FALLS CHURCH, Va. – Rep. Jim Moran (search), D-8th, beat back an aggressive primary challenge Tuesday to win nomination to an eighth term, overcoming criticism that his comments opposing the Iraq war were tinged with anti-Semitism.
With 99 percent of the votes counted, Moran had 23,814 votes, or 59 percent, compared to 16,829 votes, or 41 percent, for Andrew Rosenberg (search).
Moran did not mention Rosenberg during a brief victory speech to about 200 supporters but said, "It's obviously disturbing to me that as many as 40 percent of alleged Democrats may have voted against me."
Speaking afterward to reporters, Moran said he "had somebody running against me who shouldn't have been running" and criticized Rosenberg for seeking out Republican voters in the open primary.
"If you don't have an issue and you don't have experience, you attack the other guy," he said. "I don't like it."
Rosenberg flatly denied that he had targeted Republicans and called Moran's remarks "unfortunate."
"Clearly the results showed that the amount of support we received was substantial," Rosenberg said. "I couldn't be more proud of our campaign and how we conducted ourselves. ... The results show voters really are looking for an alternative."
Moran, who previously had been easily re-elected, found himself in a dogfight following comments he made at an anti-war forum in March 2003. Moran told the audience, "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this."
Moran apologized for the remarks, but said they were taken out of context and were in response to a question from a Jewish woman who asked why so few people from her faith were opposed to the war. The allegations were renewed in the campaign's final week, when Moran's longtime pollster, Alan Secrest, said he quit the campaign because of anti-Semitic remarks Moran made at a private campaign meeting. Secrest never detailed the exact remark, and Moran and others at the meeting denied the accusation.
Rosenberg, a lobbyist and former aide to Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., jumped into the race following Moran's 2003 comments, but said they were just one example of a congressman who "makes headlines for all the wrong reasons."
Other incidents included receipt of a $25,000 loan from a friend and pharmaceutical lobbyist that seemed to coincide with his sponsorship of legislation to extend the patent on the drug Claritin, an unusual $450,000 home loan from MBNA that was criticized by some for being suspiciously generous, and even a shoving match with another congressman on the House floor back in 1995.
After Moran's comments in 2003, he was criticized heavily and stripped of a minor leadership position in Congress by Democratic leadership. Several regionally prominent Democrats, including Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Kate Hanley, announced plans to run, but all dropped out of the race eventually except Rosenberg.
Rosenberg raised nearly $400,000, according to Federal Election Commission reports, one of the best-financed primary challenges in the country. Still, Moran raised more than $1 million.
Turnout in the primary, which was open to voters of all parties, was especially light. Election officials reported turnout of just 2 percent to 6 percent at various precincts by Tuesday afternoon.
Shiva Sharif, 30, a project manager from Falls Church, said she voted for Moran "because he's a proven commodity" and she wanted to vote "for someone who has a chance to win against the Republicans in November." She said she was unbothered by by what others have perceived as controversial comments by Moran.
But law student Adam Goldman, 22, also of Falls Church, said Moran has a penchant for putting his foot in his mouth.
"He's made some anti-Semitic comments, absolutely," said Goldman, who voted for Rosenberg.
Moran will face Republican Lisa Marie Cheney in the November general election. The district is strongly Democratic; Al Gore carried the district by nearly 20 percentage points in 2000.