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MCLEAN, Va. — The front-runner for a coveted northern Virginia House district used a Thursday morning fundraising event to underscore issues of importance to women — an increasingly pivotal voting bloc in the Old Dominion State.
Former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer, who local operatives say is the top candidate in the crowded 8th District Democratic primary, stressed equal pay and job opportunities for women at a breakfast in the private home of one of his supporters. The 8th District, based in Arlington and Fairfax counties, is open this cycle because longtime Rep. James P. Moran is retiring.
“Our campaign slogan is ‘Proven, Principled and Progressive,’” Beyer said at the event, explaining his views on women’s reproductive rights, raising the minimum wage and equal pay for women. “It’s incredible how much economic growth we can get just by paying women fairly.”
A lieutenant governor from 1990 through 1998, Beyer’s name recognition in this district is boosted by the nine car dealerships in northern Virginia that bear his name. He is also an adept fundraiser who bundled more than $100,000 for President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential bid.
Democratic operatives say those connections will serve him well in a district covered by the pricey Washington, D.C., media market.
While Beyer was in friendly company at the Thursday breakfast, he was reluctant to embrace his front-runner status.
“I know Don gets nervous when you say too much about being a front-runner, because life is uncertain in this political world,” said former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin, the state’s first female governor who headlined the Thursday fundraiser. “But he does bring very, very strong credentials familiar to many people in Virginia who remember his work as lieutenant governor.”
Beyer dismissed the notion that he’s leading the field in a Friday phone interview.
“The last thing our campaign wants to adopt is the idea that we’re the front-runner. It’s a dangerous place to be,” Beyer said. “Between now and June 10, we want to run scared the whole time and not take anything for granted.”
Beyer is one of a dozen Democrats running in this heavily Democratic district that Obama won by a 37-point margin in 2012.
Other candidates in the primary include state Sen. Adam Ebbin, state Dels. Charniele Herring, Patrick Hope and Alfonso Lopez, radio show host Mark Levine, Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and non-profit executive Lavern Chatman.
“You can’t throw a cat in the General Assembly building without hitting a candidate,” said state Del. Bob Brink, a state legislator from the district who backs Beyer and attended the Thursday event.
Democratic operatives say Ebbin, Hope and Lopez are the other likely top contenders in the contest. All three have built-in constituencies because they’ve been on the ballot in the district before.
Democratic strategists note that Chatman was a top-tier candidate, but recent revelations that she was found liable for fraud in 2001 will likely to damage her hopes.
Although Chatman denied any wrongdoing, she was held liable for helping a friend hide assets to avoid paying $1.4 million in owed wages to employees of a nursing home he managed, according to court documents.
The winner of the Democratic primary will become the next House member from this district, in all likelihood.
Virginia’s 8th District is rated a Safe Democrat contest by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.