Democrat John Foust accused Republican Barbara Comstock of being too partisan to represent Northern Virginia, as the two squared off in a debate Wednesday in one of the most expensive and closely-watched House races of 2014.
Mr. Foust said Mrs. Comstock, a delegate in the Virginia House, established an “extraordinary history of partisanship” for her work on the U.S. House committee that investigated President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
“These are not the types of people that are going to go to Washington and solve our problems,” Mr. Foust said. “These are the type of people we have to get out of Washington if we’re going to solve our problems.”
Mrs. Comstock countered that she proved her bipartisan credentials during her time in the Virginia House — a record she said Mr. Foust, a Fairfax County supervisor, can’t match.
The two, who squared off Wednesday in Leesburg in a debate sponsored by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, are vying to succeed Republican Rep. Frank Wolf, who is retiring at the end of this year after having served 17 terms in Congress.
Virginia’s 10th Congressional District covers the northern tip of Virginia ranging from the inner suburbs to the West Virginia line, and Democrats believe Mr. Wolf’s retirement offers them one of their best chances to pick up a GOP-held seat.
Mrs. Comstock said she is “proud” of her investigative work in the controversy that became known as Travelgate, which resulted in a handful of employees in the White House travel office being fired. The former chief of the travel office was indicted on embezzlement charges but exonerated, and five of the fired employees were reinstated.
“I’m proud of that work and it was work that I started doing with Congressman Wolf at his behest,” she said.
She also pointed to work she did in the state General Assembly to boost the tech-heavy region’s data centers and telecommuting as proof of her problem-solving acumen.
“I am the only one here who’s actually passed legislation and gotten bipartisan results,” she said. “We’ve got to get people back to work, and I know how to do that because that’s what I spent a career doing.”
The hourlong debate touched on a range of issues, including jobs, education, taxes, energy and immigration — the last generating one of the debate’s more memorable lines.
Mr. Foust said he supports a broad immigration bill passed by the U.S. Senate last year that would provide an eventual path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. Mrs. Comstock said she favors a step-by-step approach with an emphasis on securing the U.S.-Mexico border.
“FedEx can track packages coming in here all the time — we can track people who are coming into the country, and we can do it right,” she said.
Mr. Foust repeatedly criticized Mrs. Comstock’s vote against a $3.5 billion transportation package passed by the legislature in 2013 that he described as a “game changer” for the traffic-clogged region.
She acknowledged the vote was a “tough call,” but said she opposed it because Northern Virginia was disproportionately affected by the taxes in the bill. She pledged to help fix the region’s transportation problems going forward.
On the politically sensitive issue of Obamacare, Mr. Foust said he would not support a full repeal, arguing that while the law is not perfect, the issue of heath care cannot be returned to the insurance companies.
Mrs. Comstock said “we need to start over” on the law, but said there is a way to preserve some of its benefits — like coverage of pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans — without a wholesale overhaul of the entire system.