The Democratic primary for Congress in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District will be held on June 10, just 57 days from now. I’ve been closely observing the candidates, including this past weekend’s “forum” at Mt. Vernon High School. At this point, I feel confident in narrowing down the candidates I’m considering from 10 to 4. Here’s my reasoning on the candidates I’ve included in my “Final Four,” and the ones I haven’t.
Candidates Eliminated from Contention
1. Derek Hyra: I explained my reasoning in detail here, but the short answer is that Hyra’s top policy advisor is: a) a flack/shill for the fossil fuel industry that’s destroying our planet; b) someone who spends his time in court fighting efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions; c) someone who opposes pretty much EVERY progressive policy there is, based on his Twitter feed and other crap he’s written, whether on health care or economic policy or anything else (the guy’s a Cuccinelli supporter to top it all off). Hyra’s response to my concerns was even lamer, claiming he’s all about bipartisanship, diverse ideas, blah blah blah. Look, if Hyra were running in the 2nd CD or 5th CD, I could understand him talking this (although I’d still dislike it intensively) “both sides” false equivalency bull****. But in the deep-blue 8th CD? No thanks, I want a rock-solid progressive and environmentalist, end of story.
2. Bill Euille: His absurd answer at the debate Saturday on the Keystone Pipeline would almost singlehandedly disqualify him from contention. But then there’s his big backer Sheila Johnson, who not only endorsed Bob McDonnell over Creigh Deeds in the 2009 governor’s race, cut an ad for McDonnell and donated a huge wad of dough to McDonnell’s campaign; she also mocked – on camera, no less – Creigh Deeds’ speech impediment. I’m sorry, but Bill Euille’s embrace of Sheila Johnson is a killer for me. Just appalling.
3. Lavern Chatman: There are two automatic disqualifiers for Chatman. First was the fraudulent conveyance judgement against her, about which the judge wrote:
…appellant’s conduct was outrageous, grossly fraudulent, and in willful disregard of the employees’ rights. We cannot overlook the massive scale of the fraud, which was designed to defraud not just one, but 297 persons. Another factor making appellant’s actions particularly egregious and oppressive was the enormous disparity of wealth between appellant and the employees.
Second was Chatman’s strong support for Republican Pat McCrory, the utterly heinous governor of North Carolina, True, she might not have known just how bad McCrory would turn out to be, but still, the bottom line is that McCrory ran on a platform of corporate tax cuts (and tax cuts for the wealthy), fossil fuel deregulation, and fighting against the federal government’s regulation of healthcare. Ugh. In stark contrast, the Democratic candidate – Walter Dalton – was running on a platform of healthcare for all, environmental protection, and public education. In other words, this choice was an easy one: Dalton was infinitely better than McCrory, and one could see that during their campaign if one read their platforms at all. So, no, it’s not excusable. Plus, Chatman didn’t backtrack on McCrory until she was called out for it by Blue Virginia a few weeks ago. Not acceptable.
4. Satish Korpe: I was doubtful that he’d be a serious candidate, and after seeing him at the debate on Saturday, I’m now convinced that he’s not.
5. Charniele Herring: Her decision to remain as DPVA Chair while running for Congress was strike #1 in my book. Her failure to help Alan Howze in the Arlington County Board election the other day was strike #2. But more importantly, her performance in Saturday’s debate…er, “forum,” which I graded an “F”, was strike #3. Honestly, at this point, I’d strongly advise Herring to drop out, as she has almost no path to victory and as this race is hurting her future prospects.
6. Bruce Shuttleworth: This one pains me somewhat, as I honestly like Bruce Shuttleworth as a person a great deal. I also have been impressed with him when I’ve seen him speak – both stylistically and substantively – at the Brigades and most recently at the “forum” on Saturday. But I just don’t see any path to victory for Shuttleworth. Also, his embrace of Dennis Kucinich really bothered me, for the reasons stated here. So I guess I’d put Shuttleworth just out of my “Final Four,” but not without a good deal of respect for him as a person (and even as a candidate this time around, as opposed to his shambolic 2012 run).
Final Four (in alphabetical order)
*Don Beyer: If you didn’t look at Beyer’s record from the 1990s, and ONLY looked at his statements and positions in this campaign, you’d swear that he was a super-progressive and super-environmentalist (e.g, his proposal for a carbon tax, and his forceful emphasis on dealing with the climate crisis). And maybe he is – maybe Beyer’s always had a strong progressive inside him, just waiting for the right moment to emerge? I’m not kidding; it’s quite possible. It’s also quite possible that Beyer has calculated, correctly, that the path to victory in this district is to run as a rock-solid progressive and environmentalist. If elected, it also would be in his self interest to vote that way. So he could very well end up being a strong progressive in Congress. I tend to believe this. The question lingers in my mind, though, about how to reconcile the Don Beyer of today with the Don Beyer of the past. Not that he was sooooo bad in the past, but there were “issues,” such as the ones I discussed here. As far as electability is concerned, Beyer has the most name ID and will have the most money to communicate (probably by far). As far as I can tell, there’s no doubt that Beyer’s the favorite right now, the only question is whether anyone can put a “dent” in this “Don Beyer Volvo” before he’s so far down the road that nobody can catch him…
*Adam Ebbin: A strong progressive voting record and signs of grassroots support (e.g., a recent straw poll win in Alexandria). Solid if unexceptional performance at the “forum” the other day. One big question for Ebbin is whether he can raise the money he needs. Another is what his path to victory might be, given so many other Alexandria-based candidates (and also a couple other legislators) in the race.
*Patrick Hope: Co-founder of the Progressive Caucus and a voting record that backs it up. A tremendous amount of experience on health care issues. A strong campaign, with definite grassroots support (as evidenced by numerous straw polls) and solid fundraising ($185k in the 1st quarter). The questions with Hope are about: a) his path to victory (presumably, rack it up in Arlington, perform decently elsewhere); b) whether he can raise the funds he needs to communicate; c) his relative lack of foreign policy expertise; and d) whether he can “up” his game at “forums” and debates, after a middling, somewhat uninspired, performance Saturday.
*Mark Levine: A super-strong progressive, probably the most knowledgeable about federal-level issues of anyone in the field, with Congressional experience working for Rep. Barney Frank. The main question with Mark Levine is whether he can put together a serious campaign for this seat. Also, can he shed the widespread image he has that he’s “just an entertainer” (I hear it over and over again, unprompted, from people). On that latter point, I totally disagree, but it’s not up to me; it’s up to the Democratic primary voters of the 8th CD to make up their minds on that by June 10. We’ll see…