Press Club

Looking Back: The Early Years of Rep. Jim Moran’s Career

Rep. Jim Moran at a congressional hearing (Photo courtesy Moran's office)

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, 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.


An early photo of Jim Moran, before his years in Congress (photo courtesy Moran's office)Once he entered Congress, Moran was immediately taken aback by the amount of influence money had over his fellow legislators.

“I wanted to get the money out of politics,” he says. “I still do, but it’s gotten worse. I wanted to be transformational, in my naiveté. I was surprised at the influence that various interest groups had, domestically and internationally.”

Moran’s early years in Congress saw him build his reputation as a passionate legislator who’s not afraid to go against party lines. He voted against the original Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, one of only a handful of congressmen in either party to do so.

His lengthy track record on the side of gay rights caught the attention of Fisette and other LGBT rights advocates in Northern Virginia. Fisette and state Sen. Adam Ebbin — who are both gay — supported Moran against Parris and, after a couple of years in Congress, the two decided to ask Moran to make a splash.

“We got breakfast with him in Old Town,” Fisette recalls. “We thought, ‘let’s challenge him to do something.’ Our big ask was to ask him to consider hiring an openly gay person on his staff. He said, ‘you know, several times, I thought I had.’

“It was a great little moment that showed Jim’s character,” Fisette says. “I’ll never forget it.”

During his 1994 re-election campaign, Moran’s young daughter, Dorothy, was diagnosed with “a massive, malignant brain tumor,” he says. She was given a 20 percent chance of survival, and Moran’s wife at the time, Mary, “desperate to save her life… had 15 credit cards she maxed out.”

“She bought every concoction anyone said can cure cancer,” Moran says. “It was completely understandable. To make up for it, I started trading in options and hoping to outsmart the market.”

The end result was a “deep financial hole,” that Moran eventually paid off. Dorothy survived and, despite having a significant portion of her brain removed, is “doing well” and is engaged to be married.


The early years of Jim Moran saw the fiery Massachusetts native draw controversy outside of the legislative arena. He was involved in a “shoving match” on the floor of Congress with then-Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) over sending troops into Bosnia.

Moran ran into more financial trouble in the late 1990s after his divorce with Mary, and received a $25,000 personal loan from Terry Lierman, who he says “had been a friend since the 1970s.”

At the time, however, Lierman was a lobbyist for Schering-Plough Corp., a pharmaceutical company. Just a few days later, according to the Washington Post, Moran co-sponsored a bill to extend Schering-Plough’s patent on its allergy medicine, Claritin. A month later, he sent a letter to fellow Democrats urging them to support the bill.

Moran still denies that he took those measures as a tit-for-tat deal with his friend, and quickly re-paid the loan in full, he says.

Four years later, in the run-up to the second Iraq War, which Moran voted against, he told a crowd in Reston, “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this.”

He later apologized for the comments, and defeated a Democratic primary challenger, lawyer Andrew Rosenberg, the next year with 59 percent of the vote, his narrowest primary victory.

He’s also drawn accusations of impropriety over a mortgage he took out and a subsequent bankruptcy bill he supported, as well as allegations of insider trading. He forcefully denies that he’s given any special treatment or abused his power in any way.

“There are so many things people could be legitimately critical of me for,” he says, “it bothers me that [my detractors] keep bringing these things up that have nothing to do with my record.”

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series. Click to read Part Two and Part ThreePhotos courtesy of Moran’s office.

Recent Stories

Our two-day stormy stretch is expected to carry on into Sunday, so make sure you take advantage of any sunny and dry periods as we head into the weekend. The…

Navigate the complex world of wine from the team at Arrowine & Cheese in the new The Nose That Knows column.

Inova is setting up a day-long community blood drive in Courthouse on Monday The healthcare company’s blood donation arm is again partnering with Fire Works American Pizzeria and Bar for…

A 3 BD/2 BA updated home with a new roof, refinished hardwood floors and private parking space is included in Open Houses.

“Probing the highly imaginative, inspired mind of Teresa Oaxaca is not altogether unlike having a present-day conversation with an Old Master,” says Nashville Arts Magazine.

Here is an unusual opportunity to learn from this incredibly talented and accessible artist, at Art House 7’s two-day oil painting workshop in October. Teresa will give 2 portrait painting demonstrations for 3 hours each morning. Students will then be painting from a clothed live model. Teresa will offer individual critiques that focus on materials, techniques, process and artistic vision. You’ll get jazzed up about painting and become more confident about your abilities.

Art House 7, Two-Day Oil Painting Workshop with Teresa Oaxaca. Saturday, October 22 and Sunday, October 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. EDT $250.

See more about Teresa Oaxaca here. Art House 7 5537 Langston Blvd., Arlington, Va. 22207

Submit your own Community Post here.

Validating one’s emotions has the power to heal, transform, and empower. What Is Validation? Every human being has feelings. We all have emotions that change over time, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. The question isn’t whether we feel; it’s how we handle feelings once they arise.

Building strategies to understand emotions is essential to positive mental health, and validation is one effective skill to practice.

Emotional validation is the process of understanding, embracing, and actively listening to another person’s feelings (or your own).

Understanding someone’s emotions doesn’t necessarily mean you approve of how they are feeling or reacting to something. You can be supportive in acknowledging and validating an emotional experience without agreeing or diminishing it. Validation is a skill to learn and improve over time. It may take practice, but the effort is most certainly worth it. Emotional validation has the power to enhance interpersonal communication and foster strong relationships.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

ACFCU’s Homebuying Happy Hour

Are you ready to buy your first home, but concerned about saving for a down payment? Grab a drink and join us for 45 minutes to learn more about how you can buy your first house with 3%, 5%, or

Azure Dream Day Spa Grand Opening

Azure Dream Day Spa is hosting their Grand Opening Celebration at their beautiful new spa located at 901 N. Quincy St. on Friday, August 12 from 5-9 p.m.

All are invited to come tour the new spa and to take


Subscribe to our mailing list