On a sunny Saturday afternoon, in the conference room of Marymount University’s Ballston campus, Matthew Berry officially kicked off his bid for congress. Most people expect Berry to win the primary. Virtually no one expects him — or any other Republican — to win in the general election.
The eighth congressional district of Virginia, which Rep. Jim Moran (D) has represented since 1991, is considered one of the safest Democratic seats in the House of Representatives.
This year, however, with political discontent over the Democratic health care reform effort nearing the boiling point, Republicans see an opportunity to, at the very least, force Democrats to devote more resources than usual to re-electing Moran, at a time when they can least afford it.
“Unlike in past election cycles, the eighth district does not have to be an afterthought,” Berry said, promising to “wage the most competitive general election campaign that this district has seen in almost a generation.”
Berry spent nearly 20 minutes on Saturday delivering a speech blasting “Obamacare,” advocating fiscal responsibility, and calling for a more muscular national security policy. Social issues — abortion, gay marriage, immigration — were never mentioned.
The speech was short on rhetorical flourishes, although a comparison between President Obama’s foreign policy and Barney the dinosaur did draw laughs among the gathered crowd of about 30 supporters.
“Some people say that when I speak, like today, I come across as maybe bit too wonky,” Berry later admitted, to more chuckles. “But to paraphrase former president George H.W. Bush, I prefer to think of it as being fair to the other side by keeping my charisma in check.” (See video of the speech, after the jump)
For now, Berry is engaged in a low-key primary contest with Patrick Murray, a retired U .S. Army colonel.
Berry, the former general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission, has out-fundraised Murray nearly 3-to-1. Still, the $80,574 cash that Berry had on hand, as of the most recent FEC filing, pales to Moran’s $510,583 war chest. And Moran is not facing a primary challenge.
Berry’s selling point in the primary has been that he’s the strongest candidate. To reinforce that, he points to a poll, conducted by a Republican polling firm, suggesting that he’s within striking distance of Moran in a theoretical match-up.
Berry’s campaign has also touted his enrollment in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” program, describing it in a press release as a “top-contender program,” although the level which Berry is currently at is open to any Republican congressional hopeful who applies.
Murray also plans to join the program.
“I hope the public doesn’t think ‘oh he’s the winner’ because he’s the first one to send out a press release,” an individual associated with the Murray campaign said.
Over the next month Berry will be holding several “meet and greet” events around the district, including events in Clarendon and Crystal City.
The primary will be held on June 8.