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Tuesday’s primary will pick the Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
Tuesday is when the Democratic Party fills out its slate for November, and the four hopefuls seeking a thumbs up from voters have been running hard.
But in the case of the two aiming to be lieutenant governor, that’s been as much against the General Assembly’s stands on abortion, school funding and gun control as each other.
And the two candidates for attorney general have focused much of their fire on the current officeholder, GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli.
Aneesh Chopra, former chief technology officer of the U.S. government, and state Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk, want to be the Democrat who will challenge the fiery conservative pastor E.W. Jackson, whom the GOP selected at its convention last month.
The candidates for attorney general are former federal prosecutor Justin Fairfax, making his first run for office, and state Sen. Mark Herring, D-Leesburg. The winner will face Republican Mark Obenshain, the state senator from Harrisonburg.
All four Democrats face one common challenge: More than half the voters haven’t made up their minds who to support, according to a recent Public Policy Polling survey. Most voters say they have no opinion, favorable or unfavorable, about any of the candidates.
The survey found Chopra had a 9 percentage point lead over Northam, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points. The gap between Fairfax and Herring is a statistical dead heat.
Chopra’s winning the money race — he had more than $1 million on hand at the end of May, even after spending $981,000 in just April and May. Northam’s war chest stood at just under $490,000 after spending $474,000 in those two months.
The scale was much more modest in the attorney general’s race, where Herring had $229,000 on hand after spending just under $181,000 in April and May. Fairfax had just under $93,000 on hand and spent just under $120,000 in the two months.
The candidates all agree on several hot button issues: They support abortion rights and tighter gun controls and support civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Chopra and Northam, who if elected in November would have a tie-breaking vote in the state Senate, also say they support boosting state spending on K-12 education.
Here are sketches of the candidates:
The son of immigrants who settled in New Jersey, Chopra worked at a health care think tank after going to Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
Then-Gov. Tim Kaine named him Virginia’s Secretary of Technology, and President Barack Obama named him the nation’s first chief technology officer in 2009.
“I’m running for lieutenant governor because I know the people of Virginia are ready to turn the page on the divisive and extreme politics of the past,” he said recently.
He says he wants to make state government work more efficiently and fairly.
Chopra hopes to increase the state’s efforts on pre-K education, in addition to stepping up spending on schools. He wants to expand Medicaid and set up a state health insurance exchange as the Affordable Care Act allows, and would push for clean energy policies and to eliminate the tax on hybrid cars.
A physician, Northam served in the Army after graduating from Eastern Virginia Medical School, and then came back to Norfolk to practice pediatric neurology. He is an assistant professor of neurology at Eastern Virginia Medical School.
Northam was first elected to the state Senate in 2007 and successfully pushed to ban smoking in restaurants. He also has focused on a variety of women’s health measures.
“I am deeply disturbed by the Republican assault on women’s reproductive rights led by Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli,” Northam has said, adding they “have inserted government between doctors and their patients.”
He has called for an assault weapons ban, limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines, and universal background checks for gun buyers. Northam said he wanted to increase funding for K-12 education, including teacher salaries.
Elected to the state Senate in 2006, Herring is proud of his efforts to ban synthetic “bath salts”-type drugs, and pushed measures to crack down on scam artists who target the elderly. He sponsored legislation to increase penalties for domestic violence.
He was a member of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors before going to the Senate and is a lawyer with specialties in business, local government, land use and zoning issues.
“I’ll put the law first, not politics,” he has said. “Virginians deserve the respect and protection of the law, regardless of the attorney general’s personal politics.”
As attorney general, he said his priorities includ e focusing on protecting seniors and combating sexual and domestic abuse.
He said he would support the one-handgun-per-month limit and closing the gun show loophole. He also supports abortion rights.
A former federal prosecutor in Northern Virginia, Fairfax grew up in the tough northeast area of Washington, the youngest of four children whose single mother put all through college and two through law school.
He is making his first run for elected office and says his experience prosecuting gang and human trafficking cases gives him a unique perspective on law enforcement policy.
“I want to be a different kind of attorney general,” he said.
Fairfax said he would form a mortgage fraud strike force to prosecute predatory lenders and make sure lenders and services obey the law. He said he would also focus on enforcing state laws meant to ensure small business owners have fair access to capital.
Fairfax supports background checks for gun buyers and said he would conduct an aggressive legal review of new rules for abortion clinics to make sure they do not unduly restrict abortion rights.
Voters also pick sheriff candidate
Roanoke voters who participate in Tuesday’s Democratic Party primary election also will be able to cast a vote for their nominee for city sheriff.
Two men, Joe Bush and Tim Allen, are running for the party’s nomination to challenge Sheriff Octavia Johnson, a two-term Republican. An independent candidate, Travis Akins, also has filed to appear on the November ballot, setting up a three-way race.
Allen worked as a Roanoke sheriff’s deputy for 21 years before leaving to serve as a captain with the Western Virginia Regional Jail in 2008. He retired in February to run for the nomination.
Bush is a former Roanoke probation and parole officer who also has been campaigning for the nomination since the winter. He lost a 2009 primary for sheriff.
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