Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) has relied on a vast network of Republicans from a lifetime in GOP politics to help her raise more money overall than Democratic challenger Jennifer Wexton in their hotly contested Northern Virginia race.
From Vice President Pence to 2012 Republican presidential nominee and current Senate candidate Mitt Romney to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), Comstock’s campaign has benefitted from national starpower.
Pence also plans to campaign this weekend in Richmond for two congressional candidates in close races — Rep. Dave Brat and Republican Denver Riggleman — as well as Ryan McAdams, a Republican minister running in a safe Democratic district.
Comstock’s Northern Virginia district is one of the most competitive in the nation and one that Democrats say they need to win to take back control of the House. Hillary Clinton carried the district in the 2016 presidential race.
Wexton, a state senator, has collected endorsements from Clinton, former president Barack Obama and former vice president Joe Biden.
Although four public polls show that Comstock is behind, her supporters say the data does not take into account the two-term congresswoman’s knowledge and connection to the district, where she has lived for more than three decades.
“It is an uphill battle, but I think she will win because she is in reality the hardest-working person I have ever known,” said Bobbie Kilberg, a donor and veteran of three GOP presidential administrations. “She is totally in tune with and responsive to the district, and that will overcome the unpopularity of President Trump.”
Kilberg, who heads the Northern Virginia Technology Council, last week hosted a fundraiser for Comstock at her McLean home that brought in nearly $350,000.
Ryan, who has known Comstock since their days as Capitol Hill staffers, attended the fundraiser instead of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s ceremonial swearing-in at the White House, stayed for 2½ hours and left directly from there for Afghanistan, Kilberg wrote in an email.
Other bold-faced names in the room included Wes Bush, the CEO of Northrop Grumman, and his wife, Natalie; Jim Nicholson, a former ambassador to the Vatican and former secretary of Veterans Affairs, and his wife, Suzanne; as well as Ken and Alice Starr, she said.
“It’s a who’s who of the conservative movement in Washington,” former Virginia GOP chairman John Whitbeck said of Comstock’s donor list. “It’s not surprising in the slightest.”
Romney’s campaign for U.S. Senate in Utah donated $2,000 to Comstock’s campaign, as first reported by Politico and confirmed by federal campaign finance reports.
Comstock was a policy adviser to his 2008 presidential race and a co-chair of his 2012 race. Romney won Virginia’s 10th Congressional District that year by one percentage point over Obama, who had carried the district four years earlier.
Beth Meyers and Matt Rhoades, the managers of Romney’s two presidential campaigns, last week sent alumni of those races a letter asking them to donate their time or money to Comstock, whom they called an “early ally.”
“Barbara is committed to doing everything in her power to win re-election, and we hope that we can bring the full force of the Romney/Ryan alumni network to help her,” they said.
The note included a link to a Roll Call story about an internal Comstock poll showing that the race is close and ended with the message: “We need more people like Barbara in our party.”
David N. Bossie, a longtime friend who is president of the conservative nonprofit Citizens United and served as a senior aide to the Trump campaign, said plans are in the works for Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) to visit Virginia on Comstock’s behalf.
Eugene Scalia, the eldest of the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s nine children, and Sheila Johnson, the entrepreneur and co-founder of BET, are also donors, he noted.
“The congresswoman is up against a very tough district,” Bossie said. “To be honest with you, she hasn’t seen eye to eye with the administration, nor any administration for that matter.”
In Congress, she voted against Trump-backed legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and opposes government shutdowns and pay freezes for federal workers. But from January 2017 through the end of July 2018, Comstock voted with the president’s agenda 98 percent of the time, according to the website FiveThirtyEight.
She remains close to Pence, and, during the 2016 campaign when the “Access Hollywood” video was released, she said that he would make a better nominee than Trump.
Pence raised money for her at the Willard InterContinental hotel in downtown Washington this month and tweeted a photo from the fundraiser.
“Proud to support @BarbaraComstock - who helped pass the largest tax cuts & reform in American history & the biggest pay raise for our troops since the days of Ronald Reagan. @BarbaraComstock is the kind of leader Northern Virginia needs!” he wrote.
Comstock’s campaign did not return a message seeking comment.
In the last quarter, which ended Sept. 30, Wexton raised $2.6 million, about twice Comstock’s total. But throughout the campaign, Comstock has outraised Wexton by about $500,000 to amass a war chest of $5.1 million.
Outside groups are pouring millions of dollars in TV ads into the district, which includes all of Loudoun County, parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties, Manassas, Manassas Park, Clarke and Frederick counties, and Winchester.