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Comstock and Bennett spar at Loudoun County debate

Democrat LuAnn Bennett, left, and Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, right. Times-Mirror/Bill Clare
Democrat LuAnn Bennett aggressively attacked Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock's positions and past votes during the first of two 10th Congressional District debates Thursday morning, while the incumbent appeared comfortable and confident with her record in front of an animated, pro-business crowd.

Hosted by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, the debate focused exclusively on economic topics, including health care, transportation, federal budget cuts and the Dulles Airport.

Bennett, as she has done throughout the campaign, pressed to link Comstock to what she termed Donald Trump's divisive agenda. The Democrat claimed the congresswoman stands with the unpopular Republican nominee.

Comstock, however, has not said whether she will or will not endorse Trump, and she's largely steered clear of the issue throughout the campaign. Comstock never mentioned Trump's name during the debate, but she did jab Bennett for the Democrat's support of the Hillary Clinton-Tim Kaine economic plan.

Speaking of her own campaign, Comstock said she has spent her first 21 months in office meeting with business leaders and other constituents across the region.

“You know me,” Comstock told the crowd. “We worked together for years to better our community. I'm the person in this race who has extensive experience and relationships working with you in Loudoun and in the 10th District, passing legislation on your priorities and providing constituent service to everyone in our diverse district.”

Comstock spent five years in the Virginia House of Delegates before her decisive 2014 election. Prior to her time as an elected official, she worked for both the Republican National Committee and her predecessor, long-time Congressman Frank Wolf (R).

Bennett, who is making her first bid for public office, is a real estate developer and former wife of Congressman Jim Moran.

The two women, both grandmothers, offered sharply different views on a range of issues, from the Affordable Care Act and energy policy to unions and immigration.

Bennett said she supports Obamacare, that it has “made health care more affordable and created access,” something that drew opposition laughter from some in the crowd. While praising the law for slowing the nation's rising health care costs, the Democrat said she does supports tweaks to the ACA.

Comstock replied: “Affordable it is not.” She said she wants to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, but keep popular provisions within the bill, namely allowing kids to stay on their parents' plans until age 26 and measures that forbid insurance companies from rejecting customers with pre-existing conditions.

The Republican said the federal government has too many regulations that cost the economy millions in economic activity. She highlighted her endorsement from the National Federation of Independent Businesses as an example of her business acumen.

The candidates disagreed on the issue of union-friendly project labor agreements (PLA) for large-scale federal infrastructure projects. Bennett said she supports PLAs because her belief that they help bring projects in ahead of schedule and under budget.

Comstock opposes PLAs, and she said the Loudoun Board of Supervisors' approval to bring Metro to Ashburn hinged on removing PLAs from the Silver Line project.

On the topic of Metro, Bennett repeatedly criticized the incumbent for opposing Gov. Bob McDonnell's bipartisan transportation funding bill while Comstock was in the House of Delegates. The major piece of legislation included millions in funding for the Silver Line.

On energy and the economy, Bennett said climate change is real and the U.S. needs to transition to newer, cleaner forms energy. Comstock said she supports an all-of-the-above energy policy.

"We do understand that the Earth is warming ... but we can't destroy our economy while we're at it," the congresswoman said.

It wasn't all disagreement at the National Conference Center in Lansdowne, however. Comstock and Bennett found common ground on several issues.

Both oppose indiscriminate, across-the-board federal budget cuts, a practice known as sequestration, and they agreed Dulles Airport needs to protected and propped up by the federal government. Additionally, both Comstock and Bennett favor lowering the nation's corporate tax rate.

Toward the end of the debate, Bennett twice denounced Comstock for going after “base hits,” or taking piecemeal approaches to major challenges facing the nation.

To a question about comprehensive immigration reform, Bennett said she supports the extensive bill that passed the Senate several years ago.

On the immigration reform question, Comstock said she thinks “we need to do this step-by-step.”

“Let's get what we can come together and compromise on today,” Comstock said. “Today we have the votes for H1B visas, today we have the votes for border security.” Taking those votes today, the congresswoman said, will move the economy forward.

With Republicans expected to maintain control of the House of Representatives, Comstock leveraged her party status. She said she will be able to advance her priorities quicker than Bennett – or anyone in the minority party – would.

The candidates will next face each other at the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce Oct. 19.


Check back for additional coverage of Thursday's debate between Congresswoman Barbara Comstock and her Democratic challenger, LuAnn Bennett. In the meantime, you can read their views on major issues by clicking here.


Reaction from campaign spokespeople:

Susan Falconer, campaign manager for Comstock for Congress: “Congresswoman Barbara Comstock showed today that she has kept her promises and delivered results for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District and has a vision for the future. Voters know Barbara because they have seen her out in the community, at their businesses, in their schools, crisscrossing the district every week fighting for them and delivering results. Barbara has worked tirelessly to find solutions to our region’s problems from the 5 year transportation bill to $600 billion in tax relief for families and businesses to landmark heroin legislation and human trafficking legislation.

“Our opponent, who hasn’t lived in the 10th District for over 10 years, is a D.C. Real Estate executive who demonstrated little connection with our businesses or community. She embraced the $1 trillion in tax increases that her party is advocating as well as the burdensome regulatory overreach that is already hurting our businesses. She also stayed committed to devastating defense cuts that she supports and is raising money based on that position. Our opponent bizarrely and inaccurately claimed that health care is more affordable now which generated widespread laughter from the audience.”

Susan Swecker, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia: "During this morning's debate, LuAnn Bennett showed that she will stand up and fight for the people of Virginia's 10th Congressional District, unlike her severely partisan opponent. While Barbara Comstock waffled on her stances on education, immigration, and transportation -- LuAnn Bennett continues to prove that she is the only candidate with the courage to tackle the tough issues that affect working families. LuAnn Bennett will work for affordable education, equal pay, child care, and transportation for residents of Virginia's 10th Congressional District because that's what leaders do. Unlike Barbara Comstock, who dodges questions from the press, refuses to say where she stands on Donald Trump, and continues to value partisan ideals over her constituents."


To the derisive laughter of the businessmen about afordable healthcare: many of Loudoun’s self-employed and young entrepreneurs can show you the reduction in their health insurance bills under Obamacare. Also many of the people who clean your homes, landscape your yard, and clean your buildings. Comstock has taken care never, ever, in so many of visits to her district once she had an opponent, to visit those who have benefited from health care reform. With a previous history of nothing more than oppositional research for the GOP, she has wasted our money (on her salary) by refusing any bipartisan activity that would make government work, and by agreeing that a sitting president’s Supreme Court nominee should not be granted a hearing or voted upon.

Loudoun Dad: It’s pretty obvious that Trump is going to lose this election, thus we need Republicans like Barbara Comstock to at least keep a check on a radical Clinton administration, not a rubber stamp like her opponent.

NeitherleftorRight but upside down, I don’t need to Fox News or the Drudge Report to tell me that the Climate Change narrative is fake. It’s cold and snowy in the winter, there are Tornados in the Midwest in the Spring, it gets hot, sometimes extremely hot, in the summer and there are Hurricanes in the late summer to fall (Hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 1st) You see it’s called ‘Weather’ and it’s been happening for millions of years. There have been droughts,  Tornados, Hurricanes, Blizzards and sunny weather for as long as the earth has existed, an there was even an Ice Age. Weather runs in patterns and it always will.  Do your research and stop listening to Stupid people like Democrats, MSNBC, CNN and in this case, Barbara Comstock and LuAnn Bennett!!

In a Trump administration, I cannot imagine Barbara voting against any Trump inspired legislation, including legislation on reproductive rights, taxes, social programs, healthcare, bankruptcy laws, military interventions, immigration, equal pay, and school funding.  There is a clear nexus, the “Conservative” movement, that is the base at which Barbara and the orange one are both tethered.  However Barbara wants to spin it, she is, through this nexus, tied to Donald.

This is really a race against a democrat and a socialist.  Anyone that has half a brain can clearly see that neither have conservative or libertarian values.  Frankly, I firmly believe I am without any representation.  All I want is for the government to leave me the heck alone.  Build highways, provide a national defense, give us basic services, provide a reasonable safety net, and keep us safe.  Outside of that, leave us alone so we can enjoy our lives, families, friends, and neighbors.  So sick of these politicians dividing the American public and pitting each against the other for the sake of VOTES and enrich themselves through PUBLIC SERVICE!

workinghard, you’re behind on the party line about the climate.  As big oil, coal and other interests now concede, climate change is real.  They just argue over whether it’s caused by human activity.  You’d better watch more Fox news and follow Drudge links till you at least catch up with your team…

Crowd Laughs When Virginia Dem Says ObamaCare Has Made Health Care More Affordable:

luann bennett is the real deal - will not turn her back on educational needs but at today’s debate - comstock refused to say where she stood on education funding; it’s no wonder because

in richmond & washington - comstock voted to cut -

*$620 million in education funding, threatening local property tax increases [HB 30, 2010

*a STEM gateways program for educating girls, underrepresented minorities and low-income students in the science, technology, engineering and math fields at elementary & secondary schools - feb 2015, comstock voted agst HR5 amendment

*funding for Pell Grants - apr 2014 voted for republican budget, s con res 11, to reduce funding

*$800 million from elementary and secondary education act (ESEA); passed on a partisan lines 218-213.  federal education funding will be lower in 2021 than it was in 2012, despite inflation and growing enrollment.

“Voters know Barbara” as partisan hack & “you know me” as phony

LuAnn thinks the “Affordable” Care Act is affordable?  Right there’s reason enough to just say no to LuAnn.

Families have seen premiums triple in price along with deductibles that have in many instances gone from $3,000/yr. to $6,000-8,000/yr.  What’s the use of having health care if you can’t afford to use it?

“they agreed Dulles Airport needs to [be] protected and propped up by the federal government.”


Better yet, what is the plan for the airport to stop losing money and how long will it take to make it profitable?

they both lost me when they both said Climate Change is real. PLEASE!! I’m sick of hearing that. It’s false and Al Gore is lining his pockets along with his cronies. And Obama’s statement about the Syrian Civil War being partly caused by Climate Change? What a joke!! Please shut up about Climate change!! And Don’t give me any liberal science talking points on it too!!

Linking Comstock to Trump: Fail.

Nice try, LuAnn.

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