Hours before Republican presidential nominee was set to speak in a high-profile campaign rally in Leesburg, area Democrats hosted a counter-protest to denounce Trump and talk up their candidates.
Speaking at the event, Virginia’s 10th congressional candidate LuAnn Bennett tied herself again to the presidential ticket of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, standing before signs that read “Clinton-Kaine-Bennett.” She spent most of her address on her opponent, Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock, and her similarities to Trump.
“If you don’t like Trump’s agenda, you’re not going to like Barbara Comstock,” Bennett said.
While Bennett has engrained herself with the rest of her party’s candidates, Comstock has largely avoided her own, instead running a campaign based on her legislative record in the House of Representative and the Virginia House of Delegates before that, as well as her ability to achieve bipartisan accomplishments.
To counter, the Bennett campaign has made tying Comstock’s politics to Trump the central theme in the race.
In demographically diverse Loudoun County, which makes up the heart of the 10th district, Trump lost to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio 40 percent of the vote to 28 percent in the Republican primary despite winning the Virginia by nearly three percentage points overall.
Comstock endorsed Rubio in the primary and distanced herself from Trump once it became inevitable that he would be the nominee. Comstock did not appear at the Trump rally in Leesburg on Nov. 7 or at an earlier rally Ashburn Aug. 2, or at the rally for Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence in Purcellville Aug. 27.
The first-term representative officially repudiated Trump Oct. 12 following the release of a video tape that showed him making sexually explicit comments, a move Bennett has decried as political pandering.
“Only when it became politically difficult to continue supporting him did she finally walk away. That’s not good enough,” Bennett said. “We need someone who is willing to lead in Northern Virginia. We need someone who isn’t afraid to speak out against racism.”
On the offensive, the Comstock campaign has portrayed Bennett as aloof and removed to the interests of Northern Virginians. Even further, the campaign has accused Bennett of not even living in the district, and insisting she has lived in Washington D.C. for the past 10 years, a claim Bennett has denied.
At the Trump counter rally, House’ Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, spoke out against “dishonest” claims that Bennett doesn’t live in the district, saying he had been to her house.
“Why do they use that kind of advertising? Because they don’t want to compare the issues,” Hoyer said. “They know the people of the 10th district, they know the people of Loudoun County, they know the people of Northern Virginia do not agree with the incumbent’s positions on these issues.” Hoyer is among many high-profile Democrats to campaign with Bennett this fall, including Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and state Attorney General Mark Herring.
Meanwhile, Comstock focused on a frenetic schedule of events and in-person interactions. On Nov. 6 alone, Comstock attended services at Park Valley Church in Ashburn and Korean Central Presbyterian Church in Centerville and appeared at Rajdhani Mandir in Chantilly, as well as a Diwali celebration and the Lotte Market in Ashburn.
The candidates’ different approaches parallel their political positions, with the two opposed on, among other issues, abortion, gun rights, global warming, energy. The contrast sets up a stark contrast for 10th district voters, who have elected a Republican to represent them in every congressional election since 1980.
This dichotomy, plus polls showing a tight race, help explain why this is one of the most watched races in the nation.