By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
ARLINGTON – Despite a colorful past – and a new video that triggered his son’s resignation from the campaign on Wednesday – U.S. Rep. Jim Moran appears to be cruising to a 12th term in Congress.
The Northern Virginia Democrat, ensconced in a heavily Democratic district, is squaring off for a second round against Republican challenger Patrick Murray. Moran beat Murray by 24 percentage points in 2010, when turnout was low; political pundits say Moran could be an even heavier favorite this year.
“I don’t know what the margin in this race will be, but it is not on anyone’s list of competitive House seats,” said Kyle Kondik, analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
“Moran has never won less than 56 percent of the vote, or less than 60 percent this century. So there’s no reason to suspect he’s in any trouble in a district that President Obama won with 69 percent of the vote.”
Murray, who lost to Moran 61-37 in 2010, maintains that he has a good shot at the pugnacious congressman, who has left a trail of three divorces, financial reversals and several verbal confrontations.
“Voters in Northern Virginia are tired of Jim Moran’s angry, racist, hyper-partisan attacks,” the retired Army colonel said.
Though Moran might appear vulnerable, his name recognition remains solidly positive in his true-blue district. The National Republican Congressional Committee has not invested any money on Murray’s behalf, and Moran holds a $917,987-$180,508 fund-raising advantage, according to campaign filings as of Oct. 23.
If Obama rolls up big numbers in the 8th District, as he did four year ago, Moran would seem to be on his way to another easy victory.
But conservatives call the 67-year-old lawmaker a ticking time bomb.
Arlene Smith, leader of the Arlington County Tea Party, said Moran’s “hot temper” remains a liability. An unflattering new video and a Watchdog.org article about Moran’s son, Patrick, fuel the perception of a well-connected, if not ethically challenged, political family.
Patrick Moran resigned Wednesday as his father’s campaign “field director,” just hours after the video posted by Project Veritas showed the 24-year-old appearing to help an undercover reporter engage in voter fraud.
Murray points to the elder Moran’s long-playing record of controversial rhetoric.
“Many news outlets have documented his bizarre behavior from his hurtful anti-Semitic comments that led to his own Democratic Party calling for him to step down, to major ethical lapses involving insider trading,” said Murray, a combat veteran who has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department.
A Watchdog.org investigation found that Moran’s antics date back to the early 1980s, when he was vice mayor of Alexandria. In 1984, he pleaded no contest to conflict-of-interest charges that he used money from a political action committee to rent a tuxedo and buy Christmas cards. A commonwealth attorney later determined Moran’s actions “fit the definition of constituent services,” but by then Moran had resigned.
Six years later, he won his first term in Congress, and developed a record as a fiscal moderate and social liberal.
The Boston-bred politician also honed a reputation for playing rough. In 1995, he had to be restrained by Capitol Police during a shoving match with California Republican Randy “Duke” Cunningham on the House floor over President Bill Clinton’s decision to send U.S. troops to Bosnia.
The feisty Moran hasn’t always toed the party line. He was one of only 31 Democrats to vote to support launching a formal impeachment inquiring into President Clinton following the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and some of his acerbic comments defied his party’s political correctness.
Moran, meantime, was marrying and divorcing a string of spouses, while digging himself a financial hole. He was criticized for a favorable $477,000 refinance deal from MBNA and later pushed bankruptcy legislation supported by the credit card company.
In the 2011 book “Throw Them All Out,” author Peter Schweizer alleged that Moran used inside information from a Sept. 16, 2008, briefing, in which federal officials warned of an impending financial crisis.
Days before the stock market collapsed, the Moran family sold off the bulk of its stock holdings.
Murray has tried to capitalize on the book’s charges, but Moran spokesman Austin Durrer calls Schweizer’s claims “an unbelievable fabrication of the truth.”
Durrer said the stock portfolio belonged to Moran’s wife.
“Her broker managed and sold off the portfolio. (Moran) wasn’t even in the room,” Durrer told Watchdog.org.
Though Moran’s second wife accused him of “stock market gambling,” the congressman’s staff insisted in 2010 that he had not personally made any stock trades in the previous five years.
During the past two years, Moran has made several controversial statements that — for better or worse — have kept his name in the news. Among them:
- The congressman said Obama should bypass Congress and unilaterally “refinance every home mortgage.”
- He got into a shouting match in a town hall meeting with a veteran and, at another event, demanded that a questioner produce identification — an irony considering that Moran has opposed strict ID requirements at polling places.
- In an interview with an Arabic news network after the 2011 election, Moran attributed the Democratic Party’s losses in Congress to Obama’s race, asserting, “A lot of people in this country don’t want to be governed by an African American.”
- Earlier this year, Moran opined that U.S. Rep. Allen West, a conservative black Republican from Florida, wasn’t representative of African-Americans.
- Moran has cordial ties to the Muslim community, and fractious relations with Jewish groups. Appearing as the keynote speaker at a 2011 dinner hosted by the Council on American Islamic Relations, Moran has also accused Israel of pushing the United States into war in Iraq.
- Though Moran did not serve in the military — he attended Holy Cross on a football scholarship — the Massachusetts native has criticized Murray for not “serv(ing) or performing any kind of public service.”
Despite the apparent long odds, the Republican challenger said, “We’re really excited about this campaign. I’m running to put people over partisanship, and as I have listened to thousands of voters here, that message really resonates, regardless of party.
“The momentum is on our side, particularly because voters here are tired of Jim Moran’s angry, hyper-partisan behavior and ethical lapses. Voters want someone who is focused on them, not on his own re-election.”
Contract Ward at [email protected] or (571) 319-9824. Earl Glynn contributed to this article.