Blue Firefight in Virginia's 10th Congressional District

Six Democrats vying for Democratic nomination to face Barbara Comstock.

Democrats are so eager to take on two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-10), some of them have actually moved to the district specifically to run against her. The field of candidates vying to become the Democratic nominee has a wide range of experience and expertise — people who have lived there for years and people who are new to the neighborhood. Former prosecutors and former Obama administration officials. People who have experience running for office and people who were inspired to run after the election of President Donald Trump. And the stakes couldn’t be higher because this congressional district is the hottest ticket in Virginia, one of the hottest in the nation.

“The 10th is a district that Hillary Clinton carried but has a Republican member of Congress in Barbara Comstock, so it’s a high-level target for Democrats,” said Geoff Skelley at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “Comstock will, to some degree, probably be hanging on for dear life. She may be able to pull it out. But at the same time, we rate that race as a toss-up.”

Two of the candidates are ready to move forward with impeachment now while the rest want to wait for the investigation to conclude. Most of the candidates want to keep the consumer protections created by the Dodd-Frank Act, disagreeing with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner’s bill that would reduce the number of banks that have to comply with regulations many in the industry consider burdensome. On the issue of health care, several of the candidates support a single public health system that covers all residents funded by taxpayers — an idea long supported by the liberal wing of the party although one that remains divisive among Democrats. These issues will be litigated against a backdrop of one of the most expensive media markets in the country.

“There’ll be a ton of money in this race,” said Skelley. “Comstock raised $5 million last time, and there’s a decent chance she’ll best that this year."

Here's a look at the candidates, as they will appear on the ballot:

Lindsey Davis Stover

A native of Humble, Texas, Stover, 39, is partner in a consulting firm in Fairfax County. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications and political science as well as a Masters in Public Policy, both from Baylor University, as well as a Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School. She spent time in the AmeriCorps VISTA program then worked for U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) before taking a position in the Obama administration working on veterans policy. She moved to the 10th Congressional District in 2011, when she moved to McLean. She is a partner in the consulting firm Edwards, Davis Stover & Associates which provides outreach to federal agencies and congress.

“I was raised by a single working mom who worked really hard to make ends meet for our family. In fact I actually got my first job when I was 14, and got a job at my local church,” said Stover. “My husband and I are still paying off more than $80,000 of student debt, and I’m running for Congress because my story is not a unique story. There are millions of Americans and many families across our district who are working two and three jobs and can still barely make ends meet.”

She is in favor of moving forward with impeachment proceedings, although she says she wants to make sure the case is “airtight” before charges are brought in Congress. She says the country should move toward a single-payer health care system, although she adds that she’d also like to look at a Medicare-for-all system as well as other proposals for a system that could not be undermined by a future administration. She supports the consumer protections in the Dodd-Frank Act, and she disagrees with Democrats who believe that the regulations are overly burdensome on banks. If elected, she says, she would work to support public education and implement gun control.

“Our children are being murdered in our school, and our country is failing them. And we have to do more,” said Stover. “If you’re too dangerous to board an airplane, you should be too dangerous to walk into a gun store and buy a gun. And I also believe that the guns our soldiers use on the streets of Baghdad shouldn’t be used on the streets of our communities.”

Jennifer Wexton

A native of Washington D.C., Wexton, 49, is a state senator representing parts of Loudoun and Fairfax as well as Leesburg. She has a bachelor of arts in history and economics from the University of Maryland at College Park and a juris doctorate from the College of William and Mary. She was in private practice in Alexandria before joining the office of the commonwealth’s attorney in Loudoun. During her time as a prosecutor, she prosecuted everything from reckless driving to first-degree murder. One case that attracted national headlines involved a woman who persuaded her boyfriend to kill her father with a samurai sword. Wexton moved to 10th Congressional District in 2004, when she worked in the prosecutor’s office.

“Congress has lost the bipartisan spirit of cooperation to represent the people who sent us here,” says Wexton. “For me and what I’ve been able to accomplish in the General Assembly, I see that there’s a lot that we have in common and a lot of areas where we can find common ground. But it seems like in Congress they are more interested in shouting past each other than working together to get solutions for our constituents.”

She is not yet in favor of moving forward with impeachment, adding that her time as a prosecutor taught her to collect facts and evidence before applying the law. She says the country should be “evolving” toward a single-payer health-care system, although she says she’s not sure the country is ready for that yet. On banking reform, she says she would vote against Warner’s bill although she adds some of the regulations in Dodd-Frank are overly burdensome and she doesn’t want to choke community lending for smaller borrowers.

If elected, she says, she would work for more cooperation on health care as well as gun safety legislation.

“The views of the majority of legislators who have stymied any sort of gun safety legislation in Congress are out of the mainstream, even on things like universal background checks and closing the gun show loophole,” said Wexton. “The people are going to speak about this, and I hope that we’ll see some progress.”

Paul Pelletier

A native of Beverly, Mass., Pelletier, 61, is a former federal prosecutor and adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center. He has a bachelor of science in economics from Providence College in Rhode Island and a juris doctorate from New England Law in Boston. After law school, he had a trial court clerkship and an appellate court clerkship before taking a job in the tax division at the Department of Justice. As a federal prosecutor, he went after everything from drug smuggling to health-care fraud. His work against bank executives who helped crash the global economy is featured in the 2017 book “The Chickenshit Club.” He moved to the 10th Congressional District last year specifically to run against Comstock.

“I’m doing this because I care, and I believe I can make a difference,” says Pelletier. “I’ve spent a career attacking and solving big problems in a non-partisan and a bipartisan way. I have found ways to not only attack the immediate problem before me but also see the big picture as to what is the problem and how do we solve this bigger issue.”

He supports the House moving forward with impeachment proceedings, and he says he wants Trump to be accountable for his actions. He describes the single-payer health care system as the “gold standard,” but he says he would work toward pragmatic health-care solutions like driving down the cost of health care. When asked about banking reform now being considered in Congress, Pelletier says he disagrees with the effort to roll back consumer protections in the Dodd-Frank Act. If elected, he says, he would work to restore the insurance mandate under the Affordable Care Act that was overturned by Trump and amend the tax reform effort to allow deductions of state and local taxes. He says he would also work to remove guns from the hands of dangerous people.

“The most important thing that I would absolutely fight like crazy to do is to pass legislation to ban assault weapons, like we used to have in the 1990s,” said Pelletier. “We need common sense legislation like expanded background checks and outlawing bump stocks.”

Alison Friedman

A native of Takoma Park, Md., Friedman, 39, is a former Obama administration official. She has a bachelor of arts in political science from Stanford University and an executive master of business administration from Oxford University. She served as national director of students for Gore during the 2000 presidential campaign before becoming a legislative and program coordinator for People for the American Way. She worked for U.S. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) before founding the nonprofit organization known as Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking. During the Obama administration, she served as deputy director for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and later helped establish a public-private partnership known as the Global Fund to End Slavery. She moved to the 10th Congressional District last year for a number of reasons, one of which was running against Comstock.

“I’ve spent my career standing up to abuses of power,” says Friedman. “And now we have an epitome of one in the White House, who is being enabled by my representative. And I can’t do nothing.”

She says she’s not yet ready to move forward with impeaching President Trump, although she adds “nobody wants this president out of office more than I do.” On health care, says she wants to improve the Affordable Care Act rather than pursue a single-payer health-care system. When asked about banking reform now being advocated in Congress, she says she would keep the consumer protections created by the Dodd-Frank Act. If elected, she says, she would work to improve affordability and accessibility of health care as well as tax reform and infrastructure needs.

“You can’t knock on a door or go to an event in Northern Virginia or the Shenandoah Valley without hearing horror stories about commutes,” said Friedman. “And that’s one place where my record of taking on big issues that are mired in bureaucracy and actually driving to solutions that make people’s lives better on the ground will be really valuable.”

Dan Helmer

A native of New Brunswick, N.J., Helmer, 36, is an Army veteran and management consultant. He has a bachelor of science in history and Arabic from West Point. After graduating, he served a tour in Iraq and then became a Rhodes Scholar at University of Oxford, where he earned a master’s degree in philosophy and international relations. He served 11 years of active duty in the military, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea. In the private sector, he worked with the Boston Consulting Group, where he helped U.S. manufacturers, and he remains in the Army Reserves. He was recruited to run for Congress by a Boston-based group known as New Politics. He moved to the 10th Congressional District in 2013, when the Army stationed him in Northern Virginia.

“This is a country that welcomed my family when they were immigrants and refugees — my dad is an immigrant, and my grandparents are Holocaust survivors,” said Helmer. “I’ve always felt a deep desire to defend the country that gave my family a shot at the American dream, and the dysfunction and hatred in Washington is the greatest danger to other Americans continuing to have a shot at that American dream.”

He supports impeaching President Trump. On the issue of health care he says he supports a “Medicare for all” option that would allow Americans to opt into Medicare if they choose. On banking reform now being considered in Congress, he says he would have to spend more time studying it before committing one way or another. If elected, he says, he would work to enact gun safety legislation.

“I’ve carried assault rifles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I’ve seen the consequences of Washington cowardice in terms of a war of choice in which I’ve lost friends,” said Helmer. “Now I think we’re seeing the consequences of cowardice here at home, where both in Richmond and in Washington we’ve seen time and again Republicans and Democrats fail to pass meaningful gun safety legislation. I look forward to working diligently in Congress to fight back against the NRA and the gun lobby and pass meaningful gun legislation reforms.”

Julia Biggins

A native of Joliet, Ill., Biggins, 41, is a medical researcher. She has a bachelor of science in microbiology from the University of Illinois at Champagne and a doctorate in molecular virology from Baylor College of Medicine. After graduate school, she took a job as a contractor at the United States Army Medical Institute for Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, where she worked on a team that developed vaccines and therapies for the Ebola virus. She moved to the 10th Congressional District last summer. She is currently the assistant director for in vivo research against viral and bacterial pathogens at Integrated Biotherapeutics in Rockville, Md.

“This is not something I thought I would ever be doing prior to the election in 2016, and then I started really paying attention and being concerned,” said Biggins. “In the scientific community, I don’t think we ever thought we’d have to stand up and defend science. So I felt like this was something I needed to set my research aside and stand up to protect science and help make change in the country.”

She does not support impeaching President Trump at this time, adding that she wants the investigation to run its course. She is in favor of a single-payer health-care system, adding that she would like to see an overhaul of the system rather than patching up the Affordable Care Act. When asked about banking reform now being considered in Congress, she says she would keep the consumer protections created by the Dodd-Frank Act. If elected, she says, she would use her expertise to reform the healthcare system and overturn the ban on federal funding for gun violence research. She also wants to focus on education.

“The way that we fund education needs to be improved since it’s based on our property taxes, and that leads to inequality,” said Biggins. “I would like to see more money coming from the federal government to education so that we can ensure all kids, regardless of where they live, have that foot in the door.”

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