While some House GOP efforts to nominate top-notch female candidates have faltered this cycle, Republicans are poised to gain at least one all-star woman contender after a Saturday primary in Virginia.
Republicans expect state Del. Barbara Comstock to cruise to the nomination in this competitive district, located in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. A seasoned political operative, Comstock is one of a half dozen Republicans seeking to succeed retiring Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., in the 10th District.
Her nomination would boost Republicans, who recently watched two female candidates lose primaries in special elections in Florida. House Republicans have declared they want to increase the number of women in their caucus from the current level of 19.
If she gets through the primary on Saturday, Comstock is also the slight favorite in the general election in November. Republicans — and even some Democrats privately — say the political climate favoring the GOP in this district, which has a modest Republican lean, would give her an advantage this cycle.
Over the last few months, Comstock's primary opponents — including state Del. Bob Marshall and retired naval Officer Howie Lind — have attacked her candidacy. But operatives from both sides of the aisle said Comstock’s organization, financial advantage and long endorsement list make her a near lock for the nomination in Saturday’s “firehouse primary.”
“It’s a hotly contested race, but beating Barbara will be very tough,” said former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va.
A former Wolf aide and political consultant, Comstock raked in $761,000 leading up to the primary, dwarfing the five other candidates — all men — competing for the nomination.
Comstock has picked up support from across the party, including tea party groups such as the Citizen’s United Political Victory Fund, social conservatives like former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Capitol Hill Republicans like House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney .
But her candidacy has not come without some controversy. Tea party groups criticized her for not showing up to their events . And her campaign was forced to defend her vote for President Barack Obama in the 2008 primary in Virginia. Those groups hope that in a low-turnout primary, they can force an upset on Saturday.
Yet Republican operatives in the Old Dominion add that any tea party angst against Comstock’s candidacy will be divided among the other candidates — allowing her to glide to the nomination.
“The fact that she’s been a very strong fundraiser and has campaigned full time since Frank Wolf announced his retirement, the combination of those things puts her in a good position regardless,” said Jeff Ryer, a spokesman for Virginia’s state Senate Republican Caucus. “But multiple challengers puts her in an especially good position.”
In Virginia, the local party within a congressional district can choose the method and time for selecting their party’s nominee in an open-seat race. In the 10th District, Republicans selected a “firehouse primary” on Saturday, where the state party will open 10 polling locations throughout the district for voters from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
If Comstock earns the party nomination on Saturday as expected, she will face Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust in November.
Democrats had planned to hold a convention on Saturday to select their nominee, but canceled it after Foust was the only Democrat to file for a bid.
Virginia’s 10th District is a top-target for Democrats in November. Romney carried it by a slim 1-point margin in 2012.
Virginia’s 10th District is rated Leans Republican by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.