A seven-year politician and a newcomer to the political scene went head to head this morning in a debate hosted by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce.
Republican Barbara Comstock, running for a second term representing the 10th Congressional District, and her challenger, Democrat LuAnn Bennett, shared a stage for an hour, taking questions on everything from clean energy and immigration reform to minimum wage and union regulations.
Although no question was asked about the presidential race, both candidates did their part to repeatedly broach the subject and tie their opponent to their party’s nominee for the White House.
“The trillion dollar tax plan that Hillary Clinton would put forward and that my opponent supports would kill the small businesses,” Comstock said, taking a question about simplifying the tax code.
Bennett, a real estate executive living in McLean, accused Comstock of standing with Republican presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump. “The Trump agenda deeply divides our country. Unlike my opponent, I will always put what’s best for our country ahead of politics.”
Comstock has tried to distance herself from Trump, neither endorsing the candidate nor publically opposing him.
Taking questions about how to improve Metro’s service and safety, the Republican stressed that she was the one with experience on the hill and has been working on some of the country’s most challenging issues for years. In response to a statement by Bennett that Comstock voted against Virginia’s landmark transportation bill, which helped fund Metro’s extension to Loudoun County, Comstock said, “I am the only one on the stage working closely with Metro to restore safety.”
Bennett accused Comstock of being a political insider, and said while her opponent was in Congress or a Virginia legislator, Bennett was running a real estate business and, for part of it, working as a single mother after the death of her first husband.
“I want to take my experience as a small business owner and get Congress working again and help build an economy that works for everyone,” she said. “Barbara Comstock went to Congress and fit right in with a dysfunctional and obstructionist government.”
Before being elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates, Comstock worked for former Rep. Frank Wolf. She won his seat in 2014 when he retired after representing the 10th District for 34 years.
Addressing a crowd of Loudoun business leaders, both candidates agreed there is too much federal regulation that handicaps small businesses. Bennett said as an owner of a small regional business, she is required to have 18 certifications and licenses. “So that has to stop.”
Comstock shot back, “My opponent’s business is in DC, where she’s been supporting and funding those very candidates giving those regulations.”
The candidates took questions from panelists: Stacey Miller, the Government and Community Relations Liaison for Inova Loudoun Hospital; Maggie Parker, Vice President of Communications and Community Outreach for Comstock; and Sheryl Schwartz, the Chief Operating Officer of Blue Canopy Group.
The 10th Congressional District includes all of Loudoun County and stretches from McLean to the east to Winchester to the west.