In one of the nation’s most watched congressional races, first-term Rep. Barbara Comstock (VA-10) bucked Donald Trump early on, withstood a blistering attack on tying her to Trump from her Democrat opponent and easily won re-election to a second term.
“This is just an incredible district to represent,” Comstock told a group of Republican supporters after securing the election. “I am so grateful to continue to work with all of you.”
“We’re all in this together. Increasing our national security, getting our country back to work,” Comstock said. “We’re not going to stand for the zero percent growth rate in Virginia.”
While polls showed a close race, the end result produced a wider margin than either candidate may have expected. Comstock won with 53.37 percent of the vote to 46.24 percent over Democratic challenger LuAnn Bennett. The 10th District, which includes all of Loudoun County, gave the incumbent a second term in large part due a strong showing outside of Loudoun.
Comstock’s ability to distance herself from Trump proved critical. While Trump trailed in Loudoun by 15 points to Hillary Clinton, Comstock came out ahead, though barely. Trump did better in Virginia than many expected, but he still proved unpopular here since finishing third in the Republican primary earlier this year.
Comstock’s strategy, which upset some of her fellow Republicans who stood with Trump, ultimately proved successful.
Two years ago, Comstock won by nearly 16 points in a district that has for years been in Republican control. This cycle, Democrats saw an opportunity to take it back for the first time since 1978, rallying behind Bennett, an area businesswoman running her first political race.
Many polls showed a close race for much of the campaign, with Bennett steadily gaining on the incumbent in the summer and fall. Democrat-affiliated groups poured millions of dollars into advertising to support Bennett. High profile state and national Democrat leaders, including Virginia senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and House minority whip Steny Hoyer campaigned on behalf of Bennett, but it was not enough to turn the race blue.
Comstock distanced herself from the top of her ticket, declining to endorse presidential nominee Donald Trump for months before out-right denouncing him in October following the release of an explicit videotape showing Trump making obscene comments toward women. She instead won support through her fundraising efforts, which nearly tripled Bennett’s, and a frantic schedule of in-person interactions with constituents.
On the trail, Comstock’s pitch to voters was routinely centered on her legislative record and her efforts for bipartisan accomplishments in Congress. Bennett relied on more specific policy points, taking many of the same positions as Clinton in hopes to appeal to the increasing number of demographic groups that tend to vote Democratic in the 10th district, such as minorities and women.
Not surprisingly, the close and contentious nature of the race lead to frequent negative campaigning for each candidate against her opponent. From the early stages of the campaign, Bennett tied Comstock to Trump on policy issues, particularly her opposition to abortion rights, gun regulations and acknowledging global warming. She also accused Comstock of being part of the current congressional gridlock and that she was more so part of the recalcitrant right-wing of the party, not the bipartisan worker she championed herself to be.
Meanwhile, Comstock claimed Bennett wasn’t in touch with Northern Virginia voters and accused her of living in Washington D.C. for most of the past decade.
Comstock wins a second term in the House after five years in the Virginia General Assembly. Including her three wins at the state level, she has now won five consecutive campaigns. She returns to Congress with a weakened majority in the House and the opposing party back in control of the Senate.
With Comstock’s win, the 10th congressional district voted for the Republican nominee for the 19th-consecutive time. Before Comstock’s previous election to the House, Frank Wolf represented the district for 34 years over 17-consecutive terms.
In her concession speech, Bennett expressed gratitude for the opportunity to run, and for the many people who helped out on her campaign.
“To those of you who voted for me, I am very grateful,” Bennett said. “This has been a particularly difficult election for our country, one that has given us two very different visions of our future.”
“Despite tonight’s results I’m confident that the future of America will be a great one,” Bennett said. “But there is much work to be done to re-balance our economy, support working families and, most of all, heal the divide.”