The candidates in one of the most-watched races for Congress debated before a packed house at the National Conference Center in Lansdowne this morning. Both sought to advertise themselves as bipartisan and effective legislators.
“I stepped up to run for Congress because I truly fear how much damage can be done to this country in the next two years by this president and the Congress that enables him, but also because I have proven that I am a thoughtful and successful legislator who delivers real bipartisan results for my constituents,” said State Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-33), during the event sponsored by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce.
“This race is about results versus the resistance,” second-term representative Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10) said. “My opponent is rated the most left-wing senator, and has said she wants to represent the resistance. I want to and have represented you and have gotten results.”
Wexton’s attempt to unseat Comstock has been one of the more closely watched races in the country. Virginia’ 10th congressional district is one of the most politically mixed and quickly changing in the country. The district is represented by a mix of Republican and Democrats at the local and state levels. Comstock has handily won elections, but has seen her electoral margin shrink—she won her first election with 56 percent of the vote, and in 2016 with 53 percent. The district also supported Democrats Hillary Clinton for president and Ralph Northam for governor.
All that led to a packed hall at the National Conference Center for the debate. Billed as one of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce’s PolicyMakers Series of breakfast meetings, it drew the largest crowd any of those events has ever seen. Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Howard said at an estimated 540 attendees, it was about twice as well attended as the second-biggest—the 2016 debate between Comstock and Democrat Luann Bennett.
The two faced questions from a panel of Loudoun Chamber members, starting with a question about the 2017 Republican tax bill. Wexton said the country needs a tax system “that is fair and that benefits the middle class.”
“The Trump-Comstock tax scam does the opposite,” Wexton said. “Republicans have shown us their priority on it. Over four-fifth of the benefits of that tax law goes to the top one percent.”
She also said interest on the national debt will be the fastest-growing part of the federal budget within two years.
“Y’all are business people,” she said to the Chamber audience. “You know that’s not a sustainable model.”
The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated the national debt is on track to equal 100 percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2028—the greatest debt since World War II—and the national deficit grew from $665 billion in federal fiscal year 2017 to $804 billion in fiscal year 2018.
But Comstock stood on the tax bill, pointing to an estimate that most Loudouners would see some tax reduction, and crediting the bill for $550 million more than expected in Virginia’s tax revenues and for the country’s growing economy to the tax cuts.
“When we have an economy that’s booming the way it is now, it makes every issue that we have now easier when we have more money coming in,” Comstock said. She added she hopes to make the tax cuts permanent and expand them.
On some topics, the candidates broadly agreed. Both opposed President Donald J. Trump’s proposed tariffs in his escalating trade war with China. Both also were part of bipartisan efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.
“My opponent is masterful political chameleon,” Wexton said. “What she doesn’t tell you is that most of the issues she currently champions are those she previously opposed, or vice versa, depending on how the political winds are blowing or who’s watching.”
“My record is one of getting results on your priorities,” Comstock said. “I have focused on getting those results by bringing us together and moving us forward. Results, not resistance.”