Guest Post by Chester Wynn, Barry Vill, Lee Sterling, Sam Nassas, and Mac Lane
Rep. Barbara Comstock has a very different path to winning her primary this time. Never before has she faced the political circumstances she is facing now. This is a race much more difficult than any she has seen.
Comstock and her supporters always say that she is good for her district. They claim that a rock-ribbed conservative who would perform well in Virginia’s 9th Congressional District would not perform well in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District. So her F ratings from all those conservative watchdog groups are ok. Comstock relies on moderate Republicans, right and left leaning independents, Blue Dog Democrats (if any of them still exist), and a few straight-up crossover Democrats, who have joined Republicans to elect her in past General Elections. Let’s look at why that message will not work in this primary.
To begin, the June 12 state-run Republican primary for her district is the same day as the state-run primary for the Democrats. When voters arrive at the polls they will be asked if they want a Republican ballot or a Democrat ballot. They will have to pick only one; voters cannot participate in both the Republican and Democrat state-run primary. For Republicans the conservative field is not split. There is only one other choice for Republican voters; Air Force veteran Shak Hill. There are no write-ins in a primary either. Unlike 2014 when the primary field was crowded, this time it’s either Comstock or Hill.
Now let’s identify the Democrat ballot. The Democrats have six candidates running. That means they have six organized operations reaching out to voters trying to push them to the polls. That’s six operations trying to convince a wide range of potential Democrat primary voters to come out and vote. So in addition to the hard Ds, there are six campaigns talking to left-leaning independents, Blue Dog Democrats, and straight-up crossover Republicans. If successful then that means those voters will not be able to vote for Comstock because they must choose either the Democrat or Republican primary ballot. So there’s a chunk of Comstock’s delicate coalition right there that she won’t be able to rely on this time.
Comstock will then be forced to only attract potential primary voting Republicans, which is made-up of rock-ribbed conservatives, single issue Republicans (which in a primary is usually Pro Life or Pro 2A voters), moderate Republicans, right-leaning independents, and the new batch of Trump populists. Well, Comstock ain’t liked by that crowd. Rock-ribbed conservatives have never warmed to Comstock for a number of reasons, which is probably best summed-up by labeling her voting record as moderate, and as we already discussed, that’s a label her supporters like as they claim that is right for the district. The single issue voters who are coming out for strong convictions on Pro Life or 2A are unlikely to support Comstock over Hill as Hill has campaigned hard on his bona fide Pro Life and 2A credentials. Trump populists won’t support Comstock after she called for Trump to step aside as the Republican nominee late in the 2016 campaign after the Access Hollywood tape was released by
the Clinton campaign NBC. Republicans in the 10th know very well that Comstock did nothing to help elect the president, which contributed to Trump losing the 10th, which helped Clinton win Virginia. So that leaves only votes from moderate Republicans and right-leaning independents, who typically do not vote in large numbers in primaries. That just doesn’t sound like enough votes for her to keep the nomination in a one-on-one contest.
Now let’s look at who else is on the Republican primary ballot; US Senate nomination. There are three candidates running for the Republican nomination for US Senate. They are Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, Delegate Nick Freitas, and Bishop EW Jackson. All three have appealing qualities to conservatives. None of them are moderate. Stewart lost the Republican nomination for governor last year, but he did well in the 10th. Freitas represents Culpeper in the House of Delegates, an area not far from the 10th and therefore not a total unknown like he may be in other parts of the commonwealth. Jackson was the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 2013, who had strong support throughout the 10th. All three candidates are organized and are pushing their voters to the polls. It is unlikely that there will be many Stewart/Comstock votes or Jackson/Comstock votes. There is a better chance of Freitas/Comstock votes, but it is unclear at this point how many of those voters there are. So with conservative senate candidates pushing their voters Comstock will need a lot of under-votes to win (an under-vote is when a voter casts a vote in some races but not all the races on their ballot).
This is also the first election for Comstock after she voted against an amendment that would have stopped the Department of Defense from having to pay for transition surgery for the gender confused. It’s the first election since she voted for “The Rule” which prevented her Republican colleagues from offering an amendment to the last omnibus spending bill to defund Planned Parenthood. This is also the first election since she voted in favor of the omnibus spending nightmare. With a record like that, of course she refused to debate Hill and has resorted to vicious attacks in the final weeks. In 2016 she didn’t address the 10th District convention out of fear that the crowd would have likely booed her. How many sitting congressmen chose not to address their own convention?
This all spells out a very difficult path for Rep. Barbara Comstock. She needs moderate Republicans, right-leaning independents, and some Freitas voters to overcome rock-ribbed conservatives, single issue Republicans, Trump populists, Stewart voters, and Jackson voters in a one-on-one contest that won’t include Democrats with a record that can’t be defended. She may like to tout her undefeated electoral record, but she has never faced a political road map like this one. Shak Hill can win.
Chester Wynn might live in Frederick County, Barry Vill could be from Clarke County, Lee Sterling may reside in Loudoun County, Sam Nassas is possibly from Prince William County, and Mac Lane is obviously from Fairfax County. They might could be 10th District voters.