I’ve been talking to some leading Northern Virginia Democratic politicos the past few days, trying to get their assessments of the 8th CD Democratic primary campaigns with just 3 weeks to go. Here’s a summary of what I’ve heard on background/not for attribution (frustrating, I know, but this seems to be standard practice nowadays…not wanting to be quoted by name). Note that I don’t necessarily agree with all of this (although I DO agree with the majority), but I do find it interesting what Democrats whose opinions I respect are thinking.
1. Don Beyer: Has skillfully leveraged his Democratic donor connections, which he’s cultivated for decades, to rack up a big fundraising advantage. Other than that, he’s run a “smooth,” even “flawless” campaign as the “safe choice” in this race. That includes putting forward strong progressive and environmental policy stances. Finally, he’s received endorsements from many of Barack Obama’s former advisors, as well as from Howard Dean. He’s clearly the front runner and will be very tough to catch in the final 20 days.
2. Patrick Hope: He’s run as the candidate who will “hold everyone accountable,” including “wayward” Democrats (note: there are MANY of these, such as the Johnny Joannous of the world, who very much NEED to be held accountable and called out). That’s clearly annoyed several of those “wayward Democrats,” who don’t consider themselves “wayward” or appreciate being called out by a fellow Democrat (whether they deserve it or not is another question; some of them clearly do!). Hope cites his work as founder of the Progressive Caucus, but that organization accomplished very little (e.g., raised almost no money, got little if any legislation passed, didn’t move the party to the “left”). Hope’s also “thrown sand in others’ sandboxes,” such as wading into the streetcar debate (backing a referendum), which seems to make little sense for him to do (although I’ve heard that there’s polling indicating significant support for it among Arlington Democrats; also, it might make sense for Alan Howze, although I’d argue that even that’s debatable). General lack of message discipline; should have focused much more on his area of expertise, which is health care. It also appears that the Moran camp has turned strongly against Hope in the final weeks, with two leading figures in that “camp” (Mary Moran and Peg Willingham) criticizing Hope (see here and here) for supposedly stating that we need someone from Arlington as our next Representative.
3. Adam Ebbin: He’s run his typical liberal challenger campaign. Also emphasized that he’s safe and effective. It’s worked in previous elections for him, but most likely won’t in this one. Ebbin’s probably hoping that Hope’s attacks on Beyer will backfire and benefit him. (Note: I’d note that Ebbin also touts the work of the Virginia Progressive Caucus, which in my view has been a major disappointment.)
4. Bill Euille: The “little engine that could,” has run a much stronger campaign than many had expected, outperforming expectations and “coming alive” in this campaign. He’s also smartly emphasized his local and regional connections, which are arguably the best of anyone in the field. Unfortunately, Euille hasn’t built the kind of machine that could propel him to victory, and right now he lags badly. Part of the problem is also that there are so many Alexandria candidates and that Euille is largely unknown in the district outside of Alexandria.
5. Mark Levine: “If every voter went to a debate or forum, Levine might be in 1st or 2nd place. But they don’t.” Give him credit for trying out creative ideas/fresh thinking, and he’s certainly been articulate, knowledgeable and substantive, but it’s going to be tough to move up in the final 20 days. We’ll see how far $300,000 (assuming he spends that much) can take him.
6. Lavern Chatman: Not really a factor in this race (although unlikely she’ll drop out, as she’s got money galore and she really has nothing to lose).
7. Derek Hyra: Also not a factor in this race (e.g., no money, no base). Seems mainly interested in federal housing policy and urban affairs/planning issues. Probably won’t drop out, but irrelevant whether he does or doesn’t.
P.S. I’ve also heard the opinion expressed that Charniele Herring has some “serious rebuilding to do,” including a revamped political operation. This campaign is seen by many as having hurt her future prospects. As for Alfonso Lopez, most people seem to think that he got out early enough so it didn’t really hurt him for the future. We’ll see.