Gonzalez Lashes Out at Moran, Local Party
The election to select the Democratic nominee in the race for Brian J. Moran's replacement in the House of Delegates is not until Tuesday night, but one candidate is already questioning the outcome.
Ariel Gonzalez, the director of government affairs for the American College of Radiology, sent out a statement today accusing the Alexandria Democratic Committee and Moran of conspiring to hand the seat to his opponent for the nomination, Charniele Herring. Gonzalez is responding to Moran's decision to endorse Herring as well as questions about whether the contest is being held on too short of notice.
"The recent news of the manner in which tomorrow's special election will be held is troubling," Gonzalez said. "I am troubled that the people of Alexandria and Fairfax...must be subject to this unjust selection process." Gonzalez, who his supporters view as a rising star in the party and a fresh face, went on to accuse the Alexandria Democratic committee of engaging in "backroom deals" in support of Herring, an attorney and civil activist.
"This election will not be a decision made by the people of the 46th District," said Gonzalez, who would be the first Hispanic American to represent the 46th District. "This decision was a backroom deal made by the highest levels of the party establishment."
Gonzalez, 31, noted that Herring launched her candidacy on Friday a few hours after Moran resigned to focus on his bid for governor. He said he was not been given enough time to organize his campaign.
Susan B. Kellom, chairwoman of the Alexandria Democratic Committee, was unavailable to comment. But Kellom said Sunday the committee had to schedule to the election for Tuesday in order to comply with state law. If the Democratic contest were put off, the party would be unable to field a nominee for the Jan. 13 special election.
Advisors close to Moran say he would have stayed out of the fight for the nomination had former Alexandria Mayor Kerry J. Donley decided to challenge Herring, an African-American. Gonzalez, they argued, does not have deep enough roots in the district or local party. Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille has also endorsed Herring.
Christopher Spina, a spokesman for Gonzalez, said in an interview Moran's endorsement of Herring "was clearly precooked," suggesting she had advance knowledge of his decision on Friday to resign. But Spina could offer up little evidence to support his assertion that Herring had an unfair advantage. According to emails sent to the Washington Post, Herring's staff worked late into the night Friday organizing her announcement, suggesting they were not aware Moran was about to resign.
"Brian Moran has made all his decisions with the best interests of his constituents in mind," said Jesse Ferguson, a Moran spokesman. "First to resign from the House so they weren't short-changed full-time representation in the upcoming election. Second to endorse the most qualified, experienced and committed candidate to represent them going forward. He's proud to support Charniele."
But there is some justification for Gonzalez to raise concerns about how much sunshine there is in the process. Earlier this month, Moran was contemplating running simultaneously for governor and his House of Delegates seat.
At the time, Moran staffers said Kellom asked him to run for both seats so there would not be a primary battle. Under questioning from reporters, Moran's advisers were never able to formulate an explanation as to why the local party should fear having more than one candidate seek the Democratic nomination to replace him.
With his own campaign for governor underway, it's unclear whether the internal squabbling within the local party will impact Moran's chances for a huge showing in the 46th District in the June primary. By endorsing Herring, Moran could gain favor with some African Americans in Northern Virginia. Herring also apparently has the backing of womens' rights organizations that hold significant sway in a Democratic primary for governor.
But Gonzalez supporters represent an energetic, younger demographic within the local party that may become disenchanted if they feel they are being pushed aside without a fair fight. Gonzalez voters are just the sort of demographic Moran's rival, Terry McAuliffe, would love to pick off in Moran's back yard.
One interesting question will be answered Tuesday night: What percentage of the vote does Gonzalez receive and how many voters show up? If Gonzalez gets a healthy showing, but still loses to Herring, Moran may regret entering the fray.
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