What are the issues in the race for the 8th District?

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By Erich Wagner (File Photo)

Party leaders and political experts say issues like the economy and foreign policy will be at the forefront of the campaign to replace the retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) this November. But community leaders say the election remains far from residents’ minds.

On November 4, Democrat Don Beyer, a former ambassador and lieutenant governor, will face off against Republican Micah Edmond, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and as a congressional staffer.

Geoff Skelley, a veteran analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said that given their prevalence in national news lately, immigration and foreign policy will be at the center of much of the debate between the candidates.

“It’ll be a lot of the [issues] everyone’s been seeing on TV almost every day,” Skelley said.

Given the heavily Democratic-leaning nature of the district, Edmond will not be able to follow the same playbook as other Republicans running for office this year, he said. President Barack Obama earned two-thirds of the ballots cast in the district during his 2012 re-election bid.

“At the end of the day there will be at least some discussion of the Affordable Care Act,” Skelley said. “But since it’s admittedly a very Democratic district, it’s possible the Republican candidate will try to focus on other issues.”

Local leaders of both parties said the economy will be at the forefront of voters’ minds come November.

“The economy is definitely the No. 1 issue in our district,” said Chris Marston, chairman of the Alexandria Republican City Committee. “We haven’t been hit as hard because of the federal sector here, but budget issues have made it more challenging with things like sequestering.”

Local Democratic committee chairman Clarence Tong said federal spending is important for the regional economy, but argued residents will be focused on a broader array of issues that affect their wallets.

“People are really paying attention with a very keen emphasis on the economy locally, in light of various federal government budgetary issues,” Tong said. “But I also hear a lot of people focused on statewide Medicaid expansion and access to quality health care … and of course efforts to reduce college and student loan debt.”

The local party leaders also emphasized their candidates’ foreign policy credentials. Marston noted Edmond’s experience as a military veteran while Tong made reference to Beyer’s previous post as ambassador to Switzerland and Lichtenstein.

But residents like Tom Soapes, president of the North Old Town Independent Citizens Association, said interest in the race has fizzled since the primary in June.

While other community leaders declined to go on record, all agreed the public had grown disinterested in the campaign — at least, so far.

“I actually haven’t heard much at all from residents,” Soapes said. “We’re in a strongly Democratic district and that probably will be the case again this year, so there’s really a low interest level at this point.

“The big interest was in the primary, which many felt was tantamount to the election itself. People feel like the [general election] is pretty much a pro forma thing.”

The big interest was in the [Democratic] primary, which many felt was tantamount to the election itself. People feel like the [general election] is pretty much a pro forma thing.”