Facing off for the first time Oct. 6, Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock and Democrat challenger LuAnn Bennett showed why the race to represent Virginia’s 10th district in Congress is one of the hottest in the nation.
The candidates debated before an audience of about 200 business and political leaders at The National Conference Center in Lansdowne, and used the hour-long forum to tout their accomplishments and attack each other to the cheers and applause of partisans in the audience.
The debate was sponsored by the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce, Prince William Chamber of Commerce, Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, and Northern Virginia Technology Council. Dulles president Tony Howard served as debate moderator, and questions were asked by a panel of local business leaders.
Though ostensibly tied to business concerns of local Chamber members, the questions ran the gamut from health care to transportation to taxes.
Comstock called for repealing and replacing 2010’s sweeping health care reforms known as Obamacare, while Bennett said the Affordable Care Act needed less drastic fixes.
Bennett reaffirmed her support for comprehensive immigration reform, saying America had traditionally accomplished big things and could do so again. Comstock reaffirmed her position that the nation needed step-by-step immigration reform, beginning with greater security.
The pair squabbled over Metro, with Comstock touting her role working closely with Metro and Bennett arguing it needs more funding from the federal government. She then hit Comstock for her 2013 vote against more transportation funding when she was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, saying she was taken by ideological extremism, a claim Comstock denied.
As she has for months, Bennett linked Comstock with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and accused her of being part of an ineffective Congress. Comstock reiterated her independence from the national ticket, and her position that Bennett has spent most of her career focused on Washington D.C. and out of touch with the issues important to northern Virginia.
Comstock and Bennett also tied themselves to high profile members of their respective parties. Bennett said she supported Hillary Clinton’s economic plans, which Comstock asserted would lead to a $1 trillion tax increase. When Comstock listed her legislative achievements and association with House speaker Paul Ryan, Bennett asked why more major issues hadn’t yet been solved.
The candidates were more aligned on the need for a simpler federal tax code. They also voiced opposition to sequestration, a series of government spending cutbacks that could dramatically harm northern Virginia.
Comstock and Bennett will debate again Oct. 17 in Mclean at a forum hosted by the Northern Virginia [formerly Fairfax] Chamber of Commerce, and have a town hall forum at Sterling’s All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center on Oct. 21.
RELATED: A complete recap of the 2016 race so far