- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2009

If the relocation of Guantanamo detainees to the United States becomes an issue in the Virginia governor’s race, the next Moran family reunion could become an awkward affair.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brian Moran declared Wednesday that he won’t decide whether to oppose detainees coming to his state until he sees what President Obama has to say, refusing to take a stand on an issue that his elder brother, Rep. James P. Moran, put into play last weekend.

Mr. Moran’s gubernatorial competitors have sought to capitalize on an op-ed by James Moran, who wrote that residents of his Alexandria district should be willing to see some of the terrorism suspects detained in a local facility if that proves necessary.

But Brian Moran, pressed for two days to comment on his brother’s article, provided a written statement to The Washington Times saying, “I have tremendous confidence in the leadership of President Obama. I look forward to his recommended plans and will evaluate them once they are released.”

Mr. Obama plans to close the facility holding terrorism suspects at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by January. Officials have said the fates of its roughly 240 detainees will vary: Some may be released, while others will stand trial, possibly in Alexandria’s federal courthouse.

Many Virginia Republicans in Congress have argued against bringing the detainees to the commonwealth - a stance shared by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, who will face either Brian Moran or one of two other Democrats vying for the state’s gubernatorial nomination in a June 9 primary.

“Bob McDonnell strongly opposes any efforts to bring Guantanamo detainees to Alexandria, or anywhere else in the commonwealth,” McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. “The detainees should not be housed or tried in any Virginia communities.”

Although Brian Moran says he will await a decision from the president regarding the detainees before endorsing or decrying the plan, his elder brother, James, said last weekend in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post that Alexandrians should accept the challenge if the detainees are tried in the city.

“I’m not advocating we bring detainees to Northern Virginia,” James Moran, Virginia Democrat, said Monday. “But if the administration deems it in our country’s best interest that a reasonably limited number be tried at the courthouse, then I will be on the same page as the president.”

On the detainee issue, Brian Moran on Wednesday stressed the importance of “protecting the community of Alexandria and preserving our local resources while ensuring everyone’s legal rights.” It is not clear how his brother’s decision to speak out will affect his candidacy.

“They may be brothers but they’re not identical in their thinking or positions,” said Austin Durrer, a spokesman for James P. Moran. “It’s a federal issue and shouldn’t have an effect on his campaign for governor.”

The Virginia race is one of two gubernatorial contests in the country this year, and has drawn attention from nationwide donors and parties clamoring for political control of the commonwealth.

Brian Moran, a former state delegate and Arlington County prosecutor, already has had to deal with a press report regarding donations to his campaign from defense contractors who stand to benefit from earmarks backed by his brother.

“It can’t possibly be a plus for Brian Moran, but so far people have separated him from his brother,” said Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “But let’s be honest: He’s behind - it’s obvious to everybody - and he needs some forward movement rather than a drag on his candidacy.”

A Public Policy Polling survey released last week showed former national party chairman Terry McAuliffe has a 10-point lead over Brian Moran and a 16-point lead over state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds in the state’s Democratic primary.

Mr. McAuliffe said he has “serious concerns” about housing detainees in Virginia. “I certainly disagree with the notion that we should be inviting them to our population centers like Alexandria,” he said.

Deeds campaign manager Joe Abbey said the senator also opposes trying the detainees in the state.

“Common sense says this is a bad idea for Virginia,” he said. “This is a problem created by George Bush and Dick Cheney - so maybe they should be thinking about Texas or Wyoming.”

Mr. Sabato said James Moran’s comments won’t swing the primary for one of Mr. Moran’s competitors because only Democrats will be voting, many of whom may agree with the congressman. However, the issue could be more damaging in a general election.

“I doubt it has that much of an impact on Brian Moran, and I think Democrats are inclined to separate the two” brothers, he said.

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