State Sen. Jennifer Wexton has called on Rep. Barbara Comstock, the congresswoman she hopes to unseat, to cut ties with a conservative group formed in the early 90s to defend Clarence Thomas against sexual harassment allegations from Anita Hill.
The Independent Women’s Forum’s skepticism of the #MeToo movement and sexual harassment training undercuts Comstock’s support for victims of sexual harassment, according to Wexton (D-Loudoun).
Comstock (R), who is seeking a third term, has emerged recently as one of the loudest voices on Capitol Hill against sexual misconduct in Congress. Comstock has worked to reform the process for handling complaints against members or staff and to require sexual harassment training.
The Forum’s website features articles that argue flawed sexual harassment training is harmful because it reinforces gender stereotypes and the #MeToo movement may unfairly depict all men as potential predators .
Wexton said Comstock should “denounce their repulsive statements.”
“Comstock’s coziness with this backwards group is further proof that she is not to be trusted by the millions of sexual harassment and abuse victims who so clearly need a champion fighting for them — not undermining them — in Congress,” Wexton said this week in a statement.
Comstock countered that Wexton defended Fairfax County Supervisor John W. Foust when in his 2014 race against Comstock, he questioned whether the congresswoman had “ever had a real job.”
Calling the attack “a weak attempt from a consistently underperforming candidate who is running in a crowded field and failing to break through,” Comstock campaign spokesman Jeff Marschner said: “While she apparently thinks she’s the anointed nominee, she is being outraised and eclipsed by other candidates.”
Seven Democrats are currently vying for their party’s nomination and the chance to run against Comstock in November.
Comstock has been linked to the Forum since at least 1998 when she called herself a member of the group and spoke at a Forum-sponsored panel about scandals in the President Bill Clinton administration.
At the time Comstock was chief counsel to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and investigating Clinton campaign contributions. She worked as “a consultant and legal strategist” for the Forum, according to a 2005 Post article, and she attended a Forum event on pay equity last year.
The connections were first noted by Dump Comstock, a group that operates a super PAC working to unseat her.
In addition to Wexton, Lindsey Davis Stover, another Democrat seeking the nomination, and Shak Hill, Comstock’s Republican challenger, have said Comstock is partially to blame for the GOP-controlled House’s failure to act sooner on the secretive and inadequate harassment reporting process.
Last month the House passed measures to make in-person harassment training mandatory, require lawmakers to reimburse taxpayers when they are involved in workplace settlements and — at Comstock’s suggestion — prohibit sexual relationships between lawmakers and their staff.
She denounced Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore after he was accused of initiating sexual contact with a teenage girl when he was in his 30s, and called on sitting members of Congress accused of harassment to resign.
Her northern Virginia district is expected to be among the most competitive mid-term races this year. The primary is June 12.