With the contest to replace the retiring Rep. Jim Moran in Congress (from Virginia’s 8th CD – Arlington, Alexandria, parts of Fairfax) heating up, it seems like a decent time to lay down a few criteria I believe we should use in deciding who to support. Note: current announced candidates include Del. Patrick Hope, Sen. Adam Ebbin, Del. Mark Sickles, former Lt. Governor Don Beyer, former candidate Bruce Shuttleworth, Del. Charniele Herring, and Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille. Other possibilities include Del. Alfonso Lopez, Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada, Del. Scott Surovell, TV host Mark Levine, “Gay PR Exec” Bob Witeck, former NOVA Urban League head Lavern Chatman, and possibly several others. My criteria?
1. The next Representative from the 8th CD should be a strong, rock-solid progressive. Given that the 8th CD is solidly “blue” – in other words, whoever wins the Democratic primary WILL be the next Congressman from this district, probably for as long as he or she wants the job – there’s absolutely no reason for us not to have a Member of Congress who fully represents our district’s progressive values. According to Project Vote Smart, Jim Moran received the following ratings: 100% from NARAL Pro-Choice America; 100% from Planned Parenthood Action Fund; 100% from the Animal Welfare Institute and 100% from the The Humane Society Legislative Fund; 100% from the National Education Association; 80% from the American Civil Liberties Union; 91% from the League of Conservation Voters; “F”s and zeroes from all the pro-gun groups; 0% from the “nativist” group Numbers USA (from 2009 to 2013); 90% from SEIU; an 85% “Progressive Punch” lifetime score; 100% from the Human Rights Campaign; etc. I’d expect the 8th CD’s next Representative to do as well or better than Jim Moran – who overall had a superb voting record during his time in Congress – in all these areas.
2. More than just the progressive scores, I want to see a tenacious, indefatigable FIGHTER for progressive values (note: that includes the environment, of course, although strictly speaking protecting the planet doesn’t have to be “progressive” per se — e.g., ever hear of religion-based “creation care?”). In general, it means that I want a Representative willing to fight back against Republican and Tea Party extremism on the floor of the House, in the media, and with smart/effective legislation and legislative tactics. Jim Moran did a great job in all those areas.
3. Obviously, we need a Representative who will fight for the 8th CD. That means fighting for the interests of federal (and contract) employees, for Metro and transit more generally, and to keep this region vibrant economically, environmentally, etc. Jim Moran did a great job at all of that.
4. We’re going to be losing some big-time seniority (and the clout that comes with it) when Jim Moran retires. Let’s not kid ourselves that we’ll be able to replace that clout right away, but over time we can, if we elect a Representative who’s relatively young (Jim Moran was first elected to Congress at age 46) and is planning to stay there for a long time.
5. We want, need, and deserve a Representative who has the highest ethical standards and who makes us proud every day. We should all look at the candidates listed above for their past behavior with regard to government, as well as for the ethical standards and integrity they’ve displayed (or failed to display) at a personal level. That includes looking at whether they’ve taken money, trips, gifts, etc. from individuals, companies or groups that are opposed to progressive and/or environmental values (e.g., fossil fuel interests, payday lenders).
6. The next 8th CD Representative doesn’t have to have been elected to anything in the past, or be an “insider” of any kind. However, we should expect a superb, impressive track record of accomplishment over the years in whatever field(s) the candidate has been involved. For elected officials, that includes legislation passed, leadership shown on promoting progressive ideas, etc.
7. Obviously, we want someone who will do a great job on “constituent services,” which Jim Moran certainly did. We should look for a track record of that in selecting our next Representative. One thing that always amazed me about Jim Moran was that he was seemingly everywhere: if there were was a library re-opening, he was there; if there was a rally for LGBT equality or environmental protection or a woman’s right to choose, he was there; you name it. I’d like to see our next Representative doing the same thing. By the way, that includes interacting on social media – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube blogs, etc. If you haven’t figured that out in the year 2014, you probably are never going to figure it out.
8. Finally, and this is a bit harder to define, but I want to see a “heavyweight” in this job — someone who is a serious policy wonk, someone who really loves diving into the weeds of legislation, someone who can go toe-to-toe with Republicans and Tea Partiers (and conservative and/or corporate Democrats for that matter) in the battle of ideas (I’m thinking of people like former Rep. Tom Perriello, as well as of Rep. Jim Moran), and obviously someone who is passionate and knowledgeable about national and preferably international issues.
So, those are my top 8 criteria for the 8th CD. Please feel free to add your own criteria in the comments section. And may the “best” candidate (“best” defined as coming closest to meeting the 8 criteria outlined above) win!
P.S. It almost goes without saying that I do NOT want this primary to come down to a contest of “identity politics” or who has the most money to spend or who lives where. This should be about picking the best Representative for the 8th CD on the merits, nothing less.