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Lawmaker Urged Not to Seek Reelection Because of Remarks

March 13, 2003|Nick Anderson | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — In an unusual repudiation of a colleague, six influential House Democrats on Wednesday asserted that Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.) should not seek reelection in the aftermath of controversial remarks he made concerning the Jewish community and a possible war with Iraq.

The six said Moran's statement at a March 3 antiwar forum demanded a response beyond statements of condemnation from his leaders and his peers.

At the forum, Moran told an audience at a church in Virginia: "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this." He added: "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should."

Moran, 57, who was elected in November to his seventh term, issued apologies after reports of the statement began circulating, first in a community newspaper and then in the national media. Jewish groups and others denounced the statements as perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes. Moran said he agreed that his remarks were insensitive.

But for some House Democrats, Moran's apologies weren't enough. In a sharply worded letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), six Democrats -- including two senior members from California -- called Moran's statements unacceptable.

"They are not merely wrong, offensive and ignorant," the six wrote. "They are grossly irresponsible, and were given at a sensitive time when inflammatory comments -- regardless of outrageous factual flaws -- can unleash unintended and dangerous consequences. Under any interpretation, they violate the basic standards we hold ourselves to as Democrats.

"We hope that as Jim reflects on his actions, he will decide not to seek reelection to the House of Representatives. Should he seek reelection in 2004, however, we cannot and will not support his candidacy."

The signatories -- all of whom are Jewish -- are Reps. Henry A. Waxman of Los Angeles, Tom Lantos of San Mateo, Martin Frost of Texas, Sander M. Levin of Michigan, Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland and Nita M. Lowey of New York. Frost and Lowey are former chairs of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Waxman and Lantos are ranking Democrats on the Government Reform and International Relations committees, respectively.

A Moran spokesman had no immediate comment on the letter. Moran has been quoted this week as saying that he does not intend to resign, and he has signaled his readiness to seek reelection.

A spokesman for Pelosi could not be reached late Wednesday for comment.

While Moran is hardly the first lawmaker to incur the wrath of his peers -- former Democratic Reps. Gary A. Condit of Ceres and James A. Traficant of Ohio are other recent examples -- Wednesday's letter was nonetheless highly unusual. Waxman, in a brief telephone interview, said he has never before signed a statement urging a House Democrat not to seek reelection. "Usually, we're told as Democrats to overlook our differences with each other," Waxman said.

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