Donald Trump won’t be on the ballot in Virginia’s 10th District in November, but it might feel like he is.
Two days after Democrats chose state Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton (Loudoun) to challenge Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) in November, the five Democrats she beat and the party faithful descended on a Sterling library in a mini-rally billed as a “Unity Event.”
Despite some awkward embraces and tense laughter, everyone seemed to agree that Comstock, a two-term congresswoman, will be running against Trump as much as Wexton.
Comstock has at times opposed the president, who has particularly low approval ratings in voter-rich Northern Virginia, while mostly voting in line with his agenda.
The runner-up for the Democratic nomination, Alison Friedman, said she noticed something at the polls on Tuesday.
“Every voter who walked up was greeted by . . . Comstock surrogates who said ‘Vice President Mike Pence sent me here today to ask you to vote for Congresswoman Comstock because she has been a stalwart supporter of President Trump and she will continue to be,’ ” she said as an audience of about 75 people groaned.
Yet Comstock won her primary against a little-known, far-right challenger with only about 60 percent of the vote — a sign her disagreements with the president did not go unnoticed by fellow Republicans.
With the primary over, both parties turn to a five-month general-election sprint in a “must-win” district for Democrats hoping to take control of the U.S. House.
Comstock maintains she is running her own race, independent of the president and now GOP Senate nominee Corey A. Stewart, the bombastic Prince William Board of Supervisors chairman who barely beat a surprisingly strong challenge from little-known Del. Nicholas J. “Nick” Freitas (Culpeper) on Tuesday. She repeated the mantra often in her 2016 campaign and won by six points while sharing a ballot with Trump, who lost Virginia to Hillary Clinton.
But Democrats weren’t thinking about that Thursday as they pledged to support Wexton and lend her a hand. They stood in a row with Wexton in the middle. Signs from her campaign hung on the wall behind them.
Infectious-disease scientist Julia Biggins said she could give advice on science policy.
In a nod to his headline-grabbing campaign strategy, Army veteran Dan Helmer said he would help if Wexton ever needed a viral video or the skills of a bad karaoke singer.
Former federal prosecutor Paul Pelletier turned to Wexton and said, “My recommendation is against the viral video” to laughter.
Lindsey Davis Stover came in third but won Clarke and Frederick counties, Manassas City, Manassas Park City and Winchester.
“If there is one thing Donald Trump has given us, he has given us an opportunity to literally be in every single community talking to every single voter,” she said.
Then Wexton turned to each candidate, thanked them individually and repeated some of the highlights from her stump speech and TV ad.
She also chided Comstock for never holding a town hall. During a recent interview, Wexton said if elected, she would hold regular town halls, as she has as a state senator.
“This November we will come together,” she said, “because change is coming!”