From the outset, State Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-33)’s campaign to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10) has been a focus of national media and a top priority for Democrats.
In Virginia’s increasingly purple 10th Congressional District, Democrats see a prime target for capitalizing on a blue wave of enthusiasm on the left, and a candidate well suited to take on the two-term incumbent—but they also face a candidate who has consistently and dramatically outperformed the rest of her party in 10th District voting results.
The district is one of the most politically mixed and fastest changing in the country and is represented by a mix of Republican and Democrats at the local and state levels. In the most recent state elections, the district saw most of its Republicans flushed out and replaced by Democrats, and in June, Democratic primary turnout overall far outpaced Republican, drawing more than 7,000 more Democrats than Republicans to the polls.
Comstock has handily won her elections, but has seen her margin of victory shrink—she won her first election with 56 percent of the vote, and in 2016 with 53 percent. But she nonetheless has broken the trend—in her most recent electoral victory, the district also supported Democrats Hillary Clinton for president and Ralph Northam for governor.
If Comstock is to hold on to her seat this year, she will need to pull her biggest upset yet—poll trackers RealClearPolitics puts the district as “leans Democrat,” citing polls showing Wexton up from 6 to 13 points, and as of Tuesday, FiveThirtyEight estimates she has only a one in nine chance of holding onto the seat.
The Trump presidency has overshadowed much of the race in the 10th District as it has political conversation across the country. Comstock has sometimes sought to distinguish herself from President Donald J. Trump, beginning with a statement calling on Trump to drop out of the presidential race in 2016 after the release of his lewd comments in the “Entertainment Tonight” tape.
But her critics point out that in Congress, she has been one of Trump’s most reliable supporters, voting with him almost 98 percent of time. In fact, according to FiveThirtyEight, only one member of the House of Representatives, California Republican David G. Valdao, has voted with Trump’s agenda more consistently.
On health care, Wexton supported expanding Medicaid in Virginia, and campaigns on covering people with preexisting conditions, eliminating lifetime coverage caps, and supporting other government-regulated or -run healthcare systems such as Medicare and Medicaid. Comstock has campaigned against the Affordable Care Act and voted to repeal it many times, although she announced she would not support the controversial Republican American Health Care Act hours before it was pulled from the floor of Congress.
Comstock campaigns on cutting taxes, including supporting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and later voting for the Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act of 2018, which reduced taxes mostly on corporations and wealthier people. The Congressional Budget Office
estimated the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act could grow the national debt to the highest in the nation’s history. Wexton has frequently criticized what she calls the “Trump-Comstock Tax Scam.”
They also differ on net neutrality. Comstock opposes it. Wexton has offered a bill to restore net neutrality in Virginia, which died in committee.
Wexton also campaigns on tighter gun safety laws such as universal background checks; funding for public schools; investing in clean energy and transportation infrastructure; raising the minimum wage; and increased investment in career and technical training, among other issues.
Comstock has campaigned on increased national security spending, increased measures to fight gang activity, fighting the heroin epidemic, pro-business legislation, and has made a target of Metro’s problems, focusing on more transparency and oversight of the transit system.