Bennett, Comstock campaign at Hob Nob

LuAnn Bennett

MIDDLETOWN – An audience of more than 300 political activists and officeholders heard U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean, and Democrat LuAnn Bennett make their cases Friday for why they should represent the 10th District in Congress.

The two candidates took turns speaking for a total of about 25 minutes at the annual Hob Nob in the Valley sponsored by the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber.

The candidates stayed away from personal attacks and slashing partisanship, although Bennett has been sending out media messages several times a week mocking Comstock for refusing to say whether she intends to vote for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Comstock, who was elected two years ago, recited a list of legislative achievements or initiatives during her first term. She touted the recent passage of what she called “landmark” legislation aimed at fighting the heroin epidemic that has grown especially acute throughout the district in recent years.

She also pointed to tax credit legislation designed to offset the expenses of raising children and other tax breaks intended to promote research and development in fields such as technology, defense and medicine.

Barbara Comstock

Comstock said lifting sequestration budget cuts affecting military spending and national security were her highest legislative priorities.

“Nothing is more important in these dangerous times, and I will be a strong advocate for our military and our veterans,” Comstock said.

Immigration was the clearest area of disagreement between the two candidates.

Bennett said she supported comprehensive immigration based upon a bill that passed the U.S. Senate by a wide margin in 2013.

“I believe we need a comprehensive immigration reform bill,” Bennett said.

Bennett also opposed building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and denounced any attempt to ban people from entering the country based on their religious beliefs. The wall and a ban on Muslims entering the United States have played prominent roles in Trump’s campaign.

Comstock said she favored a step-by-step approach to immigration allowing consensus to form around several individual pieces of legislation instead of sweeping overhaul. She said immigration reform should begin with measures to make the border more secure.

“There’s actually a lot of areas of agreement,” Comstock said of proposals for immigration reform.

She didn’t mention the wall or what she thought of religious tests for those entering the United States.

Bennett, who owns a real estate business, spoke of her struggles with 18 licenses and certifications – the kind of complaint about government regulations most often heard from Republican candidates.

“We need to streamline regulations,” Bennett said. “We need to make running small businesses easier, not harder.”

The evening concluded with the announcement of the results of a straw poll, a traditional feature of Hob Nob gatherings.

This year’s results showed Comstock trouncing Bennett, 81 percent to 19 percent out of 227 votes cast among attendees at the event. Write-in candidates drew two votes.

Trump overwhelmed Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential contest, 63 percent to 26 percent out of 226 votes cast. There were 23 write-in votes for president.

A referendum adding a right to work provision to the Virginia constitution passed 55 percent to 45 percent. Another constitutional amendment proposed allowing the General Assembly to give local governments an option to exempt the surviving spouses of first responders killed in the line of the duty from property taxes. It passed 85 percent to 15 percent.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com