Comstock, Foust head for finish line in 10th District

By Joe Beck

The campaign in Northern Virginia’s 10th Congressional District is closing the way it started: Del. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean, continues to be rated a slight favorite over Democrat John Foust, but enough uncertainty remains to give both campaigns reason to work hard until the end.

The winner will replace retiring U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Vienna, a conservative with a reputation for being willing to work with Democrats under the right conditions during his 17 terms in Congress.

Wolf’s legacy has loomed over the campaign. Comstock, with Wolf’s enthusiastic support, has sought to portray herself as a deserving heir to the man for whom she once worked as a staff aide.

Foust, 63, insists Comstock, 55, represents a different, radical breed of Republican whose views and voting record in the General Assembly are inseparable from tea party Republicans.

Both candidates have been trying to make an impression on women voters, who are believed by campaign strategists in both parties to be the key to winning close races in Virginia and around the country.

Foust has zeroed in on Comstock’s vote for a bill in 2012 that requires women to undergo ultrasound imaging before having an abortion. At one point in the legislative process, the bill was worded in a way that would have required some abortion patients to first undergo a vaginal ultrasound. The ensuing uproar led to a change in the final version of the bill that did not require the vaginal ultrasound.

Comstock insists her views on abortion are no different from those of Wolf — opposition to abortion except in cases of rape, incest and protection of the life of the mother.

Foust has labored to counter an onslaught of negative advertising from the Comstock campaign highlighting a remark he made that Comstock has never had a “real job.” Comstock, in addition to being a congressional aide to Wolf and a state legislator, has been a spokeswoman at the U.S. Justice Department and a partner at a law firm.

Foust says he was only referring to Comstock’s long record in politics, part of his overall criticism of her as a “partisan warrior” who would worsen gridlock in Congress.

Both candidates say they will oppose attempts to repeat the government shutdown of 2013, an event that was felt keenly among the many federal workers and government contractors in the 10th District.

“It’s unconservative, and it’s not responsible,” Comstock said of the shutdown.

“It doesn’t work, it’s unfair, and it provides all kinds of uncertainty not just to government employees and government contractors, but to whole communities they serve,” she added.

Foust said the same conservative activists who cheered the government shutdown are now backing Comstock.

“I believe there are ways to avoid that kind of failure by working in a bipartisan way across the aisle,” Foust said of the shutdown.

Both candidates said they were troubled by the spreading use and sale of heroin throughout the area. Comstock said her experience working in the Justice Department would be useful in obtaining federal aid and coordinating actions between different levels of government.

“I know FBI Director Jim Comey was at the Justice Department when I was there,” Comstock said, “so I want to continue to have those close working relationships with the Justice Department and our FBI, and I want to make sure we’re staying on top of this heroin problem.”

Foust, who represents McLean, Great Falls, Herndon and portions of Vienna and Falls Church on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said his county is experiencing the same influx of heroin as the Shenandoah Valley.

“In Fairfax government, we’ve focused on quite a few programs to deal with it,” Foust said of heroin. “We’ve focused on intervention, prevention but have also made significant investments in law enforcement, against gangs and the type of people who spread the drug.”

The 10th District includes all of Frederick, Clarke and Loudoun counties, and parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties.

Recent elections in the district for president, governor and attorney general have been narrowly decided and swung back and forth between both parties.

Foust’s campaign had raised $2,132,092 through Oct. 15, according to Federal Election Commission records. He had $147,726 cash on hand for the final weeks of the campaign.

The FEC showed Comstock with $2,716,884 in contributions and $692,047 cash on hand.

Independent political analysts such as Kyle Kondik with Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia have given an edge to Comstock throughout the campaign. Kondik said in an interview Friday he sees no reason to change his opinion now.

“It leans Republican,” Kondik said of the district. “There is some uncertainty in that rating, but we do think she is the favorite.”

There has been no public polling of the race.

No matter which candidate wins Tuesday, he or she can expect another tough campaign in running for re-election in 2016, Kondik said.

The presidential election will give Democrats a better opportunity for motivating their voters and increasing turnout, he said.

“This is the kind of district, if the Democrats want to win the House back, they need to win,” Kondik said. “It’s a suburban district that’s trending their way demographically.”

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or