Arlington County, Va., board member Jay Fisette, who announced less than two weeks ago that he would challenge Democrat Jim Moran in the eighth congressional district, withdrew from the race Monday. Had he won, Fisette, a Democrat, would have been the first openly gay person to represent the South in Congress. Fisette, who was board chairman in 2001 during the time the county was hailed for its emergency response to the September 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, said he realized the election would boil down to a referendum on Moran and leave little room for an issues-based campaign. "Running my kind of positive campaign was going to be very difficult," Fisette said. "Despite our differences, I have no personal animus toward the incumbent."
Moran, a seven-term incumbent, is already facing a primary challenge from Fairfax County board of supervisors chairwoman Katherine Hanley and Alexandria lawyer Andrew Rosenberg. State senator and former congresswoman Leslie Byrne and lawyer Jeremy Bash are also considering runs. Political experts say Moran's odds improve as more candidates enter the race, splitting the anti-Moran vote. Moran has typically won reelection with at least 60% of the vote but is considered vulnerable in 2004 following comments he made earlier this year that Jewish leaders' influence pushed the country into a war with Iraq. Moran has since apologized for his comments.