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Democrats in Virginia are scrambling to come up with a nominee for a lightning-fast caucus this weekend. The winner will face Republican opposition in September in a special election to fill the seat of former Del. David Englin (D).
The Democratic contest features three-term Alexandria City Councilman Rob Krupicka against civil right activist Karen Gautney. It began in June, when Englin announced his resignation from his 45th District seat, which includes the eastern half of Alexandria, some of the Mount Vernon district of Fairfax County, and parts of southeastern Arlington County.
Republicans have not yet named their candidate for the race, but are expected to certify one within the next few days. When Englin resigned, he endorsed Gautney as his replacement.
"Its not like Democrats are particularly enamored with Englin right now," points out Geoff Skelly, an analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "So perhaps that's not the greatest endorsement."
Alternatively, Krupicka has support from a long list of elected officials, including state State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), who beat Krupicka last summer in a hotly contested primary fight. For her part, Gautney says she would offer a fresh start.
"I am not a career politician," says Gautney. "I am a citizen who has been involved working around policy issues and working with marginalized populations all my life."
If elected, she would fight against restrictions to abortion and support efforts for Virginia to participate in President Obama's health care reforms, Gautney says. She also supports increasing transparency of police agencies.
Krupicka says he would focus on early childhood education and making sure the Virginia Department of Transportation doesn't hamstring local governments.
"VDOT has the ability to decide if they support the plans or don't support the plans or they can come in an micro-manage them to infinite degrees," says Krupicka. "And we've been seeing that a lot over the last year or two with the current governor."
Democrats in the 45th District have two opportunities to vote: tonight at an elementary school in Alexandria and Saturday at a recreation center in the West End. Republicans are also planning to certify their candidate by the Saturday deadline — they haven't yet released his name — although he will not face opposition from within the party.