Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock was the only Republican among the nine Washington, D.C.-area members who issued a joint statement Wednesday expressing their disappointment with a proposal for deep funding cuts to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority.
Comstock’s position on the issue now puts her at odds with her party’s leadership, but it’s unlikely to hurt the freshman congresswoman in November 2016 in a swing district where the Metro system plays a central transportation role. As a freshman Republican representing northern Virginia, Comstock’s a target of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee , and Democrats are already looking at several female candidates to take her on.
With the eastern tip of the 10th District extending well within the Beltway, it’s home to thousands of federal employees who either battle clogged asphalt arteries to the nation’s capital or ride the Metro. Nearly 40 percent of rush-hour Metro-riders are federal employees, the regional delegation pointed out in their Wednesday statement.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, told CQ Roll Call Wednesday that he’d already heard from Comstock about it.
The Metro can be the butt of jokes and cause missed meetings or even worse . So if there’s one thing lawmakers from D.C. and its surrounding congressional districts don’t want to be blamed for it’s making the system worse.
Transportation issues aren’t a new thorn in Comstock’s side. Representing the 34th District in the Virginia House of Delegates, Comstock opposed former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s 2013 proposal to raise taxes to pay for highway and mass transit improvements. Her position became a campaign issue in her re-election fight against Democrat Kathleen Murphy.
Now that she’s in Congress, Comstock has a much bigger re-election on her mind.
Comstock won the seat held for more than 30 years by her former boss, Republican Frank R. Wolf, by 16 points in 2014. But it’s still considered swing territory after Mitt Romney carried it by 1 point in 2012 and President Barack Obama by 3 points four years earlier. For now, Comstock’s re-election race is rated Leans Republican by the Rothenberg & Gonzalez Political Report/Roll Call.
Much of Virginia’s Republican House delegation lives in fear of being challenged from the right after seeing Rep. Dave Brat depose former Rep. Eric Cantor in a surprising primary upset last year. But Comstock’s swing district sets her apart.
As the Washington Post noted in an April 4 story on the “Dave Brat effect,” Comstock was the only member of Virginia’s GOP House delegation to vote for all three of the recent attempts to fund the Department of Homeland Security.
She’s only been in Congress four months, but so far, her record sets her apart — if only slightly — from the rest of her party. According to CQ’s Vote Watch , Comstock voted with her party 93.5 percent of the time, compared with 97.4 percent of the time for the average Republican in the House. Similarly, her support for the president is several points higher than that of the average Republican.
Still, Comstock is likely to remain among the top targets of Democrats, who are optimistic the expanded turnout of the presidential cycle will aid them in swing districts across the country.
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10 Races to Watch in 2016: Virginia’s 10th District
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