Late last night, Virginia State Sen. Dick Black, who earlier this month announced his intention to run for the open 10th Congressional District, released a statement saying he has changed his mind about seeking federal office. The move by the Republican is a boon to state Delegate Barbara Comstock, who is gearing up for her own congressional run after winning a difficult re-election campaign to the Virginia House this past November. It was commonly viewed that Black would have an advantage in a district nominating convention, but that Comstock would be the stronger general election opponent to presumed Democratic nominee John Foust, a Fairfax County Supervisor.
Black’s statement reiterated his belief that “… the Virginia Senate (is) in a precarious 20-20 split, with the lieutenant governor as tie-breaker. Because of that, I (Sen. Black) am no longer able to leave the 13th District Senate Seat. Too much is at risk for Virginia, and I must not trigger another costly senate race by stepping down from my seat at this time.”
His reasoning for exiting the congressional race is curious because Virginia law does not require state or local office holders to resign their seats in order to run for another office. He would only have to leave the legislature upon being elected to Congress, and not until the beginning of the short 2015 legislative session next January.
Irrespective of his motivation, Black is now out of the congressional race, and Comstock will have a short open time window to nail down the Republican nomination before another strong candidate emerges. Having already raised approximately $200,000 since her Jan. 7 declaration of candidacy, she is well on her way to becoming a consensus candidate. Frederick County Board of Supervisors chairman Richard Shickle is also in the Republican race, but is not yet viewed as being strong competition for Comstock.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R) has been the 10th District’s congressman since 1981, announcing his retirement in December. Geographically, the district begins in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, and then stretches across the state’s northern sector all the way to the West Virginia border. It is a marginal district (Obama ’12: 50 percent), but one that tends to elect more Republicans than Democrats. Since his first re-election in 1982, when he recorded 53 percent of the vote, Wolf has never dropped below 57 percent within the different redistricting versions of the 10th CD.
Comstock was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2009, and has been re-elected twice. She is the only remaining elected Virginia Republican hailing from inside the Washington Beltway. Her district includes McLean and Great Falls in Fairfax County before stretching into Loudon County. In a statistical quirk, Comstock won both her 2009 and 2013 races by exactly the same number of votes, 422, against strong Democratic competition.
John Foust was originally elected to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2007, and was re-elected to a second term in 2011. He is originally from Johnstown, Pa., but moved to northern Virginia in 1981. He came to local political prominence through leading a six-year battle with a cell phone company that was constructing cell towers in the northern Virginia region without submitting the process to public hearing. Foust parlayed his work on the cell tower issue into a successful campaign for the Board. He declared his candidacy for Congress in early December, just days before Rep. Wolf made his rather surprising announcement that he would not seek re-election.