The candidates for the 10th Congressional District seat were quizzed by Loudoun’s Muslim community Friday night during a civic engagement forum at the ADAMS Center in Sterling.
Incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock and Democrat LuAnn Bennett offered contrasting positions on a number of issues, but both held out Loudoun’s interfaith communities as examples for the nation to follow.
The forum closed a week in which the Board of Supervisors approved a new mosque for the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in an Ashburn business park. Supervisors Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run) and Koran Saines (D-Sterling) attended Friday night’s program and were applauded for their work to overcome objections posed by some business owners.
“We are the example. We should be proud of ourselves for what we got done last night,” Saines said. “In Loudoun County, we respect each other.”
ADAMS leaders stressed that the nonprofit does not endorse any candidate or political party, but they feel strongly about their role to promote civic engagement. Under the structure of the forum, reporters in attendance were requested not to record or report the specifics of the candidates’ remarks during the event. The candidates did not appear together. Comstock addressed the crowd first and then Bennett followed after a dinner break.
Questions from a panel of moderators and from the audiences covered a wide range of topics. Candidates were asked to explain their positions on immigration policies and the U.S. roles in Syria, but also covered tax reform, gun control, abortion rights, equal pay for women employees, the federal government’s role in improving Metro, adding jobs and climate change.
In the crowd, support was evident for both candidates, but mentions of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton repeatedly drew the most applause. Early in his campaign, Republican Donald J. Trump alienated Muslims with his calls for a ban on allowing them to enter the United States and other anti-Muslim remarks.
Comstock continued to distance herself from Trump, noting that she immediately opposed his immigration ban suggestion and highlighting her work with ADAMS leaders to build interfaith cooperation. However, she also faced questions about whether her public support for the concerns of Muslims and immigrants was reflected in her Capitol Hill voting record.
It was on topics such as her support for gun control legislation and having the U.S. take a leadership role in addressing climate change—issues on which Democrats and Republicans remain far apart—that Bennett appeared to win more support from the crowd.