Comstock, Wexton face off in debate in key House race

LEESBURG, Va. (AP) — Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock defended her ability to get results working with the Trump administration in the first and perhaps only debate that will be held in a key congressional race in Virginia.

Comstock’s challenger, Democrat Jennifer Wexton, attacked Comstock as a “masterful political chameleon” who paints herself as a bipartisan problem solver but won’t stand up for constituents against President Donald Trump’s excesses.

“I truly fear how much damage can be done to our country in the next two years by this president and the Congress that enables him,” Wexton said in her opening remarks.

Comstock is a two-term incumbent in Virginia’s 10th congressional district. Wexton, her challenger, is a state senator and former prosecutor.

The district includes parts of the northern Virginia suburbs, from wealthy precincts in McLean inside the Capital Beltway out to Loudoun County and Winchester.

Although Comstock is the incumbent and has raised more money, most political analysts rate Wexton as a slight favorite. The district supported Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 and is considered one of Democrats’ best opportunities to pick up a House seat this year.

Friday’s debate, sponsored by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, produced few noteworthy exchanges. In large part, the candidates — perhaps Wexton more so than Comstock — relied heavily on prepared briefs and in some cases simply read written remarks in response to easily anticipated questions from the business community about taxes, transportation and labor law. No questions were asked about gun control, though Wexton has made Comstock’s support from the National Rifle Administration a key issue in her campaign.

Comstock cited a strong economy and tax cuts as successes that deserve recognition.

“This election is about results versus the resistance,” Comstock said. “These are results to celebrate and embrace.”

Wexton said she opposes the tax cuts because they disproportionately benefit the very wealthy and produce massive deficits. She linked the tax cuts to the Trump administration’s recent announcement that it plans to impose a pay freeze on federal workers, which is deeply unpopular in a district with a high percentage of federal workers.

“Part Two of the Trump-Comstock plan is to pay for the tax cuts on the backs of federal workers,” Wexton said.

Comstock said she too opposes the federal pay freeze and said she has been lobbying the White House and working with congressional colleagues to make sure the raises go through. She said she appreciates a statement from President Trump that he’s reconsidering the freeze.

Comstock also defended the Trump administration’s rhetoric on trade and tariffs, even though she said she is a free-trader. She characterized the president’s threats on tariffs as a “short-term negotiating posture.”

“The ultimate goal is to get better trade deals,” she said.

Wexton criticized the tariffs, saying they hurt the district from apple farmers in Winchester to craft whiskey distillers in Loudoun County.

“Congress has an opportunity to stand up to this president and they haven’t done so,” Wexton said.

As of now, at least, no other debates are scheduled between the two.

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