Moran’s Last Stand

Va.’s 8th Leads Roster of Day’s House Primaries

Posted June 7, 2004 at 6:53pm

As primary voters head to the polls in seven states today, all eyes will be on the suburban Northern Virginia 8th district, with the Democratic race between Rep. Jim Moran and attorney Andy Rosenberg topping the nationwide bill of House contests.

Moran has been no stranger to controversy during his political career — the latest dust-up coming just one week prior to the primary — but this is the first primary challenge he has faced since defeating a Republican incumbent in 1990.

Rosenberg has run a strong grassroots campaign, largely focusing on taking his message for change to voters through campaigning at Metro stations, direct mail pieces and yard signs.

Moran has also focused on the grassroots and sought to highlight his role as a senior appropriator and the benefits he is able to reap for the district.

But that message was largely eclipsed last week, as Moran’s longtime pollster, Alan Secrest, severed ties with the lawmaker in a publicly released inflammatory letter. He subsequently accused Moran of making an anti-Semitic remark during a recent meeting with campaign advisers, although Secrest has refused to disclose the Congressman’s exact comments.

Moran has denied making any such comment and said he parted ways with his pollster of 20 years over strategic differences. Moran and others present at the meeting have described a heated exchange between the two men over finances and the fulfillment of their contract.

Last weekend, Moran released an e-mail he received from Secrest after the meeting in which the pollster warned that he would make his departure “profoundly uncomfortable” for the Congressman.

Moran drew the primary challenge last spring after suggesting at an anti-war forum that American Jews were pushing the United States to war with Iraq. The comment, for which he later apologized, drew criticism from the Jewish community and Democratic leaders on the Hill.

Rosenberg campaign manager Rick Ally said that while the story of Secrest’s departure may have helped Moran shore up his base, the exposure has also “put the primary on the map” for media savvy voters in the district. Rosenberg hopes that the incident reminds voters of the lawmaker’s 25-year career of personal, political and ethical blunders, and that ultimately it will boost the anti-Moran turnout.

“With so much coverage … there’s no question that everyone knows there’s a primary on Tuesday,” Ally said.

Rosenberg has raised and spent more than $400,000 during the campaign. Moran has raised and spent more than $1 million.

While Rosenberg’s campaign went up with a small radio buy last week, the expensive Washington, D.C., media market is cost prohibitive when it comes to television advertising.

Ally said that the amount of free media coverage the race has garnered in the last week has helped fill that void.

“A small media buy in this market would have been about $250,000,” Ally said. “We never had any plans to make that purchase but this latest swirl of media activity, if you will, it’s as if we did buy $250,000 worth of TV.”

The Congressional contest is the only race on the ballot in the 8th district and turnout is expected to be extremely low. Voters do not register by party in Virginia, therefore Democrats, Republicans and independents are allowed to vote on Tuesday.

The winner of the contest will face Republican Lisa Marie Cheney (R) in the fall, but the seat is heavily Democratic and there is no indication that it will not remain in the party’s hands.

Ally said Rosenberg will support the nominee regardless of Tuesday’s outcome.

New Jersey: No Garden Party

The Garden State is hardly considered a hotbed of political activity this cycle, with only one potentially competitive House race on tap in November.

Tuesday’s primaries are expected to be equally if not more lackluster, as incumbents are heavily favored against nominal challengers across the board.

In one interesting primary battle, Rep. Bob Menendez (D) will face off against former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Fulop (D), who was recruited to run by Menendez’s local political nemesis.

Fulop was hand-picked to challenge Menendez by the late Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham (D). Cunningham, who died from a heart attack May 25, had an ongoing bitter feud with Menendez.

Still, Menendez, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, is widely popular and heavily favored to win a 7th term.

In the 5th district, former Bergen County Improvement Authority Chairwoman Anne Wolfe and businessman Frank Fracasso are vying in the Democratic primary to face freshman Rep. Scott Garrett (R) this fall.

Wolfe, who has the endorsements of the Democratic organizations in Warren, Passaic and Bergen counties, as well as the support of Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), is favored to win the primary but is considered a long shot.     

In the 7th district, where Democrats are hoping to make a competitive run against Rep. Mike Ferguson (R), Marine Lt. Col. Steve Brozak (D) is unopposed for the nomination.

Democratic Reps. Steve Rothman and Donald Payne face no primary or general election opposition and are assured re-election to the 109th Congress.

South Carolina: Inglis Comeback

Barring a miracle, former Rep. Bob Inglis (R) will cruise to a Republican primary win in his old 4th district. Inglis, who held the seat from 1992 to 1998, faces former state Rep. Carole Wells as well as businessman Jack Adams in today’s voting.

Inglis has far outpaced his opponents in fundraising and began the race with a huge name identification advantage.

Two Democrats are seeking the Democratic nomination — including former Capitol Police officer Andrew Wittman — but are given little chance against Inglis in this Upstate district that gave President Bush 64 percent in 2000.

Plains: Not Much Action

In Iowa there are several House primaries though none has drawn any significant attention. After hosting three nationally targeted races in the 2002 cycle, Iowa is largely off the radar of both national parties this time around.

In the eastern Iowa 1st district held by House Budget Chairman Jim Nussle (R), real estate agent Bill Gluba is a heavy favorite against former railroad conductor Denny Heath, who received just 4 percent in the 2002 Democratic primary.

Gluba ran for Congress in 1982 and 1988 against Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa). Prior to that he served in both the Iowa state House and Senate. Though the 1st district is considered marginal territory, Nussle is an overwhelming favorite. Using his perch as chairman, Nussle had $749,000 on hand as of May 19. Nussle is widely seen as one of the leading candidates for governor in 2006.

On an even more quixotic front, three Democrats are fighting for the right to challenge freshman Rep. Steve King (R) in the overwhelmingly Republican 5th district.

In North Dakota, Congressional candidates are running unopposed in their primaries today. In the general election, the incumbents, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) and Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D) are heavily favored.

Maine and Montana: Check Back

Maine and Montana are also holding primaries today, though the Congressional candidates are running unopposed.

One House race in these two states could be competitive in November: In Maine’s 2nd district, where local economic development official Brian Hamel (R) is trying to deny freshman Rep. Mike Michaud (D) a second term.

Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.