- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Mike Lane greets people with a smile at the Clarendon Metro as they make their way to work.
The campaign manager for Republican congressional hopeful Scott Tate, who is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, cheerfully hands out literature about his boss, wishes commuters a good day, and even compliments one woman on a pretty dress.
"I just have to get this information in their hands, and if even half of them read it, we are good to go," Mr. Lane said.
He is greeted by many with a polite acknowledgement, even if it is before most have had their morning coffee. Almost all accept his fliers, even though several toss them in the trash bin at the bottom of the escalator.
A month ago, Mr. Tate, 41, was little more than the latest Republican lamb being sacrificed to the Moran juggernaut the six-term congressman has won his last two elections handily with at least 63 percent of the vote.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot-box slaughterhouse: The incumbent congressman has been stung by recent news reports of financial troubles and questionable loans.
Eighth District voters learned last month that Mr. Moran, 57, accepted a $50,000 loan from James Kimsey, founder of AOL. Charges have also surfaced that he was given preferential treatment for a loan from MBNA, a Wilmington-based financial firm, when it had legislation before Congress something Mr. Moran denies.
Mr. Tate, who runs CompuTate, a computer services business, thinks Alexandria voters have had enough of the controversies that seem to dog Mr. Moran's steps. The Georgetown University graduate, a father of three who has been married to his college sweetheart for 18 years, is determined to give the district an alternative.
But turning Mr. Moran's troubles into votes for Mr. Tate won't be easy.
Mr. Tate, a member of the Arlington County Planning Board, has lost two previous bids for elected office, including a run for the state Senate seat in the region.
And the Republican hopeful got no help last year from his Republican colleagues in Richmond.
When the Virginia General Assembly, controlled by Republicans, redistricted the state's congressional lines last year, Mr. Moran might well have been the only happy Democrat in Virginia. In an effort to shore up the status of U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, Republican lawmakers swapped some of Mr. Davis' Democratic constituents with some of Mr. Moran's Republican ones, making the 8th even more friendly to the incumbent congressman.
Even without the redistricting boost, Mr. Moran seemed to be headed for another walkover and lots of Alexandria residents say he still is.
"I want to have as many Democrats in Congress as possible," said Jessica Arons of Ballston, who reluctantly accepted one of Mr. Lane's fliers, and then promptly threw it in the trash once out of sight. "I am pro-choice, and I support education spending, and I am not afraid of big government. I think [Mr. Moran] has been doing a great job, and I am not really worried about this loan situation."
An unidentified woman, clearly more interested in buying the morning paper said curtly, while pushing Mr. Lane away, "I want a Democratic House, I don't ever vote for Republicans."
Another longtime Alexandria Democrat, outgoing two-term Mayor Kerry J. Donley, said Mr. Moran is as popular as ever.
"[The loan troubles] aside, the fact is Jim Moran continues to serve quite ably. He is an excellent congressman, and that is one of the main reasons he continues to get re-elected," Mr. Donley said.
In Democratic circles, the popular mayor, 46, is considered one of the few politicians in the district who could mount a legitimate challenge to unseat Mr. Moran.
Mr. Donley, who is retiring to spend more time with his family, said it's not in his plans.
"At this point, I don't see a situation where I would [be] challenging him in a primary," he said.
For now, the only obstacle to a seventh term for Mr. Moran is the underfunded Mr. Tate he can't even convince the national GOP to pledge any support or resources because it has not yet been convinced the race is viable.
Mr. Tate said his top priority is getting the party leaders and 8th District voters to change their minds. The national party is listening, and is not shutting any doors, but so far that's all it's doing.
"At this point, we are not taking anything off the table," said Carl Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is in charge of electing Republicans to the House nationwide.
Mr. Tate desperately needs Republican support. As of June 30, the most recent date for which candidates had to file reports with the Federal Elections Commission, Mr. Tate had not raised any money though he said things had picked up since the news of Mr. Moran's latest round of troubles.
"Our fund raising changed dramatically within 48 hours," Mr. Tate said last week. "Over the Internet we raised $1,000, which is nothing like the $1 million in a day raised by [former Republican presidential candidate Sen.] John McCain, but we were pretty excited about it," Mr. Tate said. He estimated that since the Kimsey loan became known, his campaign has raised close to $20,000.
As of June 30, for his part, Mr. Moran had more than $922,000 cash on hand, according to FEC reports.
Mr. Moran said he's not about to give up the seat he has held since 1990 without a fight. He said he's getting up earlier and staying up later as campaign demands become more pressing.
"I have always respected my opponents," Mr. Moran said. "Now I am just campaigning a little harder and am forced to be competitive. It is probably a good thing for a 57-year-old guy to be pushed down the competitive path every now and then."
Amy Walter, an analyst for the Cook Political Report, which specializes in covering House races, said Mr. Tate's task is near impossible, but she adds that Mr. Moran is not helping himself by repeatedly getting into trouble.
"It can't be a good thing to have front-page stories about this on top of front-page stories about the same thing two years ago," Miss Walter said, referring to a loan Mr. Moran received from Schering-Plough lobbyist Terry Lierman in 1999.
Mr. Tate is not discouraged. He said in the past, Republican candidates have not been centrist enough to fit the needs of the district. He describes himself as a "pro-business, pro-free-market, pro-choice" Republican, and thinks President Bush's popularity will help him win votes others in the past may not have been able to get.
And because of this, Tate staffers like Mr. Lane are determined to continue greeting voters and handing out fliers because, they say, people are finally beginning to listen.
"I handed out 650 today, before we were lucky if we got 200 out," he said, shortly after 9 a.m. one day last week.
"I hope we can do this every week and have new information, too. We just need to get the word out."


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