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Gonzalez Lashes Out at Moran, Local Party

Tim Craig

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.

By Tim Craig  |  December 15, 2008; 10:44 PM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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I lived in Alexandria up until last December and was active in Democratic circles but never heard of Gonzalez. Brian Moran was my Delegate for the entire seven years I lived in Alexandria and, unlike Mr. Gonzalez, I found him to be the BEST representative for all residents of his district. I find Gonzalez' attack on Brian Moran baseless and offensive. Perhaps Mr. Gonzalez should first gain some level of awareness of his interest in public service before attacking others who have committed their lives to it.

Posted by: truopp | December 15, 2008 11:11 PM | Report abuse

The real question here is who would be the better candidate. Ms. Herring has been active in Alexandria's public life for years, including serving as the chair of the Commission on Women. If nothing else, her ability to get going so quickly demonstrates that she's ready for a quick special election in January. That's very important considering how little time there is between now and then.

Posted by: jharringto | December 15, 2008 11:32 PM | Report abuse

I am a resident of the 46th district and a young Democrat. It seems this article is being misinterpreted. From what I see here, it doesn't seem Mr. Gonzalez "lashed out" at Moran or that he said Moran did a poor job as a delegate for our district.

In fact, he applauded Moran for his leadership in his first press release. As for local party leaders in the Alexandria Democratic Committee (ADC), I as a young person have never been impressed with their outreach, coordination, or ability to engage anyone other than themselves. It appears Ms. Herring is closely tied to that group - which doesn't appear like a good thing to many of us young voters in the district.

In fact, I know many young people who aren't voting in this election because they are sick of the way the ADC handles these sort of issues. Instead of trying to support a young and intelligent future star like Gonzalez, they seem to be upset that he is even trying. This is NOT the party of inclusion to say the least.

I actually HAVE heard of Mr. Gonzalez and think he is a dedicated individual with sufficient ties to his community. My understanding is that he is not "in" with some in the local party because he has not been present at all meetings throughout his years here. I understand that he attended law school at night for four of the years he has been in Alexandria (while working full-time in the day) - and attending lengthy meetings is simply a luxury many of us cannot afford.

Some of you should try to attend these meetings... they scare away young people and those with any energy at all. I know firsthand that many people within the local party feel that way. They simply lack the guts to say so.

Mr. Gonzalez should be encouraged for his effort, and I think his position has been taken out of context.

Posted by: changewillcome | December 16, 2008 1:43 AM | Report abuse

Part of me suspects ``changewillcome'' is either Ariel Gonzalez himself or a very close relative/friend/surrogate. But I digress.

Truth is, Mr. Gonzalez's youth is evident in his remarks. I think the CW for a while that if there was going to be a ``handoff'' it would have been to Kerry Donley, but he scrambled that two or three weeks ago when he threw his hat in for City Council, making it difficult, if not impossible, to withdraw that and run for Moran's seat without tremendous embarassment. So, it stands to reason that if Kerry didn't know Moran would resign, neither did Herring.

So, where does that leave us? Herring simply worked harder in the compressed time period. When someone works harder than you and succeeds, you don't do yourself any favors by whining about conspiracy. Just curious, did Ariel Gonzalez even *ask* Brian Moran for his endorsement?

Posted by: bigdaddyva | December 16, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I don't know...something is fishy here. The State Board of Elections shows Herring having filed months ago. Then she told the Alexandria paper that "there was no race" when Brian was still in the ring. Suddenly she's ready to do it? Gonzalez made it known that he was going to run in the June primary. Probably pissed off the ADC for forcing - heaven forbid! - a primary. If there's anything this country should have learned from Barack Obama, it's that you don't have to have been around the block for decades in order to have some good ideas and a bright future. The ADC needs to wake up.

Posted by: dcgal4 | December 16, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

There *was* no race while Brian was in the seat, but both Herring and Gonzalez were filed for the regularly scheduled primary, with the expectation that Moran ultimately would vacate the seat as part of his gubernatorial run. The original dynamics/conventional wisdom was that Moran would run for governor, Donley was going to run for the 46th. But when Terry McAuliffe started making noises about a gubernatorial race back at the Dem convention, that changed everything. Suddenly, Moran filed for the 46th again even as he prepped to run for governor. Evidently, Donley believed Moran wasn't going anywhere and opted for another run at Alexandria City Council. Which left Herring and Gonzalez when Moran vacated. Herring simply worked harder than Gonzalez in the last 72 hours...

Posted by: bigdaddyva | December 16, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

But if she wanted the seat, why not say so? She wasn't going to run if Moran was running? Why not? I want to hear what people involved in the area have to say...I want to hear their ideas. Was she discouraged from running by the party insiders? Didn't want to step on anyone's toes? I WANT someone willing to step on toes to make sure my best interests are represented in Richmond.

Posted by: dcgal4 | December 16, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Ease up there biggdaddy... I'm not so sure that your argument logically flows. I am a Democrat in the district and concerned about the way this election went down. The "CW" from my understanding is that Donley wanted in for the race a bit ago, considering he announced his interest some time back. At the same time, it was evident that Herring was interested as well as she told several party members over the past year.

If it is true that Herring is an *insider* and that members of the local party were the first ones to receive emails/notice about this special causus, then it must follow that it was a lot easier for her to utilize those people for a GOTV effort.

I don't know if it means either candidate *worked harder* than the other. I can't speculate unless I was part of one camp or the other.

Either way, this process and the events leading up to it may impact some support of the local ticket down the road. I am not sure.

Posted by: UVANick | December 16, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

The fact is, is that there is little time for either candidate to sufficiently campaign for the position for them to communicate with the people and get messages across.

This scenario creates a situation where unfortunately for the candidate who is NOT in political cahoots with the Alexandria Democratic Committee - that person being Mr. Gonzalez, is at a significant disadvantage.

I'm not arguing that Ms. Herring isn't qualified to hold the seat. I think she is. God knows Moran should have left position ages ago. But she is taking unfair and unjust advantage of the situation and it should make Alexandria voters question her ethics.

Mr. Gonzalez in effect has been denied the opportunity to mobilize resources in the same way as Ms. Herring by holding a short notice election. Mr. Herring is taking extreme advantage of the fact that she is part of the party.

This where the founding fathers were right - party politics and parties in general are BAD.

Brian Moran should be put on notice! He is not innocent in this. His unwillingness to commit to running for Governor because of his lack of confidence in his own campaign or because the ADC asked him to wait to create an advantage for their own candidate was wrong and Moran should be ashamed for doing so. It's obvious that he is simply doing the ADC's bidding to give Herring an advantage in this special election.

She filed months ago, to run for this position and has been gearing up for it. Clearly she was discouraged from running for office (by either Moran or the ADC or both) so that Moran could have more time to formulate strategy in regards to his own political campaigns - both locally and for governor.

Could this be in retailiation for Mr. Gonzalez essentially forcing Moran to choose between running for Governor or keeping his seat as state delegate? Or because Mr. Gonzalez - with whatever his views are, is not playing party politics with the ADC? Or both?

@ bigdaddyVA - Ms. Herring has NOT worked harder than Mr. Gonzalez in the last 72 hours. She has alot more help! As I'm sure most registered Alexandria democrats can tell you by the smothering phone calls they've received in the last 72 hours. As "dcgal4" said, something is fishy - Herring knew what was going on BEFORE Mr. Gonzalez because of her association with Moran and the ADC. She's definitely in the know and is suspect.

All this makes me want to vote Republican in the next election. The ADC's actions and intentions smell of corruption. When someone with a new energy or slightly different ideas comes along, they all get scared. They certainly are not Obama democrats and may find themselves on the outside looking in in quicker time than the ADC can imagine.

Posted by: thisdj1 | December 16, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

thisdj1 -- yes, that's just what the Democrats need, supporters who threaten to vote Republican (as if that makes no difference to our lives) when the party doesn't work the way they'd like, rather than trying to change it.

"Mr. Gonzalez in effect has been denied the opportunity to mobilize resources in the same way as Ms. Herring by holding a short notice election. Mr. Herring is taking extreme advantage of the fact that she is part of the party."

Guess what? This is a party nomination process. The idea that someone who has built strong connections with the nominating party is more likely to get the nomination is not somehow unfair. You want to get those resources, you have to earn the trust of the people providing them.

The special election was set so the district will have representation in the upcoming session, and it's not unreasonable for the party to conclude it's best to have a candidate soon so he or she can campaign ahead of the election. Winning the election is what it's all about. No conspiracy theory necessary.

Your other accusations are similarly all over the map. The only basis you've demonstrated for the idea that political parties are BAD is that they're not producing the results you want. Deal with it.

Posted by: jimeh | December 16, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

"But she is taking unfair and unjust advantage of the situation and it should make Alexandria voters question her ethics. Mr. Gonzalez in effect has been denied the opportunity to mobilize resources in the same way as Ms. Herring by holding a short notice election. Mr. Herring is taking extreme advantage of the fact that she is part of the party."

Oh, cry me a river. First of all, if Mr. Gonzalez isn't a part of the party, why is he running to represent the party? You win a party's nomination by being a PART of the party.

Ms. Herring hasn't taken ``unfair and unjust advantage of the situation." What on EARTH are you talking about? They both had the same amount of notice. One candidate demonstrated better organizational skills under pressure is all. As you point out -- she's had a lot more help, all marshalled within the last 48 hours.

Again, did Mr. Gonazalez seek any endorsements? My sources tell me no. Gonazalez isn't doing himself any political favors by hurling accusations of cronyism that aren't supported by evidence. I happen to know for a fact that Herring's people didn't know in advance -- and they were up pretty much all night putting out the Web site... As I recall, Gonzalez had a statement out before she did. Maybe HE had advance notice?

Posted by: bigdaddyva | December 16, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

@jimeh - And I suppose the current business as usual within the ADC is truly representative of the people? I think we both know that it's not.

I'm not questioning why there is a special election. I'm questioning the timing. Moran could have done BOTH candidates a favor and made a decision significantly earlier. This is about the ADC maintaining as much control as possible. These are not political conspiracies, these are political realities.

Posted by: thisdj1 | December 16, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

people have a right to choose who they want to support. that's the american way. the leadership can put their support behind herring, but did they have to discredit gonzalez simply because he's not "in" with them? questioning his ties to the community was a cheap shot.

Posted by: dcgal4 | December 16, 2008 2:52 PM | Report abuse


It looks to me like it's Gonzalez that's taking the cheap shots. I mean, calling it a ``precooked handoff'' without evidence? Now, that's just a rookie mistake, and one he may never recover from.

Posted by: bigdaddyva | December 16, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure what people wanted Ms. Herring to do - not run in protest because the time was so short?

The reality is that there are two candidates scrambling to get their supporters to the polls on very short notice. One of them will do a better job than the other, and will get the nomination. I don't know enough about Mr. Gonzalez to know if he'd be a good delegate (and his web site, at least as of last night, wasn't any help), but I do know that Ms. Herring is ready for the House of Delegates because of what she's done over the past few years.

Whatever suspicions people might have about the timing, the fact also remains that it's not just Brian Moran and Mame Reilly who've endorsed Ms. Herring. She's also been endorsed by the Virginia NOW PAC, Progressive Democrats of America's Virginia chapter and The Farm Team. She's earned those endorsements through the work she's done for Alexandria and Virginia.

Posted by: jharringto | December 16, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

@ jharringto - Just because she has old party endorsements doesn't mean that she's the best legislative candidate. It just means that she has received endorsements. Good for her.

@bigdaddyva - You're obviously a Herring insider and either a member of the ADC or a friend/relative of Ms. Herring. I'm glad you're able to point out her "organizational skills" or that of the ADC.

However you have yet to admit the simple fact that Moran could have given BOTH candidates more time to reach out to the community and constituents and give THEIR OWN views, not a prepackaged view given to them by political groups like the ADC.

Even the Alexandria REPUBLICAN Committee have expressed disappointment in how Moran has handled this. Do we really want someone who acts in this fashion to be governor of VA?

Posted by: thisdj1 | December 16, 2008 4:55 PM | Report abuse

@thisdj1 - yes, it would have been better to have more time for a special election, but it seems pretty clear that it was a decision made in response to changing campaigning and fundraising pressures from McAuliffe, not machinations over the special election.

I'm not on the ADC, all I'm going on for whether they're "representative of the people" is what I read and what I hear from people I know. So no, I have no reason to agree that "we both know" that.

If you can't accept that someone who has worked with and for the party is more likely to get the support of other party activists than someone who shows up and demands it, and starts tearing down other Democrats when he doesn't get it, you're going to have a lot of difficulty in politics.

And another tip -- accusing people who disagree with you of being "insiders" for another candidate isn't an argument. You're pretty clearly a strong supporter of Gonzalez, but that doesn't invalidate your arguments on behalf of him; similarly, other people's arguments should be debated on their merits just like I'm doing with yours.

"Even the Alexandria REPUBLICAN Committee have expressed disappointment in how Moran has handled this. Do we really want someone who acts in this fashion to be governor of VA?"

Do you really think that's an argument that supports your point? Gee, I don't suppose the Republicans could have any ulterior motive in criticizing a Democratic candidate, could they?

Posted by: jimeh | December 16, 2008 7:28 PM | Report abuse

Herring wins

she got 75% of the vote.

She had the same time to prepare that Gonzalez had.

Gonzalez could have won had he rousted up a couple of hundred votes. He didnt. case closed. You have to work to win an election.I think that nobody was happy that brian resigned when he did. But you goes with what you have.

Posted by: pvogel88 | December 16, 2008 10:40 PM | Report abuse

All Pvogel seems to do is blog... and not even in complete sentences.

Anyway, this was a good exercise for some action in June. Additionally, Herring (with Brian Moran personally calling people on her behalf) and Gonzalez (shedding light on the issue) are both in better places than they were some time ago.

I think the Republicans may have trouble unless they can REALLY organize a GOTV... and fast.

And on another note, Happy Holidays!

Posted by: changewillcome | December 17, 2008 1:16 AM | Report abuse

Congrats to both candidates and it is awful that Moron, I mean Moran, caused this to happen in the first place. Both candidates represent the future of the party and my understanding is that an agreement was made to let bygones be bygones. However, Moran should be held accountable for leaving the 46th in such a predicament. If it takes him that long to make a decision (as he claims) - and that decision only leaves his constituents in the dark - then why support him for governor?

Posted by: UVANick | December 18, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

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