Politics

Wexton Wins Democratic Nod to Take On Comstock in Virginia’s 10th

Democrat Abigail Spanberger will face off against Rep. Brat in 7th District

 Virginia Democrat Jennifer Wexton, flanked by Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, left, and Sen. Tim Kaine, speaks at her 10th District primary night party at O'Faolin’s Irish Pub in Sterling, Va., on Tuesday. She will next face Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The fall matchup in one of this year’s most competitive House races is now set with state Sen. Jennifer Wexton clinching the Democratic nomination in Virginia’s 10th District on Tuesday night.

Wexton will face Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock, who’s running for a third term in a Toss-up race.

With 64 percent of precincts reporting, she led a six-way Democratic primary field with 44 percent of the vote when The Associated Press called the race.

As the only elected official running in the primary, Wexton started with a name recognition advantage since she already represents part of the 10th District. She ran with the backing of Gov. Ralph S. Northam and local elected officials, and had the endorsement of The Washington Post, an influential voice in the well-educated affluent district in the D.C. suburbs.

Wexton defeated four other women Tuesday, including former State Department official Alison Friedman, who nearly doubled the winner in spending. (Friedman had loaned her campaign $1 million as of the pre-primary reporting period.) Coming in fourth was Army veteran Dan Helmer, who attracted media attention for his offbeat ads, including one that compared President Donald Trump to Osama bin Laden.

The AP actually called the Democratic primary before the Republican contest. Comstock was leading retired Air Force pilot Shak Hill 60 percent to 41 percent when the race was called. Hill hadn’t raised anywhere near the kind of money she had amassed, but the sophomore Republican had not taken her primary the threat lightly. She spent $596,000 during the pre-primary period (more than she raised) and her campaign set up a website and ran radio ads against Hill. Vice President Mike Pence recorded a phone message for Comstock, according to The Washington Post.

Comstock will likely find herself having to distance herself from the president in the general election in a district that Hillary Clinton carried by 10 points in 2016. She was No. 2 on Roll Call’s list of the 10 most vulnerable House incumbents last month.

A strong campaigner, Comstock overperformed Trump in 2016. Democrats know it won’t be enough to tie her to the president. She’s clashed with Trump (on camera) earlier this year when she told him, “We don’t need a government shutdown.”

Comstock has broken with her party on some votes that would have hurt federal workers in her district. She also voted against the House-passed GOP health care overhaul last year (although Democrats will still tie her to GOP efforts to repeal the 2010 law). But on other issues, such as the GOP tax bill, she’s stuck with leadership. That could be a vulnerability in an affluent district where many voters claim state and local tax deductions, that the tax law limited.

Many of the Democrats, including Wexton, made gun control a focus of their primary messaging, and the party expects that to be a big attack on Comstock, who has touted her “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.

Having faced a less competitive primary, the incumbent starts with a hefty cash advantage. Comstock ended the pre-primary reporting period with $1.7 million compared to Wexton’s $684,000.

7th District

Retired CIA officer Abigail Spanberger won the Democratic nomination Tuesday night to take on GOP Rep. Dave Brat in Virginia’s 7th District.

With 98 percent of percincts reporting, she led Marine veteran Dan Ward 73 percent to 28 percent when the AP called the race.

Spanberger tapped into the grass-roots energy that mobilized the area during last year’s state elections and ran with the backing of EMILY’s List. VoteVets and organized labor supported Ward.

Republicans have sounded the alarm about Brat, who they fear isn’t taking his re-election seriously enough. A member of the hardline-conservative House Freedom Caucus, he came to Congress in 2014 after unseating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a surprise and is now running for a third term.  

Brat ended the pre-primary reporting period with $700,000 in the bank to Spanberger’s $164,000.

Trump carried the 7th District by 7 points in 2016. Inside Elections rates the general election Leans Republican.

2nd District

Navy veteran Elaine Luria easily won the Democratic nod in the 2nd District on Tuesday night to take on freshman GOP Rep. Scott Taylor.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Luria led with 62 percent of the vote when the AP called the race.

Democrats are targeting this district, which Trump carried by 3 points in 2016. Inside Elections rates the general election Likely Republican.

Taylor starts with a financial advantage. He finished the pre-primary reporting period with $898,000 compared to Luria’s $227,000. EMILY’s List, VoteVets and End Citizens United have all endorsed Luria, so she could get outside help in the general election.

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