Voters in Northern Virginia’s 10th Congressional District on Tuesday will choose between two starkly different candidates to represent them in the U.S. House.
Rep. Barbara Comstock (R), who is seeking a third term, faces a strong challenge from Democrat Jennifer Wexton, a state senator and former prosecutor.
Public polls show Democrats in the district are eager to cast a ballot for Wexton as a protest President Trump, while Comstock has worked hard to distinguish herself from the president and emphasize her concern about local issues.
If Wexton prevails, it will mark the first time in nearly 40 years that the seat won’t be held by a Republican. If Comstock prevails, she will have survived a difficult political climate and cemented her reputation as a tireless campaigner and savvy strategist.
Comstock and Wexton are divided on most major policies. Based on TV ads, debate responses and positions on their websites, here’s where they stand on the issues:
Comstock has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Republican tax overhaul, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which she credits with jump-starting a booming economy and creating near-record-low unemployment.
She said she advocated for doubling the child-tax credit, which was included in the bill, and wants to make cuts that benefit individuals and small businesses permanent, the way corporate tax cuts already are.
The law caps the state and local income tax deduction, known as SALT, at $10,000, which Wexton says hurts high-income earners in the district where real estate is expensive.
Comstock’s campaign ran a TV ad that claims Wexton would raise taxes and eliminate the child-tax credit.
Wexton has said she supports the tax credit, but opposes the tax law because it was too favorable to corporations and the wealthy and raises the deficit by $1 trillion a year.
The 10th Congressional District is home to about 35,500 federal workers, a figure that doesn’t include contractors and others whose livelihoods depend on the federal government.
Comstock recently got credit for pushing congressional Republicans to reach a tentative deal that would give federal workers a 1.9 percent pay raise, defying Trump and his call to freeze salaries.
She likes to say she is the only member of Congress from the capital region to never vote for a government shutdown, and she challenged the president when he suggested a shutdown could force a compromise on anti-gang legislation. She also introduced a bill that would give federal workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave.
Wexton countered that Comstock voted to reinstate a procedure, known as the Holman Rule, that allows lawmakers to reduce a federal worker’s salary to $1, although it has not yet been used successfully.
One of the most divisive issues of the campaign, gun control deeply splits the candidates.
The National Rifle Association gives Comstock an A rating, endorsed her and has spent about $137,000 on her behalf since 2014; Wexton has an F from the group.
The congresswoman has said she has addressed school violence by supporting a bill that funds community policing, as well as two NRA-endorsed measures that passed with bipartisan support.
The STOP School Violence Act of 2018 funds school security, and the Fix NICS Act of 2017 encourages agencies to share records with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Neither of the bills directly impact gun sales or purchases.
In the state Senate, Wexton voted for a bipartisan deal that expanded concealed-carry rights for gun owners in exchange for a requirement that some domestic abusers relinquish their guns and the option for background checks at gun shows.
The deal was panned by gun-control groups who objected to the expansion of concealed-carry rights, but Wexton defended her vote by saying the deal presented a historic opportunity to pass limits on guns in a GOP-controlled legislature.
If elected, Wexton has said she would vote for bills that expand mandatory background checks on gun purchases, ban sales of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and allow the government to study gun violence as a public health issue.
The evening before the deadly Oct. 27 shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Comstock and Wexton were asked about hate crimes at a forum at the ADAMS Center mosque in Sterling.
Comstock touted her support for a resolution passed by the House that affirms the nation’s condemnation of hate in all forms. She also noted she reached out the Muslim community after Trump travel ban affecting several majority-Muslim countries.
Wexton, who joined other Democrats from the region at Dulles Airport in January to protest the president’s travel ban, said Comstock’s resolution was “not sufficient.” She said she would support a bill introduced by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) that would improve reporting and expand assistance and resources for victims of hate crimes.
Comstock has said she did not support the House GOP bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act because it did not sufficiently protect people with preexisting conditions.
During a debate sponsored by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce in September, she said she favors “piece by piece change and reform,” wants to “stabilize the insurance marketplace, have consumer-driven plans and make it easier for small businesses to buy insurance.”
Wexton voted to expand Medicaid in the state legislature. She said universal health care should be the goal, but wouldn’t say how she would vote in Congress without first seeing a bill. She derided the GOP tax bill for repealing the individual mandate, which she said would increase premiums across the board.
Both candidates say access to health care is a right, not a privilege.
As the only Republican representing a jurisdiction served by Metro, Comstock has helped ensure the federal government has delivered $150 million in annual funding to the agency.
She also brought attention to the need to reform the troubled system and recently introduced a bill that would provide less-generous pension benefits for future hires and amend a federal law, known as the Wolf Act, to strengthen management’s hand in mandatory binding arbitration of labor contracts.
Democrats, including Wexton, are quick to note that as a state lawmaker, Comstock voted against a 2013 transportation funding plan that helped pay for the Silver Line. Comstock later attended a ribbon-cutting for the line.
The National Republican Congressional Committee has released several ads blaming Wexton for rush-hour tolls up to $47 on Interstate 66. Wexton countered with an ad with footage of the senator calling the tolls “highway robbery.”
Wexton has built her campaign around tying Comstock to Trump — her ads call the congresswoman “Barbara Trumpstock” — and often cites a statistic from the website FiveThirtyEight that shows Comstock has voted 98 percent of the time in line with Trump’s agenda.
Comstock has fought back against the data point, arguing that 82 percent of the votes tracked by the website also garnered support from at least a few Democrats, including bills to curtain federal regulation, address the opioid crisis and expand access to veterans health care.
According to the website, Comstock has voted for bills backed by Trump more than anyone in the Virginia delegation, except for Rep. Scott Taylor (R), with whom she is tied.