INSIDE TRACK: Virginia state Delegate Barbara Comstock spoke at the 2012 Republican convention. Now she’s running for a seat in the House of Representatives.
By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — State Delegate Barbara Comstock, a leading Republican to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, is “an establishment politician” damaging the party’s conservative brand, two of her GOP rivals charge.
“Some of her work for big-money firms is a real concern,” said challenger Rob Wasinger. “Voters have a right to know about this.”
Comstock, a three-term delegate from McLean, formerly lobbied for a Native American gaming enterprise that snared convicted felon Jack Abramoff.
She helped Carnival Cruise Lines land $236 million in federal funds to provide emergency housing in gambling boats after Hurricane Katrina. Congressional investigators found that Carnival, using half-empty vessels, charged four times the allowable rate.
“The Carnival and Indian deals raise real questions whether taxpayers should have to foot the bill,” Wasinger said. “This is precisely what disgusts voters.”
Comstock, who did not respond to Watchdog.org’s request for comment, is contending with a crowded field for the GOP nomination on April 26.
Political prognosticators, including the University of Virginia‘s Larry Sabato, rate Comstock the favorite in the race because of her fund-raising prowess and high-end political connections.
A former Justice Department lawyer, Comstock later helped defend such controversial Republicans as former U.S. Reps. Tom DeLay of Texas and Jerry Lewis of California, as well as ex-Vice President Dick Cheney‘s chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
She also worked with Democrat Dan Glickman to lobby Congress on behalf of Hollywood’s film industry.
“There’s a real difference between this establishment politician and my grassroots campaign,” said Wasinger, who ran for Congress in Kansas in 2010 and was U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback‘s chief of staff from 1996-2008. “I am the conservative alternative.”
Another Comstock rival, state Delegate Bob Marshall, also claims the right side of the mantle.
The Manassas Republican, arguably the most conservative member of the House of Delegates, takes a populist position on fiscal matters.
“It is always the big boys who get the subsidies. Joe’s pizza gets nothing, but the big corporations get ‘seed’ money to come to Virginia. I do not like that,” Marshall told Watchdog.
Marshall goes further on social and constitutional issues.
Comparing Comstock’s voting record, he told the Washington Post: “Nothing on marriage, nothing on protecting the right to life, nothing on the Second Amendment. I’m aggressive on those things.”
Comstock, who calls herself a pro-life Catholic, has taken heat from fellow parishoners other than Marshall.
Deal Hudson decried Comstock’s vote against an amendment last year to strip Virginia’s Obamacare medical exchange of all insurance coverage for abortions.
“As a result, Comstock received a 100 percent rating in 2013 for her vote from NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League,” Hudson said.
By far the largest donor to Comstock’s 2013 re-election campaign was Paul Singer, a prominent gay-rights advocate who gave her $30,000.
Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s “Crystal Ball” at UVa, cautions that Republicans could go bust by putting too much stock in social issues and not enough into the pragmatic business of fundraising.
“The (1oth Congressional) District generically leans a few points to the right of the average district, and so long as Comstock is the nominee she’ll be able to raise a ton of money,” Kondik told Watchdog.
Kenric Ward is chief of Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward
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