The Mark Center Defense Department buildings have long been a campaign issue in the state District 30 race, but who knew it also could crystallize the differences between the three Democratic candidates?
More than once during Mondays forum at Alexandrias MetroStage Arlington School Board member Libby Garvey, City Councilman Rob Krupicka and Del. Adam Ebbin (D-49) admitted there were few differences between them politically.
But when it came to a hindsight question about BRAC-133, the undecided voter got a surprising glimpse at the trios leadership styles.
Krupicka, who has taken heat from Garvey about his involvement in the Armys decision to opt for the West End site, made the case his first-hand knowledge of the issue and his experience in local mass transit planning would benefit him in Richmond.
The issue is a familiar one among local voters and its not clear whether spinning his presence on city council during the decision-making process as a positive will smooth over concerned constituents. Still, he argued that BRAC-133 is as a reason to vote for and not against him on August 23.
Garvey told prospective voters she would have gone to the mat to prevent the project and then again to keep the Army from opening the facility in September. She argued for drawing on the regions plethora of influential decision-makers for support, falling in line with her oft-cited experience in building coalitions.
Though Garvey used the Mark Center issue against Krupicka early on, her response stuck the blame on the city councilman by extension without attacking him personally. And by outlining BRAC-133 as an issue worth going to the mat for, she successfully implied city council hadnt yet done so.
Whether that works on voters who have kept tabs on city councils hand-wringing over the expected traffic crunch and Rep. Jim Morans (D-8) efforts in Congress remains to be seen.
Ebbin, quick to remind everyone hes the sole candidate with prior experience in the General Assembly, highlighted his efforts in Richmond to mitigate future congestion. The question was a softball for him, having had no dealings in bringing the Army to Alexandria and plenty of opportunities to try and clean up the mess.
For those keeping score at home, Ebbin sent it out of the park.
Going to the mat after something is built is not a solution, he said. With all due respect, the building is built and one thing that should be recognized is that it was ultimately the Department of the Armys decision where to put it. But that doesn't excuse the city from sending an invitation.
The other race
An unexpected plot twist at Mondays forum, hosted by the Alexandria Democratic Committee, was a plea for help shoring up support for state Sen. George Barkers (D-39) re-election campaign by chairman Clark Mercer.
The state GOP isnt running a candidate against incumbent Del. Charnielle Herring (D-46), proof they dont want to galvanize the Democratic base in the West End, newly redrawn as part of the 39th Senate District, Mercer warned.
Barker will face either Miller Baker or Scott Martin in the general election come November 8. The district, which includes Alexandria and parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties, is roughly 1.7 percent Democratic leaning after being redrawn.
But with the House and governors mansion controlled by Republicans, state Democrats clearly worry they may find themselves the minority in the Senate where they currently hold a 22-18 majority.
Anthony Bedell, Fairfax County Republican Committee chairman, recently told the Washington Post Barkers seat is one the GOP is hopeful of taking.
But the regions left-leaning politics are no secret and Barker already holds a sizeable fundraising lead over his potential Republican challengers, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
In a recent interview with the Times, Barker joked about another potential handicap for his re-election: the one letter difference between his surname and Bakers.