- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

LEESBURG, Va. (AP) - Republican Barbara Comstock sought in a congressional debate with Democrat John Foust to portray herself as the natural successor to popular, retiring incumbent Frank Wolf, invoking Wolf’s name more than a dozen times in an hour-long debate Wednesday.

Foust, meanwhile, sought to portray Comstock as a hyper-partisan Beltway warrior who will perpetuate congressional gridlock.

Wednesday’s somewhat testy debate, sponsored by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, highlighted clear differences in the candidates’ philosophies. Comstock said she would work to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare; Foust said he wants to keep it.

Comstock described the National Labor Relations Board and Environmental Protection Agency as federal departments “out of control” in their support of labor unions and environmental regulations, respectively. Foust said he believes the NLRB fulfills an important duty and that he supports efforts to regulate greenhouse gases.

More than anything, though, Comstock sought to remind the crowd of more than 200 of her ties to Wolf, the retiring Republican who was first elected to the House in 1980 and has rarely faced serious opposition since, even in a district that at times has supported Democratic candidates. Wolf has endorsed Comstock.

She mentioned Wolf’s name at least 13 times, and talked about her work as a Wolf staffer.

“I can hit the ground on day one … to be able to continue the tradition of my mentor, Congressman Frank Wolf,” Comstock said.

Foust, though, reminded the crowd of some of Comstock’s other Capitol Hill work, saying she made her name in Republican circles in the 1990s as a House committee investigator who specialized in digging up opposition research on Bill and Hillary Clinton.

“Delegate Comstock has a history of extraordinary partisanship,” Foust said. “That partisanship is a problem in Washington … These are the type of people we have to get out of Washington,” Foust said.

Asked after the debate about Comstock’s association with Wolf, Foust said, “I like Frank Wolf also. Barbara Comstock is no Frank Wolf.”

Comstock, for her part, refused to answer reporters’ questions after the debate.

Throughout the debate, Foust highlighted his work with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to maintain a balanced budget through a recession. Comstock countered that Fairfax County balanced its budgets by raising property taxes and other taxes.

The campaign has been one of the most closely watched House races in the nation, and is also expected to be one of the most expensive as it plays out in the Washington media market - the 10th District includes wealthy inside-the-Beltway neighborhoods in McLean, and stretches west into the Loudoun suburbs and beyond, out to the rural Shenandoah Valley.

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