Dem Gubernatorial Hopeful Brian Moran Talks Policy at News-Press

For Brian Moran, youngest brother in the big family of long-time U.S. Congressman Jim Moran and now battling furiously for the Democratic nomination to represent his party in the general election for Governor of Virginia in November, his world changed one night in 1994. DSC_0235

(This is the second in a series of News-Press profiles of 2009 candidates for Governor of Virginia)
For Brian Moran, youngest brother in the big family of long-time U.S. Congressman Jim Moran and now battling furiously for the Democratic nomination to represent his party in the general election for Governor of Virginia in November, his world changed one night in 1994.


BRIAN MORAN articulated his support for strong environmental and civil justice issues in an interview at the News-Press last month. (Photo: News-Press)

Having come from law school to become a partner at a law firm in Falls Church and even seen playing pick-up basketball games at the Falls Church Community Center, he’d entered public service as a county prosecutor in Alexandria.
Attending a dressy Wolf Trap Foundation ball, he was chatting with then-Virginia Democratic Party Chair (and now U.S. Senator) Mark Warner, when Warner surprised him with a radical suggestion. He proposed that Moran run for the 46th District state assembly seat being vacated the following year by Bernie Cohen.
Not only that, Warner promised Moran that he would openly support him if he did.
In the 15 years since that night, Moran has skyrocketed to a virtually-unparalleled leadership position within the Virginia Democratic Party. Elected with Warner’s help in 1995, he quickly earned the respect of his colleagues in Richmond and within only six years, he surpassed many of his colleagues with far-greater seniority to become the Democratic caucus leader in the House of Delegates in 2001.
He held that position until last fall, when he resigned to devote his full-time efforts to win his party nomination for governor. In the meantime, he helped engineer the Democrats’ huge gains in the state legislature, beginning by helping Warner to get his heralded bi-partisan budget passed in 2004 to re-invest in public education and preserve the state’s fiscal integrity, and then helping to win statewide elections for Kaine in 2005, U.S. Sen. Jim Webb in 2006, Warner in 2008 and, of course, helping to turn Virginia “Blue” in a presidential race for the first time since 1964 as President Barack Obama claimed all the state’s electoral votes last November.
By being deeply involved in the process, he recruited good candidates and gave focus and attention to campaigns, and 12 seats were picked up by Democrats in the Richmond legislature.
Now, however, with the Democratic primary less than a month away (on June 9), Moran is involved in an all-out brawl with his two Democratic rivals, former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Terry McAuliffe and State Sen. Creigh Deeds.
McAuliffe, who has resided in McLean for more than two decades but whose involvement in Virginia Democratic politics was limited to channeling considerable DNC funds to help the election of Gov. Tim Kaine in 2005, jumped unexpectedly into the race last fall.
Until then, Moran had planned to focus his energies on Deeds, a widely-respected legislator from Bath County who came within a few hundred votes of being elected the state’s lieutenant governor in 2005.
The plan was that, while both would keep their focus on a November match-up against the GOP’s gubernatorial candidate, Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell, Moran and Deeds would fight a more-or-less traditional Virginia regional match-up.
Moran would appeal to more progressive Democrats in the North and urban centers of Richmond and Tidewater, and Deeds to more moderate Democrats in the rural areas, but also winning votes in Moran’s territory by convincing voters he’s more electable in historically-conservative Virginia than Moran.
McAuliffe’s parachuting into the race, however, radically changed the calculus of the primary election.
Perhaps thrown off at first, Moran regained his footing in the race based on two things: 1. to claim the turf as the most-progressive, most-green candidate, and 2. to gain the support of respected “validators” in every jurisdiction in the commonwealth.
The latter strategy he learned from Warner, Moran told the News-Press, at an interview in the News-Press office late last month.
Warner, Moran said, stressed to him the importance of going everywhere in the geographically-challenging state to personally line up elected officials and other important local leaders to endorse and work for him.
(In the City of Falls Church, he came to town on April 7 for an event where Mayor Robin Gardner, Councilmen Dan Sze and Lawrence Webb, Former F.C. Democratic Committee Chair Edna Frady, City Treasurer Cathy Kaye and City Revenue Commissioner Tom Clinton and Sheriff Steve Bittle all endorsed him).
In his News-Press interview, Moran said he was appalled that the Republicans, supported by McDonnell, overturned an effort by Gov. Kaine last month to qualify the state for an additional $125 million in federal unemployment benefits. He said it will become a watershed issue in the November election, especially in rural areas that traditionally vote for the GOP. In one such area, Martinsville, unemployment is now over 20 percent, he noted.
But for now, however, in his battle to win his party’s nomination, Moran has distinguished himself from his opponents by taking bold positions on the environment and civil liberties for lesbians and gays.
Asked if his open call to repeal the divisive anti-gay Marshall-Newman Amendment passed in 2007 plants him firmly on the left wing of the race, Moran was unapologetic. “What’s left wing about fighting for equality,” he said. “It’s being a true Virginian. We in this state are the authors of the U.S. Constitution, which was set up to protect the rights of the minority.”


MORAN sat down with the News-Press’ Nicholas F. Benton at the News-Press office. (Photo: News-Press)

He added, “The majority gets its way at the ballot box. Minorities need the help of the Constitution to guarantee their rights.”
If elected, he said he would spearhead efforts to repeal the amendment, because it applies to far more than marriage, he noted, but to civil unions and any contract between same-sex individuals.
Moran’s position is far stronger on the subject than either McAuliffe or Deeds. McAuliffe said in a debate last month that he would not push for a repeal of the amendment if elected because he “would not have time.” Deeds voted for putting the amendment on the ballot numerous times.
“My view is that you have to make time for such things,” Moran said. “You can do more than one thing as governor. I have a long record of fighting for Virginia, with a bold, progressive vision for Virginia’s future.”
Moran said, in his focus on creating “green” jobs, he’s also the only candidate to oppose offshore drilling and the Chesapeake Bay coal plant. Allowing such a coal plant reveals “a less-than-seriousness of purpose” in achieving environmental objectives, he said.
He also stressed his determination to close the gun show loophole, and to require background checks of all prospective gun purchasers. “I want to close the loophole, not just shrink it,” he said. Deeds, he noted, voted to allow guns in bars after Kaine had vetoed such a provision.
He challenged McAuliffe’s claim that he’d not attack other Democrats in his bid for the nomination, noting that as Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager in her presidential bid last year, McAuliffe authorized the infamous “three a.m.” TV ad that dug deep at Obama’s core leadership capabilities. “I don’t like the hypocrisy in all this,” Moran said.
But the bottom line, according to Moran, is that he’s made 15 years-worth of legislative decisions for Virginia, and McAuliffe has no record. “I’ve made some good decisions, probably a few not so great, but I’ll defend them,” Moran said.
He’s pleased with his campaign, Moran stated, especially the “validator in every community” part of it. “I will be outspent, but I will be doing it all, rolling out new endorsements and policy initiatives, and fundraising with any time I have left.”
Rattling off some of his local endorsements, including the state’s Black Women for Obama organization, he contrasted his local support to McAuliffe’s support coming from Former President Bill Clinton. “I’ll take Robin Gardner’s endorsement over Bill Clinton’s any day,” he quipped, “At least in Falls Church!”
He stressed the need to address the “difficult times” Virginians are facing, noting that 5,000 homes in Virginia were lost to foreclosures in January, alone. He said he wants to create tax credits for small businesses to “keep their doors open on main street,” noting that three-fourths of the jobs in the state are provided by small businesses with 250 or fewer employees.
He said he also wants to end corporate income tax for businesses earning less than $200,000 a year.
He noted that as one of seven children, he saw his dad’s station wagon get repossessed out of the family’s garage during the tough economic times of his youth. He bagged groceries at age 14, and all his brothers had paper routes to help the family make ends meet.
He wants to raise the minimum wage, have a “Homeowners’ Bill of Rights,” a ban on predatory lending and a refundable earned income tax credit. He wants to raise teacher salaries to at least the national average and ensure full-day kindergarten for all children.
Moran and his rivals are all expected to appear at the annual Arlington County Democratic Committee’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner this Friday night.