Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-McLean-Great Falls) and her challenger for the Democratic nomination, Jennifer Adeli, offered progressive – although somewhat different – visions May 4 at a Fairfax County Democratic Committee online House of Delegates debate.
Murphy and Adeli, who will face off in the June 8 state primary, only had one noticeable clash during the forum.
Murphy, first elected in a January 2015 special election to succeed Republican Barbara Comstock after she was elected to Congress, said her victory turned that House of Delegates seat Democratic after decades in Republican hands.
“We must keep the majority, or the Republicans will undo all the good that we have done,” said Murphy, adding she had the capacity and time to dedicate her fully to the work.
Murphy highlighted her efforts to advance social justice and firearm safety and help veterans, especially women. She founded the House Gun Violence Prevention Caucus, is vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and belongs to Military and Veterans Caucus and the Virginia Environment and Renewable Energy Caucus.
During the Clinton administration, Murphy was a senior advisor for international-trade issues at the U.S. Department of Commerce and handled congressional affairs at U.S. Agency for International Development.
Adeli, born in Tulsa, Okla., and raised in southern California, is a former Dranesville District Democratic Committee chairman.
Adeli holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University, and has spent 25 years in governmental contracting. She also was nominated by Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) to serve on the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board. Now is the ideal time to run, Adeli said.
“As we move into the post-COVID world, and frankly into the post-Trump world, we have a lot of work ahead of us,” Adeli said. “Our legislature needs more people like myself who have boots-on-the-ground experience, not only in policy, but also in business, and with progressive values alongside that.”
Both candidates have Capitol Hill experience. Adeli worked for the late U.S. Rep. Bob Matsui (D-California) and Murphy for the late U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-Texas).
The candidates agreed the pandemic has been devastating.
“COVID has fundamentally changed everything, the way we work, the way we interact, how our kids go to school,” Murphy said. “It seems like it’s insurmountable. It’s crippled small businesses and it has pushed people to the wall. I mean, they don’t know how they’re going to pay for things.”
Government officials are working together to ensure people get what they need to survive, Murphy said.
The pandemic has had disparate impacts in the 34th District, especially on lower-income areas such as Sterling, Adeli said.
“I know there are actually families in the 34th District that actually benefited during this time because the stock market went up or their housing prices went up,” Adeli said. “They bought second homes, they spent time with their families. And there were folks in other parts of the district that absolutely struggled.”
Women especially have been hard-hit by the pandemic and society should help them return to work, she said.
Queried about taking money from Dominion Energy, Adeli said she never would do so, but Murphy had. Adeli also criticized a 2015 rate-freezing bill, which she said had forced customers to pay the same price, even as energy costs went down.
Murphy said all House Democrats had agreed not to take more campaign contributions from Dominion Energy, and that she wished to hold corporations accountable for pollution.
Regarding affordable housing, Adeli favored the possibility of a homestead deduction, such as the one available in the District of Columbia, while Murphy said she had sponsored a bill for a low-income-housing tax credit.
Asked by moderator Shyamali Hauth for final thoughts, Adeli indicated a desire to repeal Virginia’s right-to-work laws, which she said made it harder for unions to organize. Murphy listed some of her endorsements and said she does “the hard work to make this district count.”
As would be expected from an incumbent, Murphy has decidedly more cash on hand for the campaign. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, as of March 31, Murphy had $192,331 available and Adeli $11,336.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Gary Pan of Great Falls in the Nov. 2 general election. The 34th District includes all of Great Falls and parts of Vienna, McLean and Sterling.
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