Real estate executive LuAnn Bennett will run for the House of Representatives in 2016, taking on freshman lawmaker Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) in the exurbs of Washington.
Bennett, a Democrat who has never held political office, said in an interview that her values are more in line with Virginia’s 10th District. Republican Frank R. Wolf held the seat for decades, but the sprawling district has swung back and forth in recent elections and has many independent voters.
“I’m definitely pro-choice,” Bennett said. “I am very much for common-sense gun safety measures like universal background checks and closing the gun-show loophole. I am for transporation and infrastructure upgrades.”
She critized Comstock for opposing major transportation funding legislation when she served in the Virginia House of Delegates and helping block a vote on banning guns for people on the terrorism watch list. Although she acknowledged that in Congress the Republican has defended federal employee pay and funding for the D.C. Metro system against most of her party, she said Comstock’s support for a House majority that repeatedly threatens to shut down the government is more important.
“Because the Republican party has behaved the way they have in leadership, very little gets done,” she said.
At the same time, she argued that she would bring a less partisan attitude to the Capitol.
“When you run a small business . . . you have to work with people you don’t necessarily like,” she said. “I come from a problem-solving background.” Comstock, she said, “comes from a purely political background,” and is “very political in the votes she takes.”
Comstock was a congressional aide, Justice Department official and opposition researcher for the Republican National Committee before entering the Virginia legislature in 2010.
Bennett was married for seven years to former Virginia Democratic congressman James P. Moran, whom she describes as a close friend.
“But this is my campaign,” she added. “It’s a different district . . . I’m a different person.”
Republicans have begun critizing Bennett for living outside the district, in Fauquier County. Bennett says she has moved inside the district, to McLean, where Comstock lives. She has lived in Virginia for 35 years, she said, and in the 10th District for decades.
Bennett also owns an apartment in Washington, where her business is located, and Republicans have mocked her as an interloper from the District. Bennett says she is renting out that property.
She launched her campaign with a web video recalling moving to Great Falls with her husband and starting a small business 35 years ago, then running that company as a single mother after he died of leukemia in 1994.
Comstock won her seat in 2014 by 17 points over Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust (D), whose campaign was hobbled by his claim that she had never held a “real job.” Democrats are hoping that a presidential election will help them unseat her.
But it has taken the party many months to find a candidate willing to take on Comstock, an indefatigable campaigner in a very expensive media market.
“Congresswoman Barbara Comstock has won five elections in five years because she works tirelessly on the top priorities of her constituents and she delivers results,” campaign manager Luisa Guerra said in a statement.
“It’s going to be tough — I know who my opponent is, I know what her background is, I know what attacks are coming,” Bennett said. “Im looking forward to it.”