A New 49th

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A New 49th: Two Democrats are vying to replace Adam Ebbin; no Republicans yet.

By Michael Lee Pope, The Connection

 May 18-24, 2011

Other than his first election in 2003, Del. Adam Ebbin (D-49) never had any Republican opposition during his time as a member of the Virginia General Assembly. Election cycle after election cycle, the  Republicans were unable to field candidates for the district — an area known to have strong liberal values and a lack of conservative voters.

Now that Ebbin has launched a campaign to replace retiring state Sen. Patsy Ticer (D-30), he’s no longer a contender for the seat he’s held for eight years. Even if he wanted to run again he couldn’t because he lives in the Cora Kelly Precinct of Alexandria, which is no longer in the district as a result of redistricting. In fact, no Alexandria precincts are in the district. When the final maps were approved, the 49th District lost parts of Del Ray and Arlandria, picking up parts of Seven Corners and Pentagon City.

“This is the kind of district where the general election is essentially a formality,” said Isaac Wood, director of communications for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “Like many other races across Virginia, this is a race that is determined by a low turnout primary.”

When voters head to the polls in August, they’ll be facing at least two Democratic candidates:  President Barack Obama’ s former political appointee Alfonso Lopez and former Podesta Group associate Stephanie Clifford. So far, no Republican has entered the race, although leaders of the Arlington County Republican Committee say they are still actively recruiting.

“We’ve been talking to a number of potential candidates for this race,” said Charles Hokanson, vice chairman of the committee. “At this point, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

Lopez enters the race with more name recognition and institutional affiliations.

He is a former president of the Arlington Young Democrats, he then went on to work as the head of congressional and federal affairs for former Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine.

He later became a political appointee to the Obama White House, serving in the Small Business Administration.

“I’m running for delegate because the social safety net that my parents and so many others relied on is being destroyed by Republicans in Richmond,” Lopez said during his announcement speech earlier this month. “From using the Virginia retirement system as an ATM machine to taking public school money and social service money to pay for a bunch of highway off-ramps.”

As the opening salvo in his campaign, Lopez was harshly critical of Republicans — especially considering the vacuous nature of Republican opposition in his district. The real opposition he’ll face is Stephanie Clifford, who was until recently an associate and director of special events at the Podesta Group. Although she’s not as well known as Lopez, she’s been hitting the circuit hard over the last few months, appearing at numerous community meetings and public events.

“I’m not a career politician,” she acknowledged. “But I think that Adam has done a great job, and I want to continue the work he started.”



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