As the race to represent Virginia’s 8th District enters its final days, campaigns are turning up the volume in hopes of being the loudest contender when voters pull the lever Tuesday.
Heavily favored incumbent Congressman Jim Moran (D) and challenger Patrick Murray (R) have gone head to head at countless debates since the beginning of the campaign season, but the issues have taken a back seat to political posturing as the race enters the home stretch with some national attention.
Murray’s campaign capitalized on a video clip of Moran telling Arlington Democrats that Murray is like other Republican candidates who “haven’t been in office, haven’t performed in any kind of public service.”
Murray, a war veteran, said Moran was disparaging his Army background. But Moran, a former mayor and city councilman of Alexandria, was stumping on his own community service and Murray’s lack of local engagement, his campaign said.
“It was clear to everyone in that room, including a number of people who are veterans, that the congressman was referring to Mr. Murray’s lack of civic engagement in Northern Virginia,” said Austin Durrer, Moran’s chief of staff. “Congressman Moran has nothing but praise for Murray’s military service, and that of everyone who has served.”
The video went viral, earning Murray a national interview on Fox News Wednesday morning, where he claimed Moran believes “military service is not a public service and we’re just earning a paycheck.”
“The Murray campaign is trying to distort the Congressman’s remarks to obscure the fact that Patrick moved to Northern Virginia a scant 18 months ago specifically to run for Congress without having invested himself in the community first,” Durrer said.
It remains unclear how the national political fervor will affect Alexandria’s turnout, said Tom Parkins, Alexandria’s registrar. He expects 30 to 35,000 Alexandrians to vote compared to about 70,000 in 2008. In 2006, Moran received about 30,000 votes by himself.
But there aren’t any recent elections comparable to this one, Parkins said. A presidential election skewed 2008 statistics and 2006 included a tight Senate race.
“The wild card in this election, if there is one, is it has gotten such heightened attention because it’s been really contentious,” Parkins said. “The emergence of the Tea Party I don’t know if it translates in Alexandria, there’s know way of knowing.”
Polls aren’t much help, either. The Murray campaign’s last internal poll, from September 22, stated Moran had a 13-point lead. Moran’s last internal poll, also from mid-September had the congressman at 58 percent with six percent undecided, according to his campaign staff.
Murray counts on riling up the GOP base, which some say could make the difference. If Northern Virginia ever turns red, this would be the year, said Mike Ginsberg, chair of the 8th District Republican Party.
“If every identified Republican voter comes out he will win,” Ginsberg said. “I think that [national attention] has definitely improved his chances. Any time you get that kind of attention it improves everything in every way.”
The polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday.