With the political demographics virtually guaranteeing his return to Congress, U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) used his formal campaign kickoff to look ahead.
“I feel a great deal of optimism – my work . . . has just begun,” Beyer said during a gathering that attracted about 100 political leaders and supporters to Bon Air Park in Arlington on the steamy afternoon of Sept. 10.
Among those on hand were a host of current (Mark Sickles, Mark Levine, Dick Saslaw) and former (Bob Brink, Mary Margaret Whipple) legislators, as well as Arlington County Board Chairman Libby Garvey.
Beyer said Democrats need to be “patient and relentless” in pushing their priorities while in the minority on Capitol Hill, and said he planned to stick around to try and flip the party to the majority.
“I hope there will be a couple more,” he said of future races, which for the U.S. House occur every two years.
Beyer, 65, was elected in 2014 to succeed U.S. Rep. Jim Moran in the 8th District, which includes Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and a portion of Fairfax County. While he has opposition – Republican Charles Hernick and independent Julio Gracia share the ballot – the district is reliably Democratic, even more so in presidential years. Beyer’s 63-percent share of the vote two years ago could approach, or exceed, 70 percent on Nov. 8.
“I’m having fun,” Beyer said, using a phrase he repeats at nearly every public gathering. The election, he said, “gives us a chance to think again why we’re Democrats.”
Less extroverted than his congressional predecessor, Beyer’s policy priorities shade to the wonky side: Investment in infrastructure, science and innovation; refinements to health-care reform; gun-control legislation; and measures to address climate issues.
A sexy litany? Perhaps not. But Beyer, who served for eight years as Virginia’s lieutenant governor before losing the governor’s race to Republican Jim Gilmore in 1997, said he enjoys the political arena.
“Almost all my best friends – and my wife – I met through politics,” he said. “I am so lucky.”
His supporters echo Beyer’s stated willingness to work across the political aisle. State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th) called him “a compassionate bridge-builder” and “a thoughtful voice.”
Ebbin, who was among the field of Democrats vying to succeed Moran in 2014, noted that Beyer had seen five pieces of legislation win approval in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, a place where “it’s easier [for a Democrat] to pass a kidney stone.”
But Ebbin said Beyer will not shrink from political principle.
“Don doesn’t shy away from a tough situation,” he said.
Nor, apparently, does he shy away from promoting the family auto business, at least in a jocular way.
“If any of you need a car . . .,” Beyer told the audience before trailing off amid laughter.