WASHINGTON — “Park.” “Car.” “Yard.”
Representative James Moran has had to avoid these words from time to time because, to many on Capitol Hill, his r’s sound like h’s. But in his more than two decades representing a Virginia district in the House, the Democrat has never tried to change his Boston accent.
Raised in Natick, Moran is among a contingent of Massachusetts natives serving in the Virginia delegation. He’s joined by Democrat Gerry Connolly of Boston and Republican Robert Goodlatte of Holyoke.
Yes, there actually is a Republican from Massachusetts in Congress.
Although the Bay State trio in Virginia are not the only Massachusetts transplants to serve in Congress, Connolly says no other delegation has as many as the Old Dominion.
Moran says he sometimes feels like he has more friends in the liberal Massachusetts delegation than in Virginia’s. When House members go to the floor for a vote, Connolly and Moran often head to the Massachusetts delegation’s corner.
“I feel very comfortable sitting with the Massachusetts delegation,” Moran said. “We share a lot of commonality.”
Moran serves on the 70-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, along with Massachusetts Representatives Michael Capuano, Katherine Clark, Joe Kennedy, and Jim McGovern.
But Moran won’t be around much longer to help his Bay State pals. He did not seek reelection and is packing up his office after serving since 1990. Memories of his long ties to Massachusetts are now in his moving boxes. One holds a photo of Moran with former speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill. When the then-mayor of Alexandria, Va., first ran for Congress, he received a donation from the outgoing speaker.
“I got a check for like $169.75, and [an accompanying note] said, ‘I’m cleaning out my office, and this is the last money that’s left,’ ” Moran said. “Unfortunately I was so desperate for money at the time that I cashed the damn check, which I rue to this day.”
Moran informally caucused with the Massachusetts delegation in the wake of the Yankees’ 2009 World Series win. When Congress passed a resolution congratulating the Red Sox’ longtime rival on their World Series victory, Moran and the delegation discussed voicing opposition.
But even when some bitter Pennsylvania members who still hadn’t recovered from the Phillies’ loss that year voted against it, Moran stayed silent with the Massachusetts representatives as they agreed beforehand to not be spoil sports.
Both Moran and Connolly consider retired Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank a close friend. In the 1990s, Moran remembers becoming an early supporter of same-sex marriage alongside Frank. He said they both were in the minority of representatives who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.
Connolly has known Frank since his days at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where Frank was his professor. “He’s a character, but he got stuff done,” Connolly said. And that’s why you should be in public service, to get stuff done.”
Goodlatte, the Republican, seems the political odd man out in the Massachusetts-Virginia nexus. He declined to be interviewed.
“I’m not so sure chairman Goodlatte’s views comport with the rest of the Mass. delegation,” Kennedy said about the Judiciary Committee chairman. “But every now and then, I try and at least throw out a ‘Go Red Sox’ sign to him.”
Sports, indeed, is a commonality among the men.
Connolly and Moran loyally root for their Patriots. Connolly has Red Sox Avenue sign in his office.
Moran, however, sometimes feels a conflict when the Patriots and the Redskins face off, even though he typically sits with the Patriots owner. As it turns out, Moran’s father played for the Redskins — back in the 1930s, when the franchise was in Boston.
Moran has a 1937 brochure of the Boston-turned-Washington team, the perfect decoration for a Virginia congressman who grew up delivering papers and walking to grammar school holding rosary beads in Natick.
Looking forward to his retirement, Moran said he hopes to make it to Massachusetts more often. Both Moran and Connolly visit siblings who live in the state, and Connolly’s parents are there.
So it happened that Connolly was on a remote stretch of Cape Cod this past summer, packing up chairs and towels, when he saw a surprising sight.
“We were getting off the beach in Falmouth . . . and I see my wife hugging and kissing somebody that looks a lot like Jim Moran,” Connolly said. “I thought to myself that better be Jim, or else who is my wife kissing?”
Cat Zakrzewski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.