Home 2014 Races Down to the “Final Four” in the 8th CD Democratic Primary

Down to the “Final Four” in the 8th CD Democratic Primary


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…

  • Nancy Najarian just posted this on her Facebook page.

    Campaign Update – April 14

    As we enter a week in which many in the U.S. are both reflective on past events and looking forward to good news, I too am both reflective and awaiting news.

    After carefully reviewing my signed petitions to be on the Democratic ballot, and consulting closely with my bipartisan legal team, I have concluded that we must move forward with a complete and thorough legal review of all 1500-plus signatures. There are enough inconsistencies and questionable markings of the petition signatures that I am compelled to conduct this review and prepare for the appeal process and potential litigation.

    When I legally filed to become a candidate for U.S. Congress, I did so with the intention to compete fairly and honestly for the honor to represent the constituents of the 8th Congressional District, VA. Because I asked for your support, I am going to pursue justice, fairness, and due process of law. My legal team expects to have a firm answer very soon as to the best steps to take to get me back on the Democratic Ballot for the June 10th primary. In the interim, thank you again for all of your patience, support, words of encouragement and commitment.

    While keeping the faith, I extend to each of you a wish for safe and happy celebrations of spring breaks and holidays around the country.

  • True Blue

    Curious about Levine comment:  “can he shed the widespread image he has that he’s “just an entertainer” (I hear it over and over again, unprompted, from people)”

    Are potential voters confusing him with Cooch’s Levin, talk-show horror (aka entertainer)?  I read comments reacting to an article recently that seemed to misconstrue the distinction and spellings.  Research, research, research.

  • kindler

    I agree with your culling — but I would take it further, to the point of concluding that Patrick Hope should be the nominee:  

    – Of course you have to judge Don Beyer by his past politics and positions — which have always been Democratic, but more representing the establishment than the progressive grassroots.  Personally, I am really hungry for some generational change right now.  I feel like the Baby Boomers still have a stranglehold on the country, leaving the rest of us off of most of the rungs of power.  I don’t doubt that he’s a good man, but IMHO there are enough old white guys in Congress.  Change — and Hope!

    – Adam Ebbin: a good progressive Democrat, and representing a community sorely underrepresented.  But he just doesn’t stir the blood — just not an exciting communicator.  And if Dems don’t regain the House, as is likely, we’re going to continue to need the most powerful voices we can find.  

    – Mark Levine: Well, okay, count me among those who think that governmental experience matters and while, as I just said, being a good communicator matters, being an effective leglslator, skilled in manipulating the levers of governmental levers of power, matters a whole lot too. Not sure US Representative should be an entry-level position.

    And that leaves Patrick Hope, who keeps managing to beat expectations, winning his first race amidst a crowded field, impressing a lot of folks with his work in the General Assembly and now standing out again in a crowded field, winning a fair number of straw polls, and speaking with a stronger voice than a lot of the other candidates.  

    He just seems like the real deal, and he has many years to grow and hone his skills.  And this would be a good time to elevate a health care lawyer, as Congress shows no sign of laying off its obsession with killing Obamacare.  

    To me, he seems and feels like the right person for the job at this time.  In a race full of good Democrats, he has risen to the top.  

  • LAS

    If she is in the #2 position on June 9th–or anywhere close to winning this thing–I vow to vote for whoever can take her out. She should not be in this race. She should not and CANNOT be our new representative in Congress.

    I find it hard to believe that more people aren’t shocked and scandalized that she hasn’t withdrawn already. Even harder to believe that there are sill democrats supporting and defending her.

  • Matt_H

    I agree that Don Beyer is a worthy candidate, and think he is a solid Democrat, but it’s time for the new guard, who will fight hard for progressive values for many years to come.  

    While Adam Ebbin is a decent person, I have two concerns.  First, he has never engaged in a truly tough challenge, or fought hard on a controversial progressive economic issue.  In fact, when it came to two issues that meant a lot to the progressive community, he failed.  First, he voted to keep the estate tax (it was said he was pandering to the Chamber, or to Gov. Kaine, but in either case, he lacked fortitude to do what is right).  Second, he was a proponent of the 36% cap on payday loans, which is still usurious.  In no event can I see him ever standing up to a Paul Ryan, much less to the Democratic leadership when it takes too centrist of a path.    

    Mark Levine, in my mind on paper would make a great progressive Congressperson, but his campaign team leaves some doubt about him.  I do like his fresh, and unapologetic liberal vigor.

    This really leaves me with Hope, who based on what I’ve heard and seen, exhibits true leadership.  I’d rather have someone with conviction, and who is not afraid to act on his or her conviction, than someone who may agree with me on more issues, but who is not a good fighter, when push comes to shove.  

  • ToddJones21

    I completely agree with your analysis about who the top 4 candidates in the race are, and I think that the top candidate is without a doubt Mark Levine.

    In a deep blue district we should aim to elect super-strong progressives who know how the system works and will be passionate advocates for progressive causes in the media. Having worked on Rep. Barney Franks staff, as well as having been a progressive radio hosts, Mark Levine fits the bill in both cases.

    No disrespect to the other candidates but only Mark Levine can be describes as an even remotely passionate speaker and debate. I heard Mark speak, I could hear the passion he has for important causes such as making college affordable, and as someone who has taken on a lot of college debt, that is an important issue for me.

    Mark Levine is a refreshingly blunt candidate and will be a worthy successor to Jim Moran.

  • TerryNash

    Looks to me like Mark Levine is the real deal. I think what some perceive as slickness is really his bright mind and his ability to articulate. (He apparently went to Harvard and is very smart) He has a real grasp of  the issues, as anyone at the debate can tell. I think his intelligence will be a big asset in Congress.

    He does have a track record of getting things done- both in the political and legal arena. You just have to do a little digging and it’s right there. He also has a track record for being a hard worker, being persistent and being someone who can’t be intimidated. Seems like he would do a great job for us in Congress.

  • Ben

    I’ve followed Mark’s career since he was the bright kid who could do the flashy stuff–sharp mind, quick wit, has all the answers kind of kid. But he’s also a strong team player. He works hard, willingly does research and grunt work behind the scenes, focuses on getting the job done and follows up. And, most important, for whatever causes he has espoused, he’s been amazingly effective. He gets things done. I’m a progressive who lives in Michigan and I only wish I had a strong candidate like Mark to vote for here.