Polls Open Tuesday for GOP 8th & 11th District Primaries

The two candidates vying for the Republican nomination in next Tuesday’s primary to square off against Rep. Jim Moran in November “worked” the Falls Church Memorial Day parade and festival Monday, braving the heat in search of prospective supporters for what will be a low turnout election. Voters in the City of Falls Church who wish to vote for one or the other can do so at the City’s five polling places next Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In interviews on site with the News-Press Monday, Matthew Berry and Patrick Murray presented divergent views and philosophies, though no matter which one wins Tuesday, chances will remain slim that they could unseat Moran in the heavily-Democratic 8th District, that includes Arlington, Alexandria, the City of Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County.

(Moran, who faces no primary challenge this year, did not make his usual appearance at the Memorial Day festivities as he was out of the country, attending a conference in Qatar).

In addition to the Berry-Murray contest, in the 11th District adjacent Falls Church, two GOP primary contenders are battling furiously to Tuesday’s finish line and what is considered a much better shot at upending the incumbent Democrat, Rep. Jerry Connolly.

But even though many 11th District residents undoubtedly attended Falls Church’s Memorial Day events, neither Keith Fimian or Pat Herrity were seen at the Falls Church GOP Committee’s booth, or were reported being on hand.

But there were plenty of both Murray and Berry signs, buttons and leaflets around the festivities, even as the Falls Church Democratic Committee’s booth welcomed State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple and handed out Moran balloons and literature.

Talking with the News-Press, Murray said that, like Berry, this is his first attempt at elected office. But he cited his long military career as evidence of his credentials, and said that the two differ on some key issues relating to gays in the military and gay marriage.

Murray said that unlike himself, Berry favors immediate repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) military policy concerning gays and lesbians. Murray stressed the need for a thorough Pentagon review before a repeal.

Murray said he also believes “marriage is between a man and a woman,” while Berry supports gay marriage.

Berry, in fact, is openly gay himself, and said that he is optimistic about his chances Tuesday because Arlington County, in particular, “is where you will find probably the most moderate and progressive Republicans in the whole country.” He noted that he won a straw poll at the 8th District GOP convention last month by almost a two-to-one margin.

However, Berry said he will not enjoy the support of organizations specifically tasked with backing gay and lesbian candidates or those sympathetic with their issues, with the lone exception of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP organization.

In particular, the Victory Fund based in Washington, D.C. is the only major organization that backs solely openly-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) candidates, and it has not endorsed Berry, while it is backing the re-election this year of openly-lesbian Arlington School Board candidate Sally Baird.

Berry said his failure to win a Victory Fund endorsement had to do with his opposition a “woman’s right to choose” on the matter of abortion. “I don’t know why that should be a litmus test for a pro-gay organization, but it is,” he said.

But in fact it is one of four criteria the Victory Fund stipulates are required for its endorsement. The others related to being openly LGBT, to demonstrating a serious capacity to win an election, and to supporting general LGBT equality efforts.

His chances of securing backing from other gay equality groups, such as Equality Virginia or the D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, are also virtually nil, since those groups do not limit their endorsements to openly LGBT candidates, and Moran has an impeccable record of support for LGBT issues.

The Victory Fund has endorsed a number of candidates in Virginia, all Democrats, including State Del. Adam Ebbin, Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette, Alexandria Council member Paul Smedberg and Falls Church City Council member Lawrence Webb.

In Webb’s case, backing by the Victory Fund was decisive for his election in 2008, as two Victory Fund organizers worked the City’s five polling places all day long, and Webb won by a narrow 34-vote margin.

The Victory Fund’s Denis Dison told the News-Press he would not comment about Berry, since it is policy to talk only about candidates it has endorsed.