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    ENDORSEMENTS: Comstock and Warner: A challenge to fix the broken branch

    The Times-Mirror editorial board meets with Del. Barbara Comstock in a recent interview.
    Today we come to a moment of reckoning for the idea that government can solve problems in a nation becoming ever more individual, ever more divided. For the citizens of the commonwealth and a district of leaders neighboring the nation’s capitol, pivotal decisions are to be made on Tuesday, Nov. 4 when we elect a member of Congress from the 10th District as well as a U.S. senator.

    To be frank, some positions taken by the candidates strike us as overtly political. As such, they warrant our concern. But today we endorse Barbara Comstock for Congress and Mark Warner for U.S. Senate not entirely for their records and positions, but for our faith that they can make a difference in a divided Congress held hostage by partisanship.

    Our endorsements are not unilateral. We differ with each of the endorsed candidates on several key issues. Nor are they partisan. We make them without devotion to either political party. They are, instead, practical. We believe that Del. Comstock and Sen. Warner are best prepared to work across the aisle to seek reasonable solutions to problems that restore the integrity and effectiveness of Congress.

    As a news organization, we have seen the escalation of an “us” versus “them” discourse that defines American politics, a discourse that is intolerant, divisive, and petty. Del. Comstock and Sen. Warner should take note: for all the vitriol expressed toward President Obama’s popularity, the approval rating of Congress sank to an all-time low of 9 percent this fall, reflecting general contempt and disgust.

    A study by Brookings affirms that the ideological distance between the parties has returned to lows not seen since the end of the 19th century. Congress is heading in the wrong direction at a time when we most need its leadership. It desperately needs leaders who will stop drawing lines in the sand, will stand up to party demagogues and will put the national interest first.

    That is Barbara Comstock’s ticket for our endorsement. In her interview with the Times-Mirror editorial board, Comstock moved beyond touting herself as the polished, political operative. Rather, she cited assets and resources in Northern Virginia as solutions that Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservative alike could embrace in non-partisan decisions. Comstock suggested that she could facilitate agreements around these assets from the state’s technology and business communities, as well as its universities.

    Comstock’s support for and focus on jobs and the economy has earned her the support of job creators and business leaders. Legislation she sponsored in the House of Delegates provided tax incentives for data centers and for research and development. Additionally, she sponsored legislation extending the Capital Gains Tax Exemption and the Telework Tax Credit.

    Comstock began her government career as an intern for Sen. Kennedy. She also wrote part of the Republican playbook for President George W. Bush and served as a campaign consultant on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. But it was as an aide to Rep. Frank Wolf that she nurtured a knack for serving constituencies and moving in-and-around Washington’s political circles. Comstock was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2009. She now seeks to succeed Wolf, who is retiring after 34 years in Congress.

    Former Solicitor General Theodore Olson calls Comstock a tireless worker who has “an encyclopedic mind and damn good judgment.” She maintains friendships crossing the political divide. Democratic consultant Donna Brazile said in a 2005 interview, "I've had my [political] battles with Barbara, and won some and lost some. But either way, she has kept her smile and her wit.”

    This is why she deserves the nod over John Foust, her opponent from the Democratic Party who currently serves as a Fairfax County supervisor. Foust is a dedicated public servant, but lacks the legislative experience and familiarity with national issues to address the nation's many problems.

    There are concerns with Comstock's record and her positions on social issues. In the state’s House of Delegates, as well in the campaign arena for the 10th District seat, she has faced party concerns over whether she is “conservative enough.” Her campaign defaulted at times to support issues on the far right. Additionally, candidate Comstock occasionally dodged questions at public meetings.
    Our support of her turns on her ability to lead with a resolve to strengthen the core of our political process by legislating from the middle. Voters should hold her to that goal.

    Bipartisan leadership is required to solve the conundrum of federal spending. Creative fiscal management is required to fix a tax code that is unfair and outdated. Critical issues such as climate change, immigration, energy use, education and health care require reasoned discourse and informed decision-making.

    For that reason, it is important that voters seek out lawmakers who see politics as the art of the possible, not as an exercise in partisan trench warfare. We must elect lawmakers who know how to compromise, rather than those who hold out for some ideological fantasy where their side is always right and the party in power always controls outcomes.

    Mark Warner is one of those lawmakers. He’s one of the few leaders in government who has made serious and sustained efforts at bipartisan solutions to big problems.

    More moderate than a “reflexive liberal,” Warner sided with conservative Republicans to forge a deal that trimmed entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare. In the politically charged debate over Obamacare, his voice is heard above the cynical, political criticism of the Affordable Care Act. Warner believes that it makes more sense to fix a reasonable action rather than return to a system that was unsustainable, unjust and would eventually bankrupt our economy.
    Before he ran for the Senate in 2008, Warner was a highly successful entrepreneur, businessman and governor whose tax overhaul preserved Virginia’s credit rating and shored up funding for public schools – an achievement owing to his ability to cross party lines and attract bipartisan support. As a freshman senator, he has followed the same playbook.

    The freshman senator is an accomplished leader who says he’s learned more by failing than by succeeding. In his endorsement interview, he recalled initial failures in business and in public service – experiences that taught him humility, challenged his ingenuity and strengthened his resolve.
    Warner brings those valuable attributes to the U.S. Senate and deserves re-election to a second term.

    While his opponent, Republican political strategist and lobbyist Ed Gillespie, knows his way around Capitol Hill, he lacks legislative experience and bipartisan support.

    As citizens and as voters of a proud and diverse community, we should never allow ourselves to be defined by just one characteristic, just one position or just one party. That is why we endorse Barbara Comstock, a Republican, for Congress and Mark Warner, a Democrat, for U.S. Senate. In doing so we also extend a challenge to them: fix the broken branch of government by finding common ground in the values that make our democracy strong.

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    Loudoun Business Journal - Summer 2014

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