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The 10 Democrats hoping to succeed U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Dist. 8) when he retires at the end of this year are striving to create a distinct identity from their opponents as they move toward the June 10 primary.

“We agree on almost all of the issues,” said state Sen. Adam Ebbin, ribbing some of his opponents’ slogans, such as the “Aggressive Progressive” and the “Progressive Warrior.”

“On June 10, remember, just vote for the liberal,” Ebbin quipped to the crowd at a George Mason University candidates forum on Monday.

The forum provided candidates an opportunity to highlight their top priority in domestic and foreign policy, as well as a chance to show their leadership style.

Former lieutenant governor Don Beyer, considered by many political observers to be the frontrunner for the nomination due to his name recognition and fundraising experience, said climate change would be his central focus of both domestic and foreign policy significance.

“It frightens me and it should frighten everyone else,” Beyer said of climate change. He favors policies such as a carbon tax and higher efficiency standards for cars, despite his business background as a car dealer.

Ebbin also cited climate change as a top domestic priority.

Creating new economic opportunities was the front and center issue for several candidates.

Satish Korpe, an engineer from Fairfax County, said he would create jobs by “making it easier for banks to invest in businesses.”

For City of Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and community organizer Lavern Chatman, increasing wages for lower-income people is key.

“I want to make sure that everyone has a chance to succeed,” Euille said, highlighting the city council’s passage of a living wage bill during his tenure.

Acknowledging the divide in Congress and the fact that Democrats are a minority in the House of Representatives, Chatman said she would focus on what she considers “low-hanging fruit,” equal pay legislation that ensures women and men receive equal pay for equal work.

Supporting education funding at all levels also was a popular refrain among the candidates.

Mark Levine, a talk radio host, said he would focus on passing his plan to make college more affordable by lowering the cost of student loans through federal negotiations with lenders.

“I have a plan that actually costs nothing, and I think that is why Republicans will support it,” Levine said.

State Del. Charniele Herring also mentioned student debt as a concern, as well as ensuring universal access to quality pre-kindergarten classes.

“We know what we can do to break the cycle of poverty and that is with pre-K education,” Herring said.

Arlington Del. Patrick Hope, who is a health care attorney, said he is still concerned about health care and wants to continue to expand on the Affordable Care Act by ensuring that everyone has access to preventive health care.

The candidates will gather again May 15 in McLean for a forum hosted by the Dranesville District Democratic Committee.

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com