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What, exactly, is Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria-Arlington-Fairfax) doing so wrong that he needs to be replaced?
If attendees at a recent Arlington League of Women Voters candidate forum were hoping to find the answer, they remained largely in the dark.
Given, like the other candidates, a seven-minute opening statement (enormously long by debate standards), challenger Elizabeth Bennett-Parker never mentioned Levine once, only occasionally even obliquely referencing the three-term incumbent.
Bennett-Parker, the vice mayor of Alexandria, did promise “collaborative, results-oriented leadership,” a not entirely subtle jab as Levine, whose critics sometimes view him as self-promotional even by the rather loose standards accorded most politicians.
But Levine clearly anticipated the line of attack, using his own opening statement (which preceded that of Bennett-Parker) to paint himself as an effective team player, one who got results even against long odds.
“I’ve done lots of things people said were impossible,” he said, touting legislative successes over the past two years.
“Folks know me as the guy who looks at the details,” said Levine, whose district is centered in Alexandria but has a few precincts in Arlington was well as portions of the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County. “I try to be the most accessible, transparent delegate there is. I’ve been very active in Arlington, not just Alexandria and Fairfax.”
The two are facing off in the June 8 Democratic primary.
Bennett-Parker has been piling up political endorsements and has raised the money needed to run a competitive race. Meanwhile, Levine has been concurrently running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor as well as to keep his own seat.
Levine launched his bid for lieutenant governor when the conventional wisdom was that the primary for statewide offices would be in June but the primary for legislative seats would be in August or September. When it became clear legislative districts would not be redrawn in 2021 and all the primary elections would be held on June 8, Levine stayed in both races. Constituents had “begged” him to run for re-election while also seeking higher office, he said at the forum.
While running for two offices simultaneously may seem like spreading oneself too thin, Levine has surprised the political establishment before.
Although a 2014 effort to win the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 8th District faltered, a year later he beat a large field of largely better-known candidates to win the House of Delegates seat being vacated by Rob Krupicka. (Krupicka this year has lined up in the Bennett-Parker corner.)
Opting against a frontal attack against Levine, Bennett-Parker was left to fill her seven-minute introduction at the May 2 debate with a recitation of generalized Democratic talking points, coupled with a biography of her own experiences as a small-business owner, non-profit leader and local elected official.
Waiting in the wings for the Democratic nominee – whether it be Levine or Bennett-Parker – is Republican J.D. Maddox. But it’s an uphill climb for him, as the district trends solidly Democratic.
Co-sponsors of the May 2 forum were the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy; Northern Virginia alumnae chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; Arlington branch of the American Association of University Women; and the National Council of Negro Women/Northern Virginia.