WASHINGTON — Regardless of the outcome of next month’s presidential contest, the legacy of Donald Trump’s campaign will live on for voters and other Republican candidates who plan to run again in Virginia.
And Republicans in Northern Virginia, where demographic changes and growing communities are tilting the region to favor Democrats, have to be concerned about becoming collateral damage, said Geoffrey Skelley, with the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
“It’s very hard to run very far ahead of your presidential nominee,” Skelley said.
Two GOP officials in the region are taking dramatically different approaches to Trump’s candidacy. Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chair Corey Stewart is doubling down on Trump, even after campaign managers fired Stewart on Monday from his post as chair of the Virginia Trump campaign.
But first-term Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, facing a tight re-election race in the 10th District, is trying to separate herself from the man at the top of her party’s ticket. After Trump’s vulgar comments about women came to light on Friday, Comstock called on him to give up the Republican presidential nomination.
“This is disgusting, vile, and disqualifying,” she said in a statement. “No woman should ever be subjected to this type of obscene behavior and it is unbecoming of anybody seeking high office.”
Comstock, who lives in McLean and previously served in the House of Delegates, represents a sprawling district stretching from the Capital Beltway to the Blue Ridge Mountains. The district has been reliably Republican since her predecessor, Frank Wolf, first won the seat in 1980. But the district includes the fast-growing D.C. suburbs in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties — communities that supported Democrats Terry McAuliffe for governor and Barack Obama for president in the past four years.
Skelley said that most voters should be able to distinguish between Trump and their local lawmakers. But not everyone.
“There still will be a number of low-information voters who may end up casting straight-ticket ballots,” Skelley said, and that could hurt other Republican candidates if Trump falters at the polls.
Democrats are hoping to sweep Comstock out of office on the tails of a Hillary Clinton win. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is devoting a lot of money and other resources to Comstock’s opponent, LuAnn Bennett.
Should Comstock win, however, she might not leave campaign mode: A Clinton victory would create a Virginia vacancy in the U.S. Senate, as Tim Kaine would become vice president.
Skelley said Comstock’s move to denounce Trump now could help her both this election year and if she runs in a possible special Senate election next year.
Read Comstock’s statement on Trump’s comments: