Moran’s Democratic Opposition Fading

Posted November 14, 2003 at 5:15pm

Rep. Jim Moran’s (D-Va.) lone remaining Democratic challenger said Friday that the decision of Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Kate Hanley (D) to drop out of the race improves his chances.

Lawyer Andrew Rosenberg said Hanley’s departure means that Moran’s opponents won’t be split in the June 8, 2004, primary, adding that he would immediately begin to reach out to supporters of Hanley, a two-time board chairwoman who has spent 20 years in local politics.

“It provides an opportunity for me,” he argued.

But a veteran player in Northern Virginia politics said Hanley’s decision makes Moran “the odds-on favorite” for re-election in the suburban 8th district, as Rosenberg is a political neophyte who lacks Hanley’s stature.

“I don’t think that he can go the distance,” said Al Eisenberg, vice president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade.

Hanley, 60, surprised local political observers with her announcement late Thursday that she did not plan to take on Moran. In a statement, she said her work on the board and family considerations — her husband recently completed treatment for colon cancer — prevented her from dedicating the required amount of time to the Congressional race.

“For personal and family reasons, I am unable to make that commitment,” she said.

Hanley had been gearing up for the race for months, tapping into a solid network of business supporters in the Washington, D.C., area. Through Sept. 30 she had $237,000 in the bank, compared with $315,000 for Moran and $169,000 for Rosenberg.

Hanley becomes the latest high-profile challenger — and the most formidable — to pull out of the 8th district race. Last month, state Sen. Leslie Byrne (D), who spent one term in Congress, announced that she would not run. In August, Arlington County Board Member Jay Fisette (D) announced that he would run for the seat but then dropped out a week later.

Clearly, the prospect of a fractured opposition weighed on the minds of some of Moran’s potential foes. Moran, who has endured a slew of negative publicity since being elected to Congress in 1990, is considered potentially vulnerable after suggesting earlier this year that Jews were pushing the United States toward war with Iraq.

While Rosenberg is now the lone Democratic challenger in the race, the field could still grow. Lawyer Jeremy Bash said earlier this year that he is also taking a look at a Congressional run. He did not respond to a phone message left at his office Friday.

At least one Republican, nonprofit leader Melissa Martin, is in the 8th district race, and others could follow. But the district is solidly Democratic.

Dan Drummond, a spokesman for Moran, said that while Hanley’s announcement is good news for the Congressman, his boss is not taking his re-election for granted.

“It certainly makes things less complicated,” Drummond said. “The Congressman is still leaving no stone unturned.”

Eisenberg, a Moran ally who was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates earlier this month, said the only person who can defeat Moran now is the Congressman himself.

“He has to make sure he doesn’t have any more eruptions,” Eisenberg said.