Five of the six Democrats campaigning for the 10th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives met at the Ashburn Rotary on Thursday for what club President Ken Courter said was a first.
Courter said the Ashburn Rotary had never hosted a candidate forum before, and said the event was not partisan.
“What are the top qualities of a leader? Honesty, compassion, integrity, confidence, flexibility, learning to work with others. And in Rotary we do that,” Courter said.
Julia Biggins, Alison Friedman, Dan Helmer, Lindsey Davis Stover, and state Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-33) gave Rotarians brief arguments for why they are the candidate to elect—and the candidate to beat incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10).
Biggins said she is running “not only to unseat Barbara Comstock, but to fight for science.”
“I have never seen the kind of disease that we see now in Congress and in the White House, and I think that disease is in part due to the professional political class,” Biggins said. An infectious diseases scientist, Biggins argued lawmakers have been “dismissive of data, afraid of transparency, and more interested in saying the right thing rather than doing the right thing.”
“I think a candidate in sharp contrast is the way we need to go to defeat Barbara Comstock in the fall, and so when you cast your ballot, I ask you to consider casting a vote for the first woman scientist to ever serve in the House,” Biggins said. She focused on single-payer healthcare, universal pre-kindergarten education, green energy, and a national gun buyback program.
Nonprofit executive and former Obama administration official Alison Friedman said, “I am not a typical candidate, but these aren’t typical times.” She referred to the Rotary “Four-Way Test,” which asks whether statements and actions are true, fair to call concerned, build goodwill and better friendships, and are beneficial to all concerned. She said President Donald J. Trump and Congress are not meeting that test.
“Every place I went, when I was talking to survivors or activists and I asked them what we could most helpfully do for them, they invariably said, make sure your rights are secure in America, because if America isn’t working, there’s no backstop for us,” Friedman said, referencing her experience combating human trafficking. “And right now, America isn’t working.”
She stressed her support for campaign finance reform, expanding healthcare access, and investing in businesses and communities.
“We can do a lot more around taxes and the economy to open up opportunity for everyone, and this tax bill lays bare a lie of fiscal responsibility that I would argue Congresswoman Comstock has perpetrated for a long time,” Friedman said. “And if we instead used the tax bill and the congressional budget to invest in the opportunities that we know yield growth, not only for the economy writ large but for individuals, and invest in the workers and the families and, yes, the businesses that make our communities so vibrant, it would be critically important.”
Veteran and consultant Dan Helmer said after Comstock’s years of successful campaigning, “I can paint the starkest contrast between her record of service to special interests, and my record of service to our country.”
“I’ve seen firsthand the consequences of Washington cowardice,” Helmer said, referring to his Army experience. “It’s inscribed in the headstones of friends.” He focused on his family’s history of immigrants and Holocaust refugees to the U.S., expanded healthcare and pushing back against the National Rifle Association. Like other candidates in the race, Helmer said he has not and will not take money from corporate political action committees.
Small business owner and former Obama administration official Lindsey Davis Stover said the 10th District seat is “incredibly important.”
“We have a shot at really changing the face of politics in our country, and it starts right here in VA-10,” Stover said. “And we currently have a congresswoman who refuses to come back to the district and hold town hall meetings, who has a 97 percent voting record with this administration.’
She referenced growing up with a single mother, struggling to make ends meet, and said with the current Congress “a kid like me wouldn’t have had the shots that I’ve had.” She focused her attention on stopping gun violence, expanding healthcare access, and electing a strong Congress to compensate for “a reckless president.”
And Wexton, the only person in the group with previous election experience, pointed to her record in the General Assembly.
“It turns out I’m pretty good at it,” Wexton said. “I’ve passed over 40 bills despite being in the minority.” Wexton came to the forum less than 24 hours after voting to expand Medicaid in Virginia.
“With Donald Trump in the White House, with agency heads like Scott Pruitt at the EPA, with agency heads like Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education, people who are hostile to the very agencies and the rights they’re supposed to protect, I know it’s time to step up again, because I know that we’re better than this,” Wexton said.
Comstock faces a primary challenge from the right from Shak Hill. Voters will pick the Republican and Democratic candidate in the June 12 primary.