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ArlingtonVeteran state Sen. Ebbin picks up intra-party challenge

Veteran state Sen. Ebbin picks up intra-party challenge

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Arlington voters in the area immediately surrounding Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will have a Democratic primary for state Senate on the agenda this spring.

Attorney James DeVita on Jan. 4 launched a bid to unseat state Sen. Adam Ebbin in what, owing to redistricting, will henceforth be called the 39th Senate District.

“Politics should be about ideas,” DeVita said at the monthly meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, pressing issues ranging from decriminalization of drug possession to green energy to tackling hunger and homelessness.

“This is a rich country,” he said, calling for a focus on the root causes of problems rather than Band-Aid approaches to addressing them.
The challenger did not reference the incumbent, or critique his performance, during kickoff remarks.


Ebbin has served in Richmond since winning election to the House of Delegates in 2003. He later moved up to the state Senate’s current 30th District, which while centered on Alexandria also includes adjacent areas of South Arlington and pieces of the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County.

Under redistricting approved last year, the new 39th District will remain centered on Alexandria, with its Arlington precincts shrinking to a handful circling the airport.

Ebbin, who watched in the audience as DeVita launched his bid, told the Sun Gazette he plans to speak to Arlington Democrats next month. On Jan. 3, he formally launched a re-election bid in front of the Alexandria Democratic Committee.

“We have stood firm against Republican attacks on our progress,” the incumbent told Alexandria Democrats, saying the Senate (where his party controls a slim majority) held the line against Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the GOP majority in the House of Delegates.

Youngkin seemed to take special umbrage in 2021 at Ebbin’s work to defeat a number of the new governor’s nominees in confirmation battles. To apparently underscore his displeasure, the governor vetoed nine of Ebbin’s bills during last year’s session, what might have been an all-time record for a single legislator.

Ebbin seemed to take the vetoes as a badge of honor.

“I’ve got some news for Gov. Youngkin and Republicans – I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I’m ready to go back on offense in 2023.”
DeVita, however, pushed a more conciliatory line.

“We have to find some way to reach out” and build bridges with downstate Republicans, he said.

“We’ve got to spread love, not hate,” DeVita said.

Democratic voters in the new 39th District in a June primary will choose between Ebbin, DeVita and any additional candidates who might bubble up in coming months.

The new 39th District has a population of about 221,000, based on 2020 census figures, about 2.3 percent higher than statewide average among the 40 redrawn Senate districts. The Arlington precincts represent about 14 percent of the voting-age total of the new district, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, which rates the new district “Very Democratic.”

In addition to the city of Alexandria and the Arlington precincts, it also includes some areas of Fairfax County ranging from the Alexandria line northwest to Seven Corners.

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