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Two years ago, U.S. Rep. James Moran (D) easily won re-election to the 8th District House seat that he has represented for more than two decades.

But the 37 percent of the vote that challenger Patrick Murray received in 2010 was enough to spur the Republican into taking a second swing at the incumbent.

There also are two independent candidates running in the 8th District: Independent Green Janet Murphy and Independent Jason Howell.

The district is unquestionably left-leaning; in recent statewide races more than two thirds of voters backed Democratic candidates. But, this will also be the first election under the district’s new boundaries. It now includes more of southeastern Fairfax County and parts of McLean, while having ceded the Reston area to the 11th District.

While acknowledging that it is an “uphill district,” Murray sees redistricting as an opportunity to connect with new voters, particularly current and former members of the military who might relate to his 24 years of service in the U.S. Army.

“There are a lot of people who consider themselves independents,” Murray said. “Those are the people I need to convince.”

Murray and Moran have significantly different positions on most major policy issues, like health care policy, reducing the deficit and the best way to stimulate the economy.

Moran was a staunch supporter of the Affordable Care Act and has not backed down from that position at all. While there is understandable confusion and apprehension about the complex legislation, he said he believes that will change as the law’s provisions begin to go into effect.

“I think in another decade, people are going to look back and view it like Medicare,” he said.

That being said, he fully supports making adjustments to the law as needed, while “keeping the ultimate objective in mind,” which is to ensure that all Americans have access to health care coverage and that costs are kept in check.

Murray, on the other hand, favors repealing the law and replacing it with Republican-backed alternatives, like allowing businesses to form insurance pools across state lines.

Changes to federal tax policy factor into both candidates’ plans for further rebuilding the economy, but in differing ways.

Murray favors reducing both the individual and corporate tax rates while eliminating most tax deductions for individuals.

He would balance the budget through cuts, starting with a requirement that Congress pass balanced budgets, and also the economic growth that he believes would come from lower taxes.

“The top income-earners ... they are the ones that create our jobs,” Murray said. “I don’t think that we need to raise taxes.”

Moran, on the other hand, notes that federal tax revenues, estimated at about 14 percent of the national gross domestic product, are at historic lows. In order to restore balance to the federal budget, he said, Congress needs to allow some or all of the 2003 tax cuts to expire, or otherwise bring in more revenue.

Some of those dollars should be used to invest in infrastructure repairs, not just transportation, but deteriorating municipal water systems, for example, Moran said.

“It generates jobs in this country and it produces a product that continues to pay dividends for years to come,” he said.

Both candidates also see some measure of entitlement reform as essential for reducing the federal deficit.

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com