Still Angry

But Critics Aren’t Helping Moran Foe Yet

Posted November 19, 2003 at 6:01pm

Eight months after publicly denouncing once-embattled Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and signaling that they would not back his re-election to the House, six prominent Democratic Jewish lawmakers are standing by that vow, even as their colleague is now solidly favored to win an eighth term in November 2004.

At the same time, the six don’t appear to be going out of their way to ensure that Moran is defeated next year.

“I don’t support his re-election,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) reiterated Tuesday, before adding a caveat that shows he doesn’t appear to be willing to carry his actions further than that. “But it will be up to the people in his district to decide that.”

In a letter to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in March, the six House Democrats said they “cannot and will not support” Moran’s re-election to the House, after the Northern Virginia lawmaker suggested that the Jewish community was pushing the United States toward war with Iraq. He later apologized for the remarks, made March 3 at an anti-war forum, and was forced to relinquish a minor leadership post.

The group — consisting of Waxman and Democratic Reps. Benjamin Cardin (Md.), Martin Frost (Texas), Tom Lantos (Calif.), Sander Levin (Mich.) and Nita Lowey (N.Y.) — also wrote that they hoped Moran would reflect on his comments and ultimately decide not to run again.

Undeterred, Moran insisted he would stay and fight, and within weeks he had drawn primary opposition for the first time since winning the seat in 1990.

But when outgoing Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Kate Hanley (D), Moran’s most formidable opponent in the primary, exited the race last week, Moran’s re-election chances shifted from shaky to solid ground.

Hanley’s exit leaves Washington, D.C., attorney and political neophyte Andy Rosenberg as Moran’s only Democratic opponent in the June primary. Rosenberg has raised $215,000 for the race so far, but he faces an uphill battle at best in trying to knock off the scrappy former boxer and Appropriations Committee member.

Other potential top-tier primary challengers to Moran, such as former Rep. and state Sen. Leslie Byrne and Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette, passed on the race earlier this year. Several Republicans are also running, but the 8th district heavily favors Democrats.

But while Moran’s colleagues do not support his re-election, they also do not appear willing to campaign against their colleague or help find another top challenger to fill the void left by Hanley.

“I have no plans to do that,” Waxman said.

Frost, one of the party’s top political strategists and a former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, noted that there is still plenty of time for other candidates to get in the race before the state’s April 12, 2004, filing deadline. But he too said he isn’t in the candidate-recruitment business.

“It’s not my job to go out and find candidates — especially not in a Democratic primary,” Frost said. “We’ll wait and see who’s running. We just have to wait and see.”

For his part, Moran said he couldn’t hold the letter against most of his colleagues. He said he understood that they were under immense “political pressure” at the time.

“People do what they have to do,” he said, adding that he doesn’t believe the letter was a personal attack on him.

“Some of them I could never get angry about it with … Sandy Levin comes to mind,” he added.

A spokeswoman for Levin said her boss, like all of the other five Members, still stands by the vow not to support Moran’s re-election.

“We signed the letter. We stand by the sentiment of the letter,” the spokeswoman said.

But Moran sounded less forgiving toward other colleagues.

“It’s interesting,” Moran said. “I also signed a letter that allowed Henry to keep two committees,” referring to the fact that Waxman was among those grandfathered in and allowed to keep a seat on the Energy and Commerce and Government Reform panels, after the former became an exclusive committee.

Asked what he thought about having to continue to serve with the letter’s signataries next Congress, assuming he’s re-elected, Moran said he holds little hope for a rapprochement.

“There’s plenty of ways they could make it up to me, but I doubt it’s going to happen,” Moran said.