Republican Seeks Coalition in Effort to Unseat Rep. Moran

(Friday, September 22, 2006 11:03 AM EDT)
Given that the vast majority of voters in the 8th Congressional District routinely vote Democratic, Republican U.S. House candidate Tom O'Donoghue has his work cut out for him. But he is not daunted by the odds.

“I'm running to win,” he said in a recent interview. “It's a hurdle, but we're going to overcome it.”

O'Donoghue is facing off against U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-8th, who has served since 1991 and who, despite missteps, has remained immensely popular with Democrats in the district. Independent Jim Hurysz also is on the ballot.

O'Donoghue's main strategy has been to focus on issues with broad appeal and to use every opportunity to get his message out, without resorting to Moran-bashing - a tactic that has been tried, with little success, by the congressman's challengers in the past.

“Criticizing Moran isn't sufficient,” O'Donoghue said. “It's about discussing issues the people are interested in and coming up with concrete plans to address them.”

The 8th District was redrawn by the state legislature after the 2000 federal census to lump in as many Democrats as possible. The action wasn't designed to help Moran as much as eliminate Democrats from the 10th District of Republican Frank Wolf and the 11th District of Republican Tom Davis. but the effect has been to make the 8th District perhaps the safest Democratic district in Virginia.

The district includes all of Arlington, Alexandria and the city of Falls Church, along with a swath of Fairfax County out to Reston.

O'Donoghue, who lives in Alexandria and won a two-way party primary to face off against Moran, sees opportunity among the 8th District electorate.

“There's a large swath of Independent voters with no ‘R' or ‘D' attached,” he said. Since Moran has given no indication that he will deviate from the political ageneda he's pursued for the past 16 years, O'Donoghue hopes unsatisfied voters will look to him as the alternative.

“The point of elections every two years is to ensure that the politicians are responsive to the people,” he said. “It's not necessarily a matter of experience that people should be worried about.”

Fiscal responsibility is a high priority for O'Donoghue, both in government spending and in handling special interests, lobbyists and earmarks.

“I will represent the people of the 8th District, and not be beholden to special interests,” he said. “I want people to know where money is going. Who are we keeping secrets from?”

A West Point graduate, O'Donoghue earned an MBA from Yale University and a law degree from Georgetown University. He served a tour of duty in the U.S. Army in Germany during the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more recently served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He received a Combat Action Badge and Bronze Star for his performance in Iraq.

One of his campaign issues is the war in Iraq and how to get U.S. troops home. O'Donoghue likened Moran's plans for pulling troops out in the next six months to a plan his eight-year-old son would make. Pulling out prematurely could lead to a broader and bloodier war, and bring us to a place worse than when we started, he said.

“We have allies interested in stabilizing the region,” he said, citing European nations, Saudi Arabia and Jordan as examples. “We need to engage our allies, engage diplomacy, and help mitigate outside forces fueling instability.”

He also expressed the importance of “milestones” to show concrete signs of success.

One such milestone would be handing over power to the Iraqi military “once they're able to handle threats and be even-handed in their dealings,” he said.

Though the war in Iraq does affect the people in the 8th District, skeptics might say that O'Donoghue is too focused on federal issues and does not have the local government experience necessary to be an effective representative.

But, in an interview, O'Donoghue voiced strong views on many other issues that affect the 8th District:

* He supports adding one more westbound lane on Interstate 66. The original footprint of the interstate won't have to change, he said, but drivers will have the luxury of more space on the road.

* He advocates for more “out-of-the-box” transportation solutions such as telecommuting, because it would save time, save gas, ease traffic and increase productivity. The federal government should pioneer telecommuting options in hopes that others will follow suit.

* He recognizes that the movement of defense personnel and contractors out of Arlington through the BRAC base-closing process will have an adverse impact on Arlington's economy. His goal is to fill the Northern Virginia district's prime real estate with District of Columbia agencies and corporations in need of space they can't find in the city. Job opportunities will increase once the available real estate is filled, he said.

* He supports the use of technology to decrease the United States' dependence on foreign energy sources.

* He wants to increase border security through technology and cooperation of the countries at our borders.

Tom O'Donoghue is the Republican candidate for the 8th District U.S. House of Representatives seat held by Democrat Jim Moran.

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