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Democrats Considering Female Comstock Challengers

Which Democrat will challenge Comstock? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Virginia Democrats are narrowing in on a handful of female candidates to take on freshman Rep. Barbara Comstock.  

Comstock, already a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee target for 2016, won the open seat to replace GOP Rep. Frank R. Wolf, her former boss, by 16 points in 2014. But given the swing nature of her northern Virginia district and the higher turnout expected in a presidential year, Democrats say if they’re going to take the seat, this is the time.  

The district has split its recent presidential votes, going for Mitt Romney by 1 point in 2012 and for Barack Obama by 3 points in 2008. Just outside Washington, D.C., the 10th District falls into one of the most expensive media markets in the country — one likely to be saturated with TV ads.  

As one northern Virginia Democrat explained, the district is becoming more diverse and likely more Democratic as young people from inside the Beltway move to Loudoun and Fairfax counties to start families.  

The 10th, like all of the state’s districts, could be in for bigger demographic changes in the coming months if the legislature redraws its congressional map. In October, a U.S. District Court tossed out the map , with three judges ruling the legislature had unconstitutionally packed the 3rd District with black residents. Last month, after ruling on a similar case from Alabama, the Supreme Court sent the case back to Virginia, asking the lower court to take another look at its decision.  

Democrats in the state say Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust, whom Comstock handily defeated last cycle, is not interested in running again.  

The name Democratic and Republican sources floated most often was state Sen. Jennifer Wexton, who won a special election to represent the 33rd District in 2014 and is up for re-election this fall. Wexton lives and works as a lawyer in Leesburg, which falls within the 10th District boundaries. When asked if she’s thinking about running against Comstock, Wexton told CQ Roll Call she’s “focused on the 33rd District.”  

Another potential candidate is state Del. Kathleen Murphy, who holds Comstock’s former seat in the state House. Murphy is president of a McLean-based consulting firm and previously served as a senior adviser at the Commerce Department. She worked for former Texas Democratic Rep. Charlie Wilson and was married to former New York Rep. John M. Murphy.  

Murphy told CQ Roll Call “right now” she’s committed to her legislative seat. “I have no plans to run for Congress,” she said in a statement.  

Two Democratic sources identified Cathleen Magennis Wyatt as a potential candidate. She is the president and founder of the nonprofit Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, which raises awareness of American history in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Wyatt previously served as Virginia secretary of commerce and trade under Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.  

Leesburg Mayor Kristen Umstattd was approached by a Democratic activist about running, but told CQ Roll Call she is not interested.  

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