- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2009

As his state party’s go-to guy in the House of Delegates, Brian J. Moran - deal maker, negotiator and recruiter - seemed an obvious choice for the governor’s spot on the Democratic ticket.

That is, until the national party’s go-to guy stepped in last year and changed the dynamics of a statewide primary that had been a two-way battle between long-serving local officials from different parts of the state.

With just days until the June 9 primary, Mr. Moran is fighting from the bottom in what has been a back-and-forth race.

State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds has surged to 27 percent in a Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday, followed by former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe at 24 percent and Mr. Moran at 22 percent.

Mr. Moran, who led the poll three months ago, dismisses naysayers and the latest polling figures by the nonpartisan firm based in Raleigh, N.C.

“I think I’m doing fine,” he told The Washington Times. “It is a horse race. Despite being outspent, we have a clear path to victory.”

In his favor, poll numbers in the voter-rich area of Northern Virginia show Mr. Moran comfortably ahead of his two competitors. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Fairfax, who is not endorsing any candidate for governor, said that fact alone keeps Mr. Moran viable.

“If Brian has the lead in Northern Virginia polls, you absolutely can’t count him out.”

The poll numbers also show Mr. Moran has vaulted over Mr. McAuliffe and is ahead in Richmond after he criticized Mr. McAuliffe in television ads.

“Terry’s unabated claims that he was for this and that and he would do this and that without having any experience or a record of accomplishing things in Virginia needed to be answered,” Mr. Moran said of the ads.

The problem is that, while Mr. Moran picked up support from McAuliffe backers, Mr. Deeds made inroads into Mr. Moran’s Northern Virginia base - a bump that enabled the former long shot to pull ahead statewide.

Asked whether Mr. Deeds was reaping the rewards of Mr. Moran’s attacks on Mr. McAuliffe, Mr. Moran said, “Mr. Deeds may very well have been the beneficiary of that.”

Mr. Moran also counts to his credit endorsements from 30 current and former General Assembly members and the mayors of Richmond, Alexandria, Leesburg, Norfolk and Newport News. He said the support from them means more than that of the celebrities campaigning with Mr. McAuliffe.

“Will.i.am and Bill Clinton are not going to be able to help Terry McAuliffe be an effective governor,” Mr. Moran said, referring to appearances by the hip-hop musician and former president at McAuliffe campaign events. “The mayors of cities all across Virginia are the ones I’m going to have to work with to make Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family. And they know I will work with them.”

As for Mr. Deeds, Mr. Moran called him a worthy opponent but pointed to the state senator’s voting record and his 2005 loss in the attorney general race to Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell.

“To go up against Bob McDonnell, you are going to need a fighter, and I will be that fighter,” Mr. Moran said.

The youngest of seven children, he was born in Natick, Mass., to a working-class Irish family. Mr. Moran started bagging groceries at 14 and worked his way through college and law school. He worked as a prosecutor in Virginia for six years and rose to senior assistant commonwealth’s attorney.

He casts himself as a leader who has pushed his party’s platform forward and knitted together compromises. He campaigns on his record, compiled during 13 years in the House of Delegates and eight years as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus - a position he inherited from Mr. Deeds.

“When I took over the caucus from Creigh Deeds, we were at 33 members and hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. We scratched and clawed to become financially solvent, and each and every election, we picked up seats in traditionally Republican areas from Lynchburg to Virginia Beach,” he said. “There is a way to win in Virginia. I know how to win in Virginia.”

To get some people back to work, Mr. Moran wants to repair 1,700 substandard bridges across the state, a plan that he said would immediately create 35,000 jobs and improve public safety. He wants to expand the capacity of Northern Virginia roads, including improving entrance and exit ramps on Interstate 66.

He stresses “accessibility and affordability” in higher education, adding that the state needs to make sure students and families have access to loans. He wants to create incentive programs for students to work in underdeveloped areas in exchange for loan forgiveness or deferral.

Mr. Moran says he believes in the “traditional definition of marriage” but thinks the state’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage went too far because it also banned civil unions and contracts, denying same-sex couples hospital visits and other rights that heterosexual couples take for granted.

“I think we should at least have a conversation about hospital visits and domestic partner benefits,” he said.

Mr. Moran supports closing the gun-show loophole and used the issue to take a swipe at Mr. Deeds, who won the endorsement of the National Rifle Association during his 2005 attorney general race.

“Unlike my friend Creigh, I support the Second Amendment, but I don’t dance whenever the NRA tells me to,” he said.

Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, said his younger brother has always been the responsible, levelheaded one. He pointed out that his brother moved home and changed colleges to help take care of his dying father.

As a politician, Brian Moran “respects all points of view,” the elder brother said.

“I think Brian is a much better fit for Virginia than I would be,” he said.

James Moran discussed one area where he and his brother had a high-profile disagreement during the campaign: the issue of detainees from U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, being tried and housed in Virginia.

James Moran on May 9 wrote an Op-Ed in The Washington Post in which he said residents of his Alexandria district should be willing to see some of the terrorism suspects detained in a local facility if that proves necessary.

Brian Moran said he opposes such a move.

“Brian tends to be a bit more conservative than I am about some things,” James Moran said.

Calling his brother a much more moderate candidate than Mr. McAuliffe, James Moran said that Brian Moran is a better choice to run against Mr. McDonnell.

“I think it took a lot of chutzpah for Terry McAuliffe, after having done nothing for or in the state all his life, to decide he is the right person to be governor of the state,” James Moran said.

But as the campaign winds down, Brian Moran is more concerned with convincing voters he’s the right person to be governor of Virginia.

“There are still a whole lot of people out there who are trying to make a decision, and it is important to emphasize the difference,” he said. “I have a strong record as well as a vision that differentiates me from my opponents.”

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