- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 20, 2003

U.S. Rep. James P. Moran faces his toughest primary challenge next year, with at least two strong candidates vying to unseat the seven-term Virginia Democrat who has strained relations with the Jewish community.

Kate Hanley, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and Alexandria lawyer Andrew M. Rosenberg have declared their candidacies for Mr. Moran’s seat, while state Sen. Leslie Byrne and lawyer Jeremy Bash say they are thinking about running against the incumbent.

The Democratic primary will be held June 10, 2004.

Mr. Moran’s office has said it is too early to talk about an election 13 months away, but questions about his electoral stability have arisen since his well-publicized comments of March 3, when he said members of the Jewish community were pushing the country into the war against Iraq.

Jewish leaders said they are still fuming over Mr. Moran’s remarks, which Moran spokesman Dan Drummond said were misunderstood and taken out of context. The congressman made his statement at a Reston peace vigil in response to a woman who asked why more Jews were not speaking out against the war in Iraq.

Rabbi Jack Moline of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria said an informal committee of Jewish organizers is trying to pool resources from individual donors for one of Mr. Moran’s challengers. He said the group has not yet decided to whom to give the donations.

“It is a relative handful of people in the Jewish community who still support [Mr. Morans] constituency,” said Mr. Moline. “His integrity and his character and competence have been distressing to a lot of people for a long time.”

“This is possibly going to be an expensive race,” said Mr. Drummond.

Mrs. Hanley, who announced her candidacy May 15, is the two-term chairman of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors and served three terms before that as supervisor of the Providence District. The 2001 redistricting that strengthened Mr. Moran’s hold on the 8th District also extended the district into Fairfax, Mrs. Hanley’s strongest base of support.

“In a community as diverse as this one is, bringing people together is important,” Mrs. Hanley said. “Public figures should be people that do not divide the community.”

Mr. Bash, 35, served as a policy director in Al Gore’s presidential campaign, as well as on the Florida recount legal team. From 1993 to 1995, he worked in the public affairs office of the American Israel Public Action Committee (AIPAC), one of the leading pro-Israel lobbies in Washington.

Mr. Moran suggested last month that AIPAC could raise $2 million to unseat him. But the lobbying group is not a political action committee and is barred by law from raising money for candidates.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Byrne, 56, yesterday said she will make a decision on whether to run by the end of the summer. She is a former congresswoman from the 11th District, part of which now lies in the 8th District since redistricting. Mrs. Byrne also has nine years of experience in the General Assembly.

Mr. Rosenberg, who said Mr. Moran’s comments in March provoked him to action, is a public-policy lawyer and has acknowledged he would need to meet as many voters as possible to overcome his relative anonymity.

Mr. Moran has faced opposition before, having come under fire for suspect financial dealings, for accepting a loan from lobbyist and for having a temper.

“The thing that attracted me to Jim Moran initially was his passion, and the thing that has turned me away from him is that same passion,” said Mr. Moline. “He has not learned to harness it. Passion without wisdom is very dangerous.”

Still, Mrs. Byrne said Mr. Moran will not be easily defeated. “I think it’s in his nature to put up a fight, and I fully expect that he will do that,” she said.

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