Barbara Comstock makes it official today, announcing her candidacy to replace retiring Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) in the 10th Congressional District. She is a familiar figure in Northern Virginia, as a state legislator, a former aide to Wolf and an adviser to many national Republicans. In her written statement, she stressed, “I am running for Congress because I believe my strong record as a common sense conservative leader is what is needed in Congress. I know how to effectively fight for Northern Virginia’s hard working taxpayers having first learned from Congressman Wolf working in his congressional office.”
She has already gotten backing from former U.S. senator and Virginia governor George Allen and longtime conservative activist Morton Blackwell. She can be expected to have a roster of more high-profile Republican supporters. It will be interesting to see what state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli does. As a tea party favorite with whom Comstock worked closely in the Virginia legislature, his support could preempt any challenge from the right. Former congressman and ex-Democrat Artur Davis tells Right Turn exclusively, “I support her.”
She is positioned well for the race. She ran almost 10 points ahead of the top of the ticket in 2013 in a district that had the highest percentage turnout in the state. Comstock won Terry McAuliffe’s precinct and her own inside-the-Beltway precinct. She is the only declared (or possible) candidate with a fundraising operation in place — and she has been a prodigious fundraiser, taking in $1.4 million for a state delegate race in 2013.
Her “common-sense conservatism” appeal is well-considered. In a party facing a rift between tea partyers and more extreme right wingers, she has support and a solid reputation in both camps. Even representing a more moderate Northern Virginia district, she has remained staunchly pro-life. She earned the respect of many movement conservatives in 1997 when, as chief investigative counsel for the House Oversight Committee, she subpoenaed both Clintons as part of an investigation into alleged fundraising misconduct. That said, she has been a business-friendly and bread-and-butter delegate focusing on transportation, budget and education issues. She was one of the few competent surrogates on the Mitt Romney campaign. Perhaps most important, she projects a telegenic and effective presence in mainstream media.
So far, the only other declared candidate is clownish party crasher Tareq Salahi. State Del. Dick Black, a right-winger who has drawn rebukes for his over-the-top rhetoric, has formed an exploratory committee. David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report tells me it is “possible” a candidate such as Black could win the seat, but it would be difficult.
It is not clear whether the state party will use a primary or convention, but Comstock is the only candidate so far who could win in either setting. Her toughest battle, albeit in what is anticipated to be an excellent GOP year, will come in the general election, when her opponent no doubt will try to tag her as a tea party wacko. That’s been the Democrats’ go-to tactic in Virginia; however what worked against Cuccinelli (who played into the stereotype) may not work with Comstock. Nevertheless, she should put on her battle armor; she will be a high-profile target for Democrats.
UPDATE: According to a source familiar with the decision, former congressional candidate Keith Fimian, who had the ability to self-finance a race, has decided not to run.