House Republican battles blue wave in DC suburbs

PHOTO: Rep. Barbara Comstock, participates in a news conference, Jan. 10, 2018.PlayBill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Imag3es
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Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., has weathered demographic and political headwinds in her suburban Washington district before, eking out a 6 percentage-point win in 2016 when Hillary Clinton carried the area.

A dogged campaigner and savvy politician, Comstock has cut her own profile by distancing herself from the president while supporting key planks of the GOP agenda.

But in a year of energized Democrats and frustrated independent voters, that might not be enough to stop the district from sending a Democrat to Congress for the first time in 30 years.

PHOTO: Virginia 10th Congressional District candidates, Senator Jennifer Wexton and incumbent Representative Barbara Comstock participate in a debate on Sept. 21, 2018, in Leesburg, Va.Pete Marovich For The Washington Post via Getty Images
Virginia 10th Congressional District candidates, Senator Jennifer Wexton and incumbent Representative Barbara Comstock participate in a debate on Sept. 21, 2018, in Leesburg, Va.

“There are circumstances she doesn’t have control over this election cycle,” said Mark Rozell, the dean of George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government. “Voters who want to express their anger feel like they can do so by voting against a person with an 'R' next to her name.”

Comstock’s seat, one of the 25 GOP-held seats carried by Hillary Clinton, are on the top of Democrats’ list in their effort to flip 23 seats and claim the House majority. Voters in the district also backed current Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, one year ago.

Comstock, who called for Trump to drop out of the presidential race after the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape in October 2016, has broken with the president and her party on issues that resonate in her government-friendly and increasingly diverse district.

She opposed the president’s controversial travel ban in 2017, and criticized his calls for a government shutdown over immigration policy, telling him in a White House meeting with lawmakers last February that “we don’t need a government shutdown on this.”

This year, she opposed his proposed pay cut for federal workers, a critical issue for a district home to tens of thousands of government contractors and the CIA's headquarters.

PHOTO: Jennifer Wexton, center, speaks flanked by Rep. Gerry Connolly, left, and Sen. Tim Kaine, at her primary election night party in Sterling, Va., on June 12, 2018.Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images
Jennifer Wexton, center, speaks flanked by Rep. Gerry Connolly, left, and Sen. Tim Kaine, at her primary election night party in Sterling, Va., on June 12, 2018.

While she also voted against the Obamacare repeal bill in the House, Comstock voted for the GOP tax plan and has sponsored legislation targeting the MS-13 gang.

Her opponent, state Sen. Jennifer Wexton, is seizing on her voting record, dubbing her “Barbara Trumpstock” in a recent television ad.

“She’s voted with him 98 percent of the time, so that doesn’t seem to be much of a check,” Wexton said in an interview Friday, referencing the FiveThirtyEight analysis of Comstock's voting record on the president’s agenda.

In a recent interview with a local Fox News affiliate in Washington, Comstock argued that the majority of her votes have been for bipartisan bills, including opioid legislation and measures to fund the government -- adding that she was the “only member of Congress” in the region to vote against shutting down the government.

PHOTO: Rep. Barbara Comstock, participates in a news conference, Jan. 10, 2018.Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Imag3es
Rep. Barbara Comstock, participates in a news conference, Jan. 10, 2018.

“This is a record to embrace,” she said. “I am my own woman and I fight for the priorities of my district.”

While Comstock was one of the leading Republicans pushing for changes to sexual harassment rules on Capitol Hill this year, she was criticized for not speaking out against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a personal friend, when he was accused of sexual assault during his Supreme Court confirmation process. He denied those allegations repeatedly.

Comstock told the Fox affiliate that it was “wrong” to consider the Kavanaugh accusations part of the #MeToo movement because “that was Supreme Court politics.”

“I supported having Dr. Ford be able to come forward, and be heard but our legislation that we passed still has due process and requires facts and information,” she said.

While some recent public polling shows Comstock trailing Wexton, the National Republican Congressional Committee, House Republicans' campaign arm, continues to support Comstock’s bid, a notable decision just weeks from the Election Day when the committee has started to redirect money in an effort to triage by funneling resources from fading campaigns to those that can still be salvaged.

PHOTO: In this April 11, 2018, file photo, Virginia State Sen. Jennifer Wexton, D-Loudon, talks with colleagues during the Senate special budget session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. U.S. Rep. AP
In this April 11, 2018, file photo, Virginia State Sen. Jennifer Wexton, D-Loudon, talks with colleagues during the Senate special budget session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. U.S. Rep.

Comstock, whose campaign did not respond to interview requests, continues to work her district, posting on social media after visits with community leaders across the ethnically diverse district.

“I think she’s done everything she can do. She’s always outrun the polling, she closes hard,” said Tom Davis, a former Virginia congressman and chairman of the NRCC, who has endorsed Comstock. “This is going to be a close race at the end of the day, knowing the candidates and the district.”

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