For Va. Democrats: Four ques­tions

Learn more about the six hop­ing to end GOP con­trol of 10th Dis­trict

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY JENNA PORTNOY

Vir­gini­ans will go to the polls Tues­day to choose among six Democrats vy­ing to chal­lenge Rep. Bar­bara Com­stock (R) in a race that could help de­ter­mine which party takes con­trol of the House next year.

The sprawl­ing 10th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict in­cludes parts of Fair­fax and Prince Wil­liam coun­ties and Loudoun County, where most Demo­cratic vot­ers in the dis­trict live, as well as Clarke and Frederick coun­ties, which are less pop­u­lous but more con­ser­va­tive.

Be­tween Com­stock, who is seek­ing a third term, and her pre­de­ces­sor, Frank Wolf, the dis­trict has been in Repub­li­can hands for al­most 40 years.

But over the course of that pe­riod, the dis­trict has trans­formed from a re­li­ably con­ser­va­tive GOP strong­hold to the only swing dis­trict in the Wash­ing­ton re­gion. Prox­im­ity to the na­tion’s cap­i­tal means Wash­ing­ton pol­i­tics have an out­size in­flu­ence on lo­cal elec­tions, and as much as they are run­ning against one an­other, the Democrats are also run­ning against Pres­i­dent Trump.

Hil­lary Clin­ton won the 10th Dis­trict by 10 points in 2016, and it is one of the key GOP-held dis­tricts that Democrats are tar­get­ing as they try to flip 23 seats to win the House ma­jor­ity. But Com­stock beat her Demo­cratic op­po­nent by six points that year.

She has se­lec­tively sep­a­rated her­self from the pres­i­dent, and de­spite main­tain­ing deep rela-

tion­ships at the high­est lev­els of GOP pol­i­tics, she has cam­paigned on lo­cal is­sues such as trans­porta­tion, the MS-13 gang and the opi­oid cri­sis.

Al­though Democrats have touched on those top­ics, they have fo­cused on gun vi­o­lence, health care, im­mi­gra­tion and cli­mate change — is­sues that res­onate with vot­ers politi­cized by Trump’s vic­tory.

Lib­eral ac­tivist and Indivisible move­ment groups were formed after Trump’s elec­tion, and mem­bers have protested out­side Com­stock’s dis­trict of­fices, called in­ces­santly and promised to de­prive her of a third term.

That ac­tivism helped to turn out his­toric num­bers of vot­ers for the Vir­ginia gov­er­nor’s race in 2017.

Democrats hope their vot­ers re­main en­gaged enough to cast bal­lots in a crowded pri­mary in which only three of six can­di­dates were air­ing TV ads two weeks be­fore the elec­tion.

The Wash­ing­ton Post asked the can­di­dates to re­spond to four ques­tions. An­swers from the can­di­dates, in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der by last name, ap­pear be­low.

Ju­lia Big­gins

Age: 41. Res­i­dence: Prince Wil­liam County. Ed­u­ca­tion: Univer­sity of Illi­nois (BS in mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy); Bay­lor Col­lege of Medicine (PhD in molec­u­lar vi­rol­ogy). Oc­cu­pa­tion: In­fec­tious dis­ease sci­en­tist.

Q: What is the big­gest prob­lem fac­ing Vir­ginia’s 10th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, and what would you do to solve it?

A: Trans­porta­tion. Along with a per­ma­nent fund­ing mech­a­nism for Metro, we need to ex­pand Vir­ginia Rail­way Ex­press to places like Winch­ester and Ber­ryville and in­vest in light rail to fill cov­er­age gaps in North­ern Vir­ginia. Trans­porta­tion will con­nect economies, cre­ate jobs and pro­tect our en­vi­ron­ment by re­duc­ing our car­bon foot­print.

Q: What makes you most qual­i­fied to rep­re­sent the 10th Dis­trict?

A: Along with be­ing a sci­en­tist who un­der­stands the hard facts of the chal­lenges that face us, I’m a res­i­dent of Prince Wil­liam County who comes from out­side the po­lit­i­cal main­stream. As a work­ing mother of four, I have shared ex­pe­ri­ence, and what I’m fight­ing for af­fects me just as it does ev­ery­day vot­ers.

Q: If elected, what will be your great­est chal­lenge? A: Chang­ing the cul­ture of Wash­ing­ton. I hope to join many other sci­en­tists tak­ing a seat in Congress in 2019; how­ever, I know that it will be vi­tal to the suc­cess of our coun­try to work to in­flu­ence mem­bers of both par­ties to fol­low data in­stead of rhetoric and to find ev­i­dence­based so­lu­tions.

Q: Tell us some­thing about your­self that would sur­prise peo­ple. A: I have a tat­too of a sham­rock on my an­kle. I got it when I was 18. #NoRe­grets.

Ali­son Fried­man

Age: 39. Res­i­dence: McLean. Ed­u­ca­tion: Stan­ford Univer­sity (BA); Oxford Univer­sity (MBA). Oc­cu­pa­tion: For­mer se­nior State De­part­ment of­fi­cial in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Q: What is the big­gest prob­lem fac­ing Vir­ginia’s 10th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, and what would you do to solve it?

A: Con­gress­woman Com­stock is more re­spon­sive to en­trenched spe­cial in­ter­ests than her constituents. This im­pacts ev­ery facet of life for fam­i­lies: smart in­fras­truc­ture in­vest­ments, pro­tect­ing health care from par­ti­san at­tacks, ad­dress­ing in­come in­equal­ity and get­ting se­ri­ous about com­mon-sense gun safety. Im­prov­ing peo­ple’s lives be­gins with chang­ing our con­gress­woman.

Q: What makes you most qual­i­fied to rep­re­sent the 10th Dis­trict?

A: I’ve spent my ca­reer stand­ing up to abuses of power, tak­ing on big chal­lenges and get­ting re­sults. This is my home, and I’m pre­pared to fight for the fam­i­lies in this com­mu­nity. We’ll never see the change we need with the same old po­lit­i­cal approaches. I’m of­fer­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent.

Q: If elected, what will be your great­est chal­lenge? A: Break­ing through pol­i­tics as usual and the money from spe­cial in­ter­ests that pre­vents us from im­pact­ing real change. I’m a prob­lem-solver who loves the in­ter­sec­tion of pol­icy, pol­i­tics and the pos­si­ble. Rank par­ti­san­ship and spe­cial-in­ter­est money stand in the way of all three of those things.

Q: Tell us some­thing about your­self that would sur­prise peo­ple. A: Once upon a time I was flu­ent in sign lan­guage. To­day, I prob­a­bly couldn’t stand up to Repub­li­can at­tacks on health care in ASL, but I can still sign my fa­vorite Back­street Boys song (it’s “I Want It That Way”).

Dan Helmer

Age: 36. Res­i­dence: Fair­fax. Ed­u­ca­tion: U.S. Mil­i­tary Academy (BS in mil­i­tary his­tory); Oxford Univer­sity (Rhodes Scholar), in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions (MPhil). Oc­cu­pa­tion: Army re­servist.

Q: What is the big­gest prob­lem fac­ing Vir­ginia’s 10th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, and what would you do to solve it?

A: The pos­si­bil­ity that, at any mo­ment, a mass shoot­ing could oc­cur in one of our schools. My wife is a pub­lic school teacher and I have two kids in pub­lic school, so I worry about this daily. I’ll fight for uni­ver­sal back­ground checks and other com­mon-sense gun-safety mea­sures.

Q: What makes you most qual­i­fied to rep­re­sent the 10th Dis­trict?

A: I have a record of ser­vice to our coun­try — when it came down to it, I was willing to risk my life to de­fend us. I’ve also seen first­hand in war the con­se­quences of cow­ardice in Wash­ing­ton. I will al­ways put peo­ple be­fore pol­i­tics and will stand up to Trump.

Q: If elected, what will be your great­est chal­lenge?

A: The cul­ture of cor­rup­tion in Wash­ing­ton, where elected of­fi­cials are ac­count­able to spe­cial in­ter­ests that fund their elec­tions in­stead of to vot­ers, and ex­treme par­ti­san­ship, which cor­rodes our abil­ity to work to­gether to get things done. We need to change how we fi­nance elec­tions and start talk­ing to each other.

Q: Tell us some­thing about your­self that would sur­prise peo­ple. A: I can read He­brew, Ara­bic and Korean! Though all are get­ting rusty.

Paul Pel­letier

Age: 61. Res­i­dence: McLean. Ed­u­ca­tion: Prov­i­dence Col­lege (BS in eco­nomics); New Eng­land School of Law (JD). Oc­cu­pa­tion: At­tor­ney.

Q: What is the big­gest prob­lem fac­ing Vir­ginia’s 10th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, and what would you do to solve it? A: Through knock­ing on doors across VA-10, I’ve learned that the num­ber one is­sue peo­ple raise is that they have lost con­fi­dence in both govern­ment and es­tab­lish­ment pol­i­tics. I want to use my three-decade pub­lic ser­vice ca­reer as a prag­matic prob­lem-solver to help end this era of bro­ken govern­ment.

Q: What makes you most qual­i­fied to rep­re­sent the 10th Dis­trict? A: To de­feat Bar­bara Com­stock in Novem­ber, Democrats must elect the can­di­date who will be sup­ported by both in­de­pen­dent and moder­ate vot­ers. My back­ground as an ex-fed­eral prose­cu­tor who has shown courage in tak­ing on health-care fraud, tak­ing guns off the street and hold­ing pow­er­ful peo­ple ac­count­able is what VA-10 needs.

Q: If elected, what will be your great­est chal­lenge? A: De­fang­ing the cor­rupt NRA will be my great­est chal­lenge when I am elected to Congress. Nev­er­the­less, as a fed­eral prose­cu­tor I have taken on even more chal­leng­ing cor­rupt or­ga­ni­za­tions. I am com­mit­ted to ex­pos­ing the power of the Rus­sian “dark money” that the NRA fun­neled to elect Pres­i­dent Trump.

Q: Tell us some­thing about your­self that would sur­prise peo­ple. A: While grow­ing up in a fam­ily of 11 kids in a small Mas­sachusetts town near Rhode Island, I be­came friends with Peter Far­relly of the Far­relly broth­ers, and I have had small roles in some of their movies, in­clud­ing “There’s Some­thing About Mary,” “King­pin” and “Me, My­self & Irene.”

Lind­sey Davis Stover

Age: 40. Res­i­dence: McLean. Ed­u­ca­tion: Bay­lor Univer­sity (BA and MA in pub­lic pol­icy); Har­vard Univer­sity (MA in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion). Oc­cu­pa­tion: Small-busi­ness owner.

Q: What is the big­gest prob­lem fac­ing Vir­ginia’s 10th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, and what would you do to solve it? A: I be­lieve that ac­cess to qual­ity and af­ford­able health care is the big­gest prob­lem fac­ing our dis­trict. In Congress, I would first and fore­most de­fend the Af­ford­able Care Act from par­ti­san at­tacks, and re­peal parts of the GOP tax bill, which en­dan­gers health care for over 13 mil­lion Amer­i­cans.

Q: What makes you most qual­i­fied to rep­re­sent the 10th Dis­trict? A: I am the only can­di­date in this race with ex­ten­sive fed­eral leg­isla­tive ex­pe­ri­ence — over 12 years. I was a chief of staff on Capitol Hill and a se­nior ad­viser in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. At a time when we need a strong Congress, I can hit the ground run­ning im­me­di­ately.

Q: If elected, what will be your great­est chal­lenge? A: My great­est chal­lenge will be pass­ing mean­ing­ful leg­is­la­tion in a po­lar­ized Congress. On Capitol Hill, I reg­u­larly worked across the aisle with Repub­li­cans on im­por­tant bills for work­ing fam­i­lies, women and veter­ans. We found com­mon ground and mu­tual goals, which are des­per­ately needed in Wash­ing­ton right now.

Q: Tell us some­thing about your­self that would sur­prise peo­ple. A: Just a few years back, I had two grad­u­ate de­grees and was a se­nior ad­viser in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, De­part­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs. But my hus­band and I were sad­dled with enor­mous stu­dent debt, so we col­lected spare change to take to Coin­star and paid for baby for­mula that way.

Jen­nifer T. Wex­ton

Age: 50. Res­i­dence: Lees­burg. Ed­u­ca­tion: Univer­sity of Mary­land (BA); Col­lege of Wil­liam & Mary (JD). Oc­cu­pa­tion: State se­na­tor; at­tor­ney.

Q: What is the big­gest prob­lem fac­ing Vir­ginia’s 10th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, and what would you do to solve it? A: The big­gest prob­lem fac­ing those in VA-10 is Pres­i­dent Trump, and Bar­bara Com­stock’s re­fusal to stand up to him. Trump and con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans have slashed constituents’ prop­erty-tax de­duc­tion, failed to de­liver much-needed in­fras­truc­ture in­vest­ments, and re­lent­lessly at­tacked im­mi­grants and fed­eral work­ers, many of whom live in this dis­trict.

Q: What makes you most qual­i­fied to rep­re­sent the 10th Dis­trict? A: I have a strong record of de­liv­er­ing for my constituents and cham­pi­oning causes im­por­tant to them. As a state se­na­tor, I have passed more than 40 pieces of bi­par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion while sup­port­ing im­por­tant pro­gres­sive causes like re­duc­ing gun vi­o­lence, ex­pand­ing ac­cess to health care and pro­tect­ing our en­vi­ron­ment.

Q: If elected, what will be your great­est chal­lenge? A: Congress is con­sumed with par­ti­san grid­lock. It will be a chal­lenge for any rep­re­sen­ta­tive to get any­thing done on the Hill. How­ever, with the ex­pe­ri­ence I have gained work­ing with my col­leagues across the aisle to pass bi­par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion, I will work hard to look for com­mon ground in Congress.

Q: Tell us some­thing about your­self that would sur­prise peo­ple. A: Peo­ple are sur­prised to hear that I speak Span­ish. I learned Span­ish in school and lived in Spain as a stu­dent. My knowl­edge of Span­ish has of­ten been help­ful to me in my work as an at­tor­ney, ad­vo­cate and as a leg­is­la­tor.

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