April 21, 2015 at 11:44 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Mark Levine enters Virginia delegate race

Mark Levine, Democratic Party, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Levine has entered the race to succeed outgoing Virginia state Del. Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria). (Photo courtesy of Mark Levine)

Gay rights attorney and civic activist Mark Levine on Sunday declared his candidacy for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in a district that includes about half of Alexandria and parts of Arlington and Fairfax Counties.

Levine, a talk show host who served as former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank’s legislative counsel, is running against four other candidates for the 45th House District seat in a June 9 Democratic primary.

The seat became open when incumbent state Del. Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria) announced in March that he would not be running for re-election. Krupicka has been a strong supporter of LGBT rights.

“Whatever the issue is I want to let you know that I understand representative democracy and I want you to know I will be here for you,” Levine said at his announcement gathering at the Union Street Public House Restaurant in Old Town Alexandria.

“And if you have an issue, if you have a need — it doesn’t matter if it’s the schools, education, climate change, regulation of guns, all the issues we care about — I’ll be there for the citizens of the 45th,” he said.

Levine ran unsuccessfully one year ago for the U.S. House of Representatives seat that became open when longtime Democratic Congressman Jim Moran announced he was retiring. Levine finished in fifth place in the Democratic primary with slightly less than seven percent of the vote in a seven-candidate race.

Former Virginia Lieutenant Gov. Don Beyer won that race with 46 percent of the vote, finishing far ahead of all of his rivals, including gay State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who came in third with just under 14 percent of the vote.

Supporters have said they believe Levine has a much greater chance of winning this year in the race for delegate because none of his opponents have the widespread name recognition that Beyer had in last year’s congressional election.

The 45th House District in which Levine is running lies within the boundary of Ebbin’s senatorial district. Ebbin, who’s highly popular in the district, said he’s considering whether he will endorse a candidate in the delegate’s race.

Among those expressing support for Levine at his announcement gathering on Sunday was Rick Rosendall, president of the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, who said he’s backing Levine as an individual and not in his role of GLAA president.

Rosendall’s remarks at the event were recorded along with the remarks of others on video by the Northern Virginia political blog Blue Virginia, which posted the video online. Rosendall praised Levine for his work as pro bono legal counsel to advocates for D.C.’s same-sex marriage bill in 2009 when the legislation was challenged by anti-gay groups.

Rosendall noted that Levine first became a vocal advocate for marriage equality in the 1990s.

“He wrote court briefs and he helped craft our marriage equality bill,” said Rosendall. “You can elect someone else as the delegate to the 45th District in this little strip along the shore of the Potomac River,” he said. “But you will not get a smarter or harder worker or more effective legislator than my friend Mark Levine.”

The encouragement Levine received by between 75 and 100 supporters who turned out for his announcement event didn’t carry over to a straw poll on the 45th House District race conducted later that day by the Alexandria Democratic Committee, according to Blue Virginia.

Levine came in fourth place in the poll, receiving 18 votes. Rival candidate Clarence Tong came in first with 48 votes. Figures released by the Alexandria Democratic Committee show that candidate Julie Jakopic received 39 votes; Craig Fifer received 20 votes, and Larry Altenburg received 7 votes.

Most political observers don’t consider straw polls such as this one to be predictive of the outcome of the election. But some have said the straw poll suggests Levine’s support may be weak among party activists who tend to show up for straw polls.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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