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Comstock, Foust continue main themes at Herndon forum

The two candidates vying to replace 34-year Congressman Frank Wolf took the stage together for the first time at a Herndon forum Wednesday, where the House hopefuls – Republican Barbara Comstock and Democrat John Foust – exchanged views on transportation, the tech industry, women's health and the Obama administration.

The 10th Congressional District forum was mostly free of fireworks, with Comstock and Foust sticking to key themes of their respective campaigns.

Sponsored by the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, the Prince William Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the event was meant to focus exclusively on business topics, opening the door for Comstock to highlight her anti-Project Labor Agreement and data center tax credit bills.

“I am the candidate in the race who has always made job innovation and a healthy economy my top priority,” Comstock said.

Foust, meanwhile, spent a significant portion of the 80-minute debate underscoring Comstock's views on women's health care, saying they would be a detriment to a thriving economy.

“Barbara Comstock has been obsessed with women's reproductive rights,” Foust said. “She wants to overturn Roe vs. Wade. She voted for the personhood legislation which would outlaw many forms of birth control. She even voted to require mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasounds before a woman can terminate a pregnancy.”

Pointing out Comstock's views on social issues has been a consistent strategy for the Foust campaign, as it has worked to paint the GOP candidate as a right-wing ideologue who wouldn't be willing to compromise in Washington.

Foust talked about Comstock's vote opposing the 2013 bipartisan transportation reform bill as an example of her hard-line views. The bill, which raised a string of fees and taxes, was supported by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and many of Comstock's GOP colleagues in the House.

A former aide to Congressman Wolf and long-time GOP strategist, Comstock flaunted her conservative stripes on the stage, repeatedly railing against the president and the “Obama economy.” She said the national employment level is at its lowest since the 1970s and that over-regulation is limiting job growth.

Somewhat surprisingly, the long-stalled Keystone Pipeline energy project, which has been endorsed by officials from both parties, was a prominent issue during the debate. Comstock said Keystone is a shovel-ready project that could create 20,000 jobs and accused her opponent of opposing the oil line.

But Foust denied he has ever flat-out opposed Keystone. He said he would like to see the economic benefits come to fruition, but he first needs to make sure the project doesn't harm the environment.

Comstock said she supports an “all of the above” energy plan, adding the Keystone Pipeline is “the Virginia way and the American way.”

Comstock's campaign followed the debate by boasting big business endorsements from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National and Virginia Realtors Associations, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Association of Builders and Contractors.

Foust has earned support from the Human Rights Campaign, the International Association of Firefighters and leading union groups.

Virginia's sprawling 10th Congressional District, which spans from portions of Fairfax County through Loudoun County, Manassas, Manassas Park and out past Winchester, is ranked “leans Republican” by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call analysis.

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