Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., walks to a closed-door GOP strategy session at the Capitol in June.

Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., walks to a closed-door GOP strategy session at the Capitol in June. J.Scott Applewhite/AP

The Midterm Race Where Federal Employee Issues Are Front and Center

The incumbent Republican says feds need her voice to ensure their issues have bipartisan support.

As Democrats fight to take control of Congress from Republicans, an unusual issue is playing a decisive role in a key race that could determine control of the House: the federal workforce.

Virginia’s 10th congressional district, currently represented by Republican Barbara Comstock, is one of the most hotly contested races in the upcoming midterm elections. It is also home to tens of thousands of federal employees, whom both candidates are targeting for votes.

Polls show a tight race, though forecasters like Cook Political Report give a slight edge to Comstock’s Democratic opponent, Jennifer Wexton.

Comstock hopes her record since taking office in 2015 will help win support among her civil servant constituents. She signed a letter opposing President Trump’s executive orders limiting the powers of federal employee unions and making it easier for agencies to fire their workers, pushed for paid parental leave for feds and most recently, claimed to play a key role in securing a federal employee pay raise in 2019 over Trump’s objections (a claim Democrats dispute). The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association gave Comstock an 88 percent score in the 115th Congress based on key votes over the last two years and a lifetime score of 75 percent, among the highest ranks for any Republican. She is now hoping that history will pay dividends at the voting booth next week.

Comstock won the seat in 2014 following the retirement of fellow Republican Frank Wolf, who served in the seat for 34 years and was the most outspoken defender of federal employees in the Republican party over that span. To Comstock, her party affiliation is a key factor for why federal employees should support her reelection.

On the pay raise issue, for example, Comstock said, “If there was no Republican voice on this, there would be no one arguing for this within the administration.”

“You don’t want to be a one-party town,” she added. “Particularly during a Republican administration, it’s very important to have voices on both side of the aisle [advocating for federal workers].”

Comstock noted that she has a relationship with Vice President Mike Pence, who was friendly with Wolf when the congresswoman served as his aide. She also served as a federal employee during a stint in the Justice Department.

The campaign has been an expensive one, with the candidates and outside groups pouring more than $10 million into the race. Comstock has included information on federal employee issues in ads, campaign mailers and most of the speeches she delivers on the trail, and has a section dedicated to the subject on her campaign website. Jennifer Wexton’s site does not, and Comstock said her opponent is focusing too little on that segment of the constituent population.

“I know my district much better than my opponent, who is not familiar with either federal employee issues or where and how federal employees are spread all around our district,” Comstock said. She called Wexton “AWOL” and “negligent” in recognizing feds as an issue in the campaign.

Wexton declined multiple requests for an interview. In a debate, Wexton also voiced her support for the federal workforce and her opposition to Trump’s proposed freeze, calling it “just another attack on federal workers.” In a tweet earlier this year, Wexton blamed Trump and Comstock for attempting to pay for the tax reform bill Republicans passed last year “on the backs of federal workers.”

Wexton has repeatedly tried to tie Comstock to the president, who is unpopular in the suburban district outside of Washington, pointing to the high percentage of votes the congresswoman cast in support of Trump’s agenda. Comstock noted that many of those votes were on funding bills to keep the government open. In a meeting at the White House earlier this year, Comstock challenged the president directly in telling him, “We don’t need a shutdown over this,” referring to immigration issues.

Comstock said she has taken flak from members of her own party for advocating for federal employees and their pay, but ultimately is able to make them see her side.

“They need my vote,” she said. “When they come to me and ask for my vote on budget or appropriations, they know that the first thing I’m going to ask them is, 'How does this affect federal employees?' ”

She called the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program “one of the best models of health plans” and vowed to work with the Trump administration on civil service reforms only when they stem from “grassroots, ground-up” ideas.

“The best way you’re going to get reform, and the way I work on these things, is to work with federal employees and have them be part of that solution,” Comstock said. “I think that’s the way we will get it done.”  

She said federal employees are “the experts” who “know where the waste is,” adding, “Someone who comes in from the top in a political role may not have that understanding.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.