Editor’s note: This is one in a series of pieces on Virginia’s June 12 primaries. WTOP interviewed all candidates in contested local races. See all of WTOP’s primary coverage on our Elections and Politics page.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock is touting her record in Congress ahead of an expected tough challenge in November from one of six Democrats running for the opportunity to take her on. But first, she faces a primary challenge from the right on June 12.
Shak Hill is challenging Comstock for the Republican nomination in the 10th District, which runs from the West Virginia line east through Winchester, Loudoun County and Prince William County, into large parts of Fairfax County, with a tendril stretching inside the Capital Beltway along the Potomac River.
Hill unsuccessfully attempted to become the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Virginia in 2014.
“My primary opponent is a perennial failed candidate that has not been in the arena fighting for cutting our taxes. I’m the only candidate in this race who has cut taxes,” Comstock said.
As a sitting member of Congress, Comstock has a significant fundraising advantage in the primary race, and has a voting record stretching back to her time as a state lawmaker in Richmond.
Hill argued in a separate interview that Comstock is not conservative enough, and has not been vocal enough in her support of President Donald Trump, including on immigration policies.
“Voters are very frustrated with the broken promises of those that are in the swamp that are often referred to as establishment and RINOs (Republicans in Name Only), but more and more look like career politicians,” Hill said.
Comstock said she would continue to reach across the aisle on some issues, but was “thrilled” with the Republican tax cut bill passed last year.
Comstock is also working with the Trump administration on what she described as “MS-13 gang bills.”
“I am pleased that the president has taken that very seriously,” Comstock said.
Two particular bills would send more money to anti-gang law enforcement task forces and would specifically make gang membership something that would bar foreign citizens from getting permission to enter the country.
She also touted her votes to end sequestration, increase spending to address the opioid crisis and shift funding for medical research.
Government spending bills she has voted for fully fund the military, Comstock said.
“I have delivered for this district,” she said, also promising to push for more federal transportation funding to flow to the area.
Hill has opposed government funding bills and other action over concerns that the federal government is overbearing and in too much debt.
“When the federal government gets involved in areas it’s not designed to be, it ends up messing it up entirely,” he said.
He also opposed Comstock’s vote against an amendment that would have barred the Pentagon from paying for gender transition surgeries or hormone therapy for transgender service members.
Hill called it “the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back,” triggering his decision last year to run for the seat.
He also attacked Comstock’s vote against an “Obamacare” repeal bill that later failed in the Senate.
“A fantastically disappointing violation of her campaign promise to us,” Hill said.
Since all three candidates in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate speak clearly of their support for Trump, Hill hopes voters turning out to cast ballots for one of them will vote for him over Comstock.
(Link to Va. Senate piece)
“If you’re going to win a primary, you’ve got to bring out the base,” he said.
The district has been reliably Republican, but has been becoming more of a swing district in recent years. Hill downplayed any concern his message would be too far right for 10th District voters.
“He has not won any elections,” Comstock responded.
Comstock is confident that her experience in Congress and prior time in the General Assembly puts her in a good position for November, especially with unemployment rates down.
She said she has worked closely with businesses in the district, and understands the area as a longtime resident.
Rep. Scott Taylor, of Virginia Beach, is the only other Virginia incumbent member of Congress facing a primary challenge on June 12, from former James City County supervisor Mary Jones.