the streetcar is a zero emissions system.”
County Board member John Vihstadt is Howze’s opponent in the November general election. It’s a rematch of their April primary in which Vihstadt, a Republican-endorsed independent, won by a 57-41 percent margin. In response to Howze’s statement, Vihstadt responded in a press release, saying “Let’s be careful about who is calling whom divisive.”
“We have a strong contingent of voters who oppose streetcars, and are ready to vote in November,” said Vihstadt, who voted, along with County Board member Libby Garvey against the county’s 10-year Capital Improvement Plan last month because it included the streetcar.
“I’m glad to learn that my opponent is hearing the same concerns that I am in door-knocking and listening to constituents up and down Columbia Pike, along Route 1 and across the County,” Vihstadt said, “including deep anxiety about construction time and cost, disruption to small businesses, commuters and residents alike, unsightly and potentially unsafe overhead wires, environmental and energy concerns and more. Unlike my opponent, I believe that the way to deal most effectively with these concerns is not to build the streetcar in the first place!”
Howze compared the debate over the streetcar to the 1960s debate over building Metro’s Orange Line underground instead of in the median of I-66, saying “for 50 years, transit opponents have used the call for more buses to attempt to block the expansion of rail transit.”
Vihstadt fired back to that claim, referencing the vote Arlington residents took to approve building the Metro along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
“My opponent’s references to Metro are inaccurate,” he said. “I support and take Metro every day. The fact is that Metro was put to a vote in the late 1960s and Arlingtonians embraced it. They have voted to continue to support Metro in bond votes nearly every two years since. Metro ties our entire region together across Maryland, the District and Virginia. None of this is — or ever will be — true of a streetcar.”
Rep. James P. Moran is quiet, speaking barely over a whisper, tapping his fingers on a conference room table.
It’s a side of Moran that many of his constituents haven’t seen since he was first elected to public office 35 years ago, as a city councilman in Alexandria.
The public image of the now 69-year-old congressman is that of a brash, fiery fighter, so much so that he was given a pair of boxing gloves by Arlington County Democratic Committee President Kip Malinosky at a dinner held in Moran’s honor in June.
The public image is neither incorrect nor complete. Moran has a legendary temper and passion, and he’s built a reputation of speaking “off the cuff” at public events, Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette says.
“He doesn’t read prepared statements,” according to Fisette. “He talks too long sometimes, but it’s authentic.”
That wasn’t always the case. Moran says he initially ran for office out of a fear of public speaking. He was unbearably shy, but wanted to help his community, so he gave it a shot.
“I dreaded speaking in public,” Moran told ARLnow.com, sitting in a conference room at Rosslyn’s ÛberOffices. “I fainted the first two times I did it.”
In one-on-one interactions, Moran is still the quiet type. “He’s a lot more soft-spoken than people think,” his former press secretary, Anne Hughes, says. He’s deliberate in conversation, thoughtful regarding each answer and, after he announced earlier this year that he wouldn’t seek re-election, reflective of his soon-to-be-ending time in politics.
Moran was elected in 1990, unseating Rep. Stan Parris. Parris had served 12 years in the seat — from 1973-1974 and 1981-1990 — and was viewed as a significant favorite, but the district, and the country, was changing.
Parris, who died in 2010, had run for governor in 1989 and lost in the Republican primary, which Don Beyer — elected lieutenant governor that year — said “weakened” his campaign. Beyer is the Democrat running for Moran’s seat after beating out a crowded primary field in June.
Moran had already established a reputation as a progressive liberal — as mayor, he made sure that Alexandria would not discriminate against gays and lesbians in hiring for city positions — and Parris pounced on his opposition to the Gulf War, comparing Moran to Saddam Hussein.
When a reporter approached Moran on the beach after Parris made his comment, Moran said “that fatuous jerk… I’d like to break his nose.”
“He really wasn’t that bad of a guy,” Moran says today, “but he said a number of things that I thought were repulsive. I knew his voting record, which was terrible as far as I was concerned. I probably couldn’t have beaten him if I had known him because he wasn’t such a bad guy, but I didn’t know him.”
Moran says he woke up at 4:00 a.m. every day and drove to the Prince William County Park & Ride. At the time, commuters would drive to the lot and sleep in their cars before the bus arrived, to ensure a parking spot. The mayor of Alexandria would knock on their car windows and introduce himself.
“Normally I’d get the single-digit salute,” he says. So he continued to do it for weeks. “Eventually, they gave me the access to tell them what I was about.”
Moran also pressed Parris on his conservative views on abortion, a hot-button issue of the moment, even more so than it is today, Beyer says.
“It was the wedge issue in the campaign,” Beyer says. “Jim saw that opportunity and he seized on it.”
Moran won by a 7.1 percent margin over Parris. The district was re-drawn after the 1990 U.S. Census to make it more Democratic, and the margin will stand as the closest general congressional election he ever had.
Richard “Rip” Sullivan (D) is the newest member of the state General Assembly after soundly defeating Republican Dave Foster in tonight’s special election.
Sullivan won 62.21 percent of the vote, not counting provisional ballots, and captured 3,934 of 6,277 votes cast in Arlington. Sullivan will replace Del. Bob Brink, who resigned in June, representing the easternmost parts of Arlington and the McLean area of Fairfax County.
The election was scheduled for tonight by House of Delegates Speaker William Howell, a move Sullivan panned during his campaign — and did again in his victory speech at O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub in Clarendon — as an attempt to get low voter turnout in the Democratic-leaning district. Brink, who was there to congratulate Sullivan, said he was “surprised” at Howell’s decision.
“Rip showed you can’t game the system,” Brink told ARLnow.com. “I think he’s going to do a tremendous job. He’s shown he is a thoughtful legislator who can get things done. I think he’s going to be great.”
Sullivan credited his team for leading a successful campaign — two campaigns within eight weeks, he pointed out, after winning the Democratic “firehouse” primary in early July — and the district’s voters for supporting him despite the unusual election timing. According to Arlington General Registrar Linda Lindberg, it’s the first general election Arlington has had in August in at least 20 years, and she said she couldn’t find record of any August election before that.
During the campaigns, Sullivan focused primarily on social issues, such as women’s reproductive rights, and on expanding Medicaid. Foster’s campaign hinged largely on his opposition to the streetcar, while hoping his education experience — he was a two-time chair of the Arlington School Board and the head of the Virginia Board of Education under former Gov. Bob McDonnell — would garner some swing votes.
“I had great faith and confidence in the voters of the 48th District,” Sullivan said. “I knew they would care about more than one issue. I wanted to talk about all of the issues and I think that resonated with voters. They knew what they were getting with me.”
Brink retired after being appointed Deputy Commissioner for Aging Services for Virginia. Sullivan said Brink, known in Richmond as a dealmaker, has offered guidance.
“Bob was highly regarded for his intellect and demeanor,” Sullivan said. “I expect to rely on him and consult him regularly. I hope to follow in his footsteps as someone people can trust and work with.”
Sullivan is an attorney and a partner at Reed Smith in Washington, D.C., and serves as an adjunct professor at the George Mason University law school. He lives in McLean with his wife, Beth, and the two have four children.