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Top 8 Criteria We Should Use in Selecting the 8th CD’s Next Congressperson

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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.

  • Say What

    This seat has been set aside for Brian Moran …. the Clintons are coming and what that means in Virginia … it’s all in the family (its an Irish politician thing). Just look to that other Commonwealth state … Massachusetts.

    Hopefully there are good people that fit your wish list above. Maybe that’s Brian? … though heavy weight is a “heavy lift” for both parties.

  • senator911

    I’m voting for Charielle because she has proven to be a true compelling progressive rising star. Her skillfull running of the DPVA last year was just phenomenal and she is very active in our district, she comes to our school political townhalls (NVCC), I see her at the rec centers, restaurants and so forth yet she was running unopposed, its just in her to be to be trully effective, and we as progressives need to reward her for her hard work when it came to our sweeps last year, without her we might not have been celebrating Mark Herring’s action, because well.. we would have been stuck with “miscarriage” Obenshain..

    So Charnielle Herring it is for me.. I have actually met most of the candidates, from Adam, Hope, Euille (Who I am still confused why he is running appart from him being mayor, his council members are more well known than him) They are all nice people and great when it comes to our principles, but when it comes to Charnielle, she just stands out

    So for me.. its Charnielle Herring.

  • GBrandon

    . . . And, add “my-turnism” to the things I don’t want to see in this primary.

    Tangentially related to #6 — “impressive track record of accomplishment” — is the ability to get Democrats elected in the General Assembly.  A trifecta in the statewide offices is commendable, but we are currently at a lousy +1 in the House and could be at net-zero in a few weeks.  Even at the +1 rate, Dems will have a majority by 2051.  Sorry, but that is NOT impressive.

  • independent in arlington

    …who stay in the race which provides information on how each candidate stacks up against these goals.

    Also, I hope everyone recognizes that almost anyone will be an improvement in category 5.

  • Ron

    1) Someone that wants to take advantage of being in the most educated Congressional district in America by organizing interested constituents to help drive better policy and to drive a hard look at rules that govern federal government operations and contracting (GSA, FAR, GSA).

    2) Someone that is focused on regional transit solutions, and that we think can work with Maryland, DC, and Virginia elected officials to move towards an overhaul of Metro and long-term capacity-building for transit.

    3) Someone that will champion market-based solutions to encourage a transition to a near-zero carbon emissions energy economy (just rolls off the tongue!), while encouraging the use of natural gas as a medium-term transition fuel.

    4) Someone willing to challenge the precepts of the surveillance state regardless of the occupant of the White House.

    5) Someone skeptical of international trade agreements that short-change the environment and American workers. Alexander Hamilton understood that great countries are built through a strong economy that promotes its own interests first and foremost. It’s not parochial or xenophobic to think in these terms.

    … and finally (and sadly)someone that can wisely advocate against unnecessary wars in the Middle East without insulting all of American Jewry in the process. This may be a bit unfair, but the letters of reprimand Jim received from his own caucus limited his ability to ever be a leader.

    We should be looking for someone in the mold of Chris Van Hollen across the river, someone that can build coalitions inside the Congress and rise into a leadership position.

    (Great article, Lowell)

  • amber waves

    Moran has set the bar high on foreign policy issues. We should not be electing a representative in arlington like Hoyer, Van Hollen, or Connelly. Instead we should be supporting someone progressive with views similar to Moran and Donna Edwards.

    We need someone to continue Moran’s policies against

    the Global War on Islam,

    Unbalanced policies favoring Israel over Palestinians,

    Torture and undeclared drone warfare,

    We need a progressive pushing to

    Cut the size of our military budget to that before 9-11. (Moran was 1 of only 22 representatives signing a recent letter calling for “significant” reductions in military spending) That is what I call guts.

    Rein in the NSA/CIA.

    Reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons-Global Zero.

    These are just a fraction of issues that set him apart from many local democratic so-called progressives on foreign policy.

  • pashin

    It’s an “inside baseball” thing, but one of the other ways in which Jim stood out was by being an exemplary “good citizen” within the Democratic party.   He was very generous in sharing his resources – staff, office space, fundraising clout, personal presence, and funds – with other candidates and with the committees.   Some of these are little things, like buying tickets for YDs to go to high-dollar events.  Some were bigger, like helping out the Webb campaign in it’s early, unfunded innings.  And, as with #7 above, he was so ubiquitous in this sphere as to call into question the laws of physics…

    So, we should also be looking for someone with that spirit, even if they would probably have to grow into the role.  

  • FreeDem

    Lots of people have made some very good suggestions, and I think it’s important to make sure that the next Congressperson from the 8th is on the right side of history for issues that are still unresolved. Standing up against future efforts to re-start the “War on Terror” by invading Iran or who knows where, critical of the surveillance state, and I’ll also throw in critical of the War on Drugs, which needs to be ended.