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Congressman’s Ex-Wife Eyeing Challenge to Barbara Comstock

Comstock, seen here at an Independence Day parade in 2014, is still without a Democratic challenger. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Comstock, seen here at an Independence Day parade in 2014, is still without a Democratic challenger. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated Oct. 13 |  No Democrat has entered the race against freshman Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock. But there’s a new recruit whose name may be familiar to Washington.  

National Democrats are talking to businesswoman LuAnn Bennett, who is president of the District of Columbia-based Bennett Group, a real estate management firm. Bennett is also the third ex-wife of former Rep. James P. Moran, who represented Virginia’s 8th District until his retirement in 2015.  

“I know she’s giving it consideration,” Moran told CQ Roll Call on Friday.  

“She would be a phenomenal member of Congress. She’s extremely intelligent and she’s been a successful businesswoman,” Moran said.  

“But as a responsible adult she’s considering it from every perspective — personally, financially, politically. That’s a big decision. Obviously a career and life-changing decision. She’s going about it in a very deliberate fashion, which is what I would expect from her.”  

“She’d be a great candidate,” Moran added. “Problem is, having been married to me, she knows exactly what kind of sacrifice is entailed.”  

Bennett’s ability to raise money, and potentially to tap into her personal coffers, would make her a strong get, a Northern Virginia Democratic source told CQ Roll Call. Moran’s minimum net worth declined significantly after he and Bennett divorced.  

Bennett could not be reached for comment at her D.C. office.  

Comstock may have won her seat by 16 points last fall, but the National Republican Congressional Committee included her in its Patriot Program for vulnerable members this spring.  

At the presidential level, the district has swung between Democrats and Republicans. Mitt Romney carried it by 1 point in 2012 after President Barack Obama carried it by 3 points in 2008. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rates the race Leans Republican .  

So far, Comstock’s proven to be a strong fundraiser. She ended the second quarter with $876,000 in the bank.  

In Congress, she’s bucked her party on proposed cuts to D.C.’s Metro rail system because many federal workers commute to the nation’s capital from her district.  

Speaking to CQ Roll Call in the Speaker’s Lobby on Thursday, Comstock touted her reputation in her district.  

“They know that we’re working hard,” Comstock said of her constituents. “I voted to keep the government open.”  

NRCC polling released earlier this month showed Comstock leading a generic Democrat 49 percent to 36 percent. Forty-five percent of voters viewed Comstock favorably while 29 percent viewed her unfavorably, according to the poll, conducted Sept. 12 through Sept. 16.  

Pending redistricting in Virginia may have slowed Democratic recruitment in the state, said Virginia 10th District Democratic Party Chairwoman Patsy Brown.  

“Usually I say the sooner the better,” Brown said in reference to candidates getting into the race. “But because of the redistricting scenario, which is now with the court, I think a lot of people are waiting and seeing.”  

A three-judge panel in the state is currently weighing proposals to redraw the state’s congressional map after ruling earlier this year that the 3rd District is illegally “packed” with blacks.  

State Del. Kathleen Murphy, who told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday she is not running for the seat this cycle, acknowledged that redistricting may have contributed to some Democrats’ hesitation about the seat.  

“If this congressional district changes and includes other sitting electeds,” Murphy said, the race “would open up to even more people.”  

Legislative elections this fall are likely also delaying members of the General Assembly from announcing bids.  

“Because it’s so close to the election, I do not anticipate any announcement before the election,” Brown said.  

Asked on Oct. 7 if she had definitely ruled out running for the congressional seat, Murphy, who herself is up for re-election, laughed and said, “Well, let’s just say that their focus right now is elsewhere,” in reference to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  

The DCCC declined to comment.  


GOP Poll: Comstock in Good Position for Re-Election

Democrats Considering Female Comstock Challengers

Northern Virginia Republican Bucks Party on Metro Cuts

Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016

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