This is Part Three of a three-part series on the career of Rep. Jim Moran, who will leave office in January. Click to read Part One and Part Two.
Rep. Jim Moran is 69 years old and thrice-divorced, with the last split leaving him nearly broke. Moran reported no assets or liabilities in his financial disclosure report in 2010, in the middle of his divorce with businesswoman LuAnn Bennett, according to The Washington Post. He took home his congressional salary and a $10,000 teaching fee from George Mason University.
No longer as strapped for cash, the former stockbroker says he has no plans to retire from working when he leaves Congress, and will seek a high- paying job.
“It’s a little embarrassing that I don’t own my own home or even my own car,” Moran says. “I need to make a little money because I’ve got four grandkids and my daughter is getting married. I’d like to have something to leave to them.”
Moran can’t conduct job negotiations while he’s still in Congress and said he can’t speculate much on what his next move will be. But he has two criteria, in addition to being paid a comfortable salary: doing something “meaningful” and “purposeful,” and working with people “I like, respect and [who] share my values.”
Though he’ll be a septuagenarian just a handful of months after he leaves office, Moran doesn’t act or look the part of a doddering senior.
“I still have the physical and mental capacity to take on a new career,” he says, “so I think it’s time to do that.”
The two men seeking to replace Moran in the Nov. 4 general election, Democrat Don Beyer and Republican Micah Edmond, couldn’t be more different.
Beyer, 64, is the heavy favorite in the race and has Moran’s endorsement. He’s a former lieutenant governor, a former U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and the owner of four Volvo dealerships that bear his name. During the heated Democratic primary, during which as many as 12 candidates competed, Beyer’s opponents criticized him for running ads for his car dealerships on local news stations, including Del. Patrick Hope (D-47). “Nobody should be allowed to buy an election,” he said.
Edmond, 40, is a Jewish and African-American Marine Corps veteran and former congressional staffer. He was chosen as the Republican candidate in a nominating convention. Described by Patrick Murray, the Republican challenger to Moran in the past two elections, as a candidate with “a lot of energy,” Edmond says Moran hasn’t tried nearly as hard in recent years.
“There seems to be no focus. It’s like he’s just there,” Edmond said in a phone interview with ARLnow.com. “That happens when people serve a long time… People just got really sick and tired of not having a real choice and a real race. Every two years, the Republican party was just throwing someone up there and it hasn’t been competitive.”
Edmond said he wants to focus on advocating for minorities and immigrants who he feels have been under-represented under Moran’s leadership.
“This district is now about 43 percent minority, and he doesn’t represent that diversity,” Edmond says. “Since I came [to Alexandria] in ’98, the minority community has just been shocked at how the level of influence and access to things has shrunk, and I don’t think Jim Moran has been a voice for that.”
Beyer’s lone criticism of Moran’s tenure was the remark Moran made in 2003 about the “Jewish community’s” push for the Iraq War. Outside of that gaffe, Beyer said he can only hope to fill Moran’s shoes.
“People talk a lot about what we’re going to miss,” Beyer told ARLnow.com from his home in Old Town Alexandria. “The defense contractor market is really going to miss his appropriations chairmanship. Animal rights advocates are going to miss him and federal employees are going to miss him.
“I don’t have any unrealistic expectations that I’m going to step into his shoes,” Beyer said. He said he’s trying to avoid “measuring the drapes” before the election, but if elected, “we have to be authentic, we have to be who we are. Forty years in business, as an ambassador and lieutenant governor have positioned me to hit the ground running better. We’re thinking about how do I be more than just another freshman? How can I have a greater influence?”
Although Beyer isn’t measuring the drapes — and Republicans certainly aren’t counting themselves out, considering it’s the first time they’re not facing an incumbent for more than two decades — most in the area consider the seat Beyer’s to lose.
That group includes Moran. In all of his campaigns, Moran never once called Beyer and asked for a campaign donation. Beyer was puzzled and bemused by that – he would have happily donated, and did anyway — while Moran said he didn’t call because “Don’s just such a nice guy.”
Moran said he thinks that quality will serve Beyer well if elected.
“I know he’s going to listen to all of the district, not just the first in line,” Moran said. “Don’s going to be terrific. I’m hoping he can raise enough money that he can move into the leadership.”
Moran’s replacement will be called upon to replace significant clout for Northern Virginia in Congress, with both Moran and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who represents Loudoun County and parts of Fairfax and Prince Williams counties, among others, resigning.
The region figures to be hit especially hard during budget season, considering Moran and Wolf are two senior, outspoken members of the House Appropriations Committee. Moran’s former press secretary Anne Hughes said Moran’s grasp of the little things will be a loss for the country.
“He’s going to be missed for his understanding of the minutiae and process, and his attitude toward working together as a committee,” she says. “I hope after he leaves it will continue to be bipartisan, but I’m nervous because he was such a leader.”
Wolf isn’t concerned with bipartisanship going forward. He referenced the monthly lunch the Virginia delegation holds, in which Democrats and Republicans sit down and exchange ideas civilly, which seems to become more uncommon in the District by the minute.
Wolf and Moran first met at these lunches 24 years ago. The burly Democrat from Alexandria with a Boston accent said he doesn’t remember his first interaction with Moran but the two were fast friends. He says he isn’t concerned about their twin departures.
“I think Virginia will do well,” he says. “I think they’ll get along without us. It got along without us before we were there and it’ll get along without us after. You have to want to work as a team to represent the area and represent the state, and I think they will.”
Arlington has been fraught for years over federal money leaving the county — it’s still dealing with losses from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission decisions of 2005 — and County Board Chair Jay Fisette said Moran’s departure doesn’t really make a difference with his level of anxiety; it was high before and will remain so.
“Jim’s leaving doesn’t change my concern,” he said. “We’ve been hit by BRAC. We know the [General Services Administration] has changed and tightened many of its policies [leading to the eventual departures of the National Science Foundation and the Fish and Wildlife Service from the county]. We know that competition has increased. That’s why we put the focus on economic competitiveness this year, which we haven’t had to do in the past.”
Moran may seem more like a “go out in a blaze of glory” type than a”ride off into the sunset” type. But the fighter seems to have lost some of his edge since he announced his retirement.
“I’ve noticed an incredible amount of wisdom and reflectiveness,” Fisette says. “He used to be stream-of-consciousness talking about people or issues. Now he’s talking about the state of humanity and governance. It’s appreciated.”
Moran often runs hot, but when asked about his legacy, he softens.
“I hope people are aware that I was there for everyone,” he says. “That my office and staff were there to serve them. I hope they understand that at best I’ve been a catalyst to secure support for county government, nonprofits and serving people with mental health issues.”
Moran says his final months in Congress he’ll be focused on passing the appropriations bills, approving federal funding to train teachers to “deal with children on the autism spectrum,” funding a neuroscience research center in Northern Virginia and getting federal recognition for the eight Virginia Native American tribes.
If Moran fails to accomplish any of these goals, it won’t be for a lack of passion. Wolf said he will fondly recall how Moran stands to speak.
“I think that’s the Jim Moran that will stick in my mind — him getting up with that little twinkle in his eye, offering an amendment or defending a position,” he says.
“When Jim’s finished speaking, nobody wonders what he believes in. Everyone knows where he stands.”