- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Rep. James P. Moran won the Democratic primary last night, capturing 58 percent of the vote to overcome the first formidable primary challenge he has faced in 14 years of representing Virginia’s 8th Congressional District.

With all 147 precincts reporting, Mr. Moran defeated challenger Andrew Rosenberg by 6,982 votes, according to unofficial results compiled by the Virginia State Board of Elections.

The race had been deemed a tough contest for Mr. Moran because of his remarks last year about Jewish support for the war in Iraq, which helped fuel his opponent’s well-funded and sophisticated campaign.

Mr. Moran, 59, did not mention Mr. Rosenberg, 36, during a brief victory speech to about 200 supporters, but said, “It’s obviously disturbing to me that as many as 40 percent of alleged Democrats may have voted against me.”

Speaking afterward to reporters, Mr. Moran said he “had somebody running against me who shouldn’t have been running” and criticized Mr. Rosenberg for seeking out Republican voters in the open primary.

“If you don’t have an issue and you don’t have experience, you attack the other guy,” he said. “I don’t like it.”

Mr. Rosenberg, a lobbyist and former Capitol Hill staffer, flatly denied that he had targeted Republicans and called Mr. Moran’s remarks “unfortunate.”

“Clearly, the results showed that the amount of support we received was substantial,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our campaign and how we conducted ourselves. … The results show voters really are looking for an alternative.”

Election officials said turnout in the primary, which was open to voters of all parties, was especially light. They reported turnout of just 2 percent to 6 percent at various precincts by yesterday afternoon.

The 8th District includes Arlington County, the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County.

Primaries also were held yesterday in Iowa, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota and South Carolina.

Mr. Moran will face Republican Lisa Marie Cheney in the November general election. The 8th District is strongly Democratic: Al Gore carried the district by nearly 20 percentage points in the 2000 presidential race.

Mr. Moran has been a staple of Northern Virginia politics for more than two decades, retaining his House seat for 14 years despite a proclivity for over-the-top rhetoric and sometimes dubious behavior.

But comments he made just before the invasion of Iraq last year that seemed to blame the war on Jews drew charges of anti-Semitism and cast doubt on his ability to win the primary.

“If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this,” Mr. Moran said at a March 3, 2003 forum. “The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should.”

House Democrats stripped him of his leadership position over the remarks. Mr. Moran later apologized for the remarks, although he said they had been misunderstood.

It seemed some Democratic Party leaders in the region relished the opportunity to oust Mr. Moran, whose comments about Jews were not out of character for the maverick politician. He once got into a shoving match with a fellow congressman on the House floor, and he was the target of an ethics investigation in 1999.

In 2000, Mr. Moran had an altercation with an 8-year-old boy in the parking lot of an Alexandria recreation center. He grabbed the boy by the neck and began cursing at him. The congressman accused the boy of attempted carjacking, but the boy said Mr. Moran became enraged for no reason.

A year earlier, Mr. Moran’s wife summoned the police to their home and said the congressman had pushed her. He said it was self-defense and no charges were filed, but the next day Mr. Moran’s wife filed for divorce.

However, none of Mr. Moran’s antics emboldened his detractors as much as his comments about Jewish support for the war.

Mr. Rosenberg raised more money than nearly any other primary challenger in the country. His campaign also attracted high-level Democratic consultants Robert Shrum and Tad Devine, who also work for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Still, he remained a long shot against the seasoned Mr. Moran.

Mr. Moran entered politics in 1979, when he won a seat on the Alexandria City Council.

By 1982, he was the city’s vice mayor, then won the mayor’s race in 1985. He ascended to the House in 1990 and kept that job by portraying himself as a champion of federal employees, women’s issues, high technol]ogy, free trade and fiscal discipline.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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