Lawyer Lobbyist Politician

Barbara Comstock

Quick Facts

IntroAmerican politician
Is Lawyer
Lobbyist
Politician
From United States of America
Type Law
Politics
Genderfemale
Birth 30 June 1959, Springfield
Age61 years

Biography

Barbara Jean Burns Comstock (born June 30, 1959) is an American politician who is currently a Republican member of the U.S. Congress from Virginia’s 10th District. From 2010 to 2014, she was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. She first won election to her seat in 2009, defeating Democratic incumbent Margaret Vanderhye. She has worked in numerous positions for various government agencies, including as chief counsel of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, director of public affairs at the Department of Justice, and as a staffer for Congressman Frank Wolf. She is a founding partner and co-principal of public relations and public policy firm Corallo Comstock.
On January 7, 2014, Comstock announced her candidacy for U.S. Congress from Virginia’s 10th District. She won that election by 16 points and took office in January 2015. She was re-elected in 2016.

Early life and education

Barbara Jean Burns was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on June 30, 1959. She is the daughter of Sally Ann Burns, a teacher, and John Ferguson Burns, national manager of polymer sales for Shell Chemicals. Comstock graduated from Westchester High School in Houston, Texas in 1977. She graduated cum laude from Middlebury College in 1981. In college, Comstock spent a semester interning for Senator Ted Kennedy. While interning for Kennedy, Comstock, who was raised a Democrat, realized she was a Republican. She married Elwyn Charles Comstock, whom she had met in high school, in 1982. Comstock received her Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center in 1986.

Career

After working as a lawyer in private practice, Comstock served from 1991 to 1995 as a senior aide to Congressman Frank Wolf. Comstock then served as chief investigative counsel and senior counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform from 1995 to 1999, working as one of Washington’s most prominent anti-Clinton opposition researchers.

Comstock worked on behalf of the 2000 presidential campaign of George W. Bush. Her research team built massive stores of paper and electronic data, known as “The Gore File,” that were a key source of information on the former vice president for GOP publicists and ad-makers. Comstock is credited with writing the Republican “playbook” defending Bush nominees such as John Ashcroft for U.S. Attorney General. Comstock later served as director of public affairs for the Justice Department from 2002 to 2003. She has been praised for her work in opposition research for the Republican National Committee.

Comstock and Barbara Olson, the wife of United States Solicitor General Theodore Olson, formed a partnership known to Washington insiders as the “Two Barbaras.” Barbara Olson died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Comstock joined law firm Blank Rome in 2004. Comstock assisted the defense teams of both Scooter Libby and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. In 2005, Comstock was hired by Dan Glickman to lobby on behalf of the Motion Picture Association of America. In 2008, Comstock was a consultant on the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney. Comstock is a former Co-Chair of the Executive Committee of the Susan B. Anthony List.

Virginia House of Delegates

In 2009, Comstock was elected to a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. She defeated incumbent Democrat Margaret Vanderhye by 316 votes. While in the state legislature, Comstock was involved in enacting legislation that increased the penalties for teen sex trafficking.

Comstock’s public relations firm consulted for the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI), a conservative group advocating on a variety of federal labor policy issues, from 2008 through 2012. According to a 2014 report by Politico, during her time in the Virginia House of Delegates, Comstock sponsored legislation that advanced WFI’s overall public policy objectives. Legislation sponsored by Comstock called for union votes by secret ballot, prevented employers from giving employees’ information to unions, and prohibited awarding contracts for state-funded construction projects exclusively to unionized firms. Comstock’s campaign responded to the report by saying “Barbara Comstock disclosed her federal clients under Virginia law as required.”

In 2011, Comstock voted in favor of HB 462, which required women to have ultrasounds before receiving an abortion. When opponents pointed out that this would necessitate an internal ultrasound for early-term pregnancies, an amendment was passed to limit the requirement to external ultrasounds only. She also voted in favor of the amendment. Comstock supports exceptions to bans on abortions in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger. She also supports making birth control available to women over the counter.

Comstock was re-elected to her seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2011 and 2013. When she won a seat in the U.S. Congress in 2014, she formally resigned her seat in the Virginia House of Delegates and a special election was called to replace her.

U.S. House of Representatives

Elections

2014

On January 7, 2014, Comstock announced her candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia’s 10th District, following the announcement that incumbent Frank Wolf would retire at the end of the 113th Congress.

The Daily Caller reported that an opposition research packet on Comstock suggested she would “likely come under fire in Virginia’s 10th congressional district race over the question of whether she is conservative enough.”

On April 26, 2014, Comstock won the Republican nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 10th District primary, defeating five other candidates and winning approximately 54% of the total vote.

Speaking about immigration reform, Comstock said: “Fed-Ex can track packages coming in here all of the time, we can track people who are coming into the country and we can do that right.” She opposes passing comprehensive immigration reform, instead preferring a piecemeal approach.

Comstock and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ed Gillespie planned on attending a public meeting of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Tea Party in early August 2014. After rumors arose that the gathering could be infiltrated by Democrats, both candidates initially moved the meeting to a private location before opting to speak with the group by phone instead. This decision prompted a statement from David Sparkman, chairman of the Tea Party group, who said “I’m disappointed, I wanted to look these politicians in the eye and take their measure.”

Comstock received the endorsements of the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, and both the Virginia Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors. On August 28, 2014, Comstock received the endorsement of the Virginia Police Benevolent Association (VAPBA). In 2012, the VAPBA had endorsed the Democratic challenger to Representative Frank Wolf in the same district.

Comstock won the election on November 4, 2014, defeating Democrat John Foust with 56 percent of the vote.

2016

Comstock faced Democrat LuAnn Bennett, a real estate executive and ex-wife of former Virginia Congressman Jim Moran, in the 2016 election. Given the swing state status of Virginia in the 2016 presidential election, the race was expected to be one of the most heavily contested races in the country. Democratic strategist Ellen Qualls said the 10th District is “essentially the swingiest district in the swingiest state.”

In March 2016, Comstock gave away $2,700 that had been donated to her campaign by Donald Trump. She donated the money to two recuperation centers for wounded veterans in her congressional district.

Comstock won re-election by a margin of 53%-46%.

Tenure

In April 2016, Comstock said she would support legislation introduced by Democrat John Delaney to overhaul the board that oversees the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs Washington’s Metrorail system. The legislation would require the next three federal appointments to the authority’s board of directors to be either a certified transit, management, or financial expert.

Conservative Review graded Comstock’s voting record an “F” with a 23% “Liberty Score”. Out of 247 Republicans in the House of Representatives in 2016, eight had a lower (more liberal) voting record.

National security

Comstock critiqued President Donald Trump’s 2017 executive order to temporarily curtail Muslim immigration until better screening methods are devised. She stated that “The president’s Executive Order [goes] beyond the increased vetting actions that Congress has supported on a bipartisan basis and inexplicably applied to Green Card holders. This should be addressed and corrected expeditiously.”

Committee assignments

  • Committee on House Administration
  • Committee on Science, Space and Technology

    • Subcommittee on Energy
    • Subcommittee on Research and Technology (Chair)
  • Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

    • Subcommittee on Aviation
    • Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management
    • Subcommittee on Highways and Transit
  • Pappas, Alex (5 February 2014). “Here’s the opposition research packet on Barbara Comstock”. The Daily Caller. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  • “Virginia 10th Congressional District Debate: Clip”. CSPAN. National Cable Satellite. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  • Sakuma, Amanda (25 September 2014). “GOP candidate: US should track immigrants like Fed-Ex packages”. NBC Universal. MSNBC. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  • Portnoy, Jenna. “Gillespie, Comstock choose call after event venue is changed to evade ‘unfriendlies“. The Washington Post. 
  • “U.S. Chamber Backs Comstock In One Of 2014’s ‘Most Watched Races“. Loudoun Business. Retrieved 19 August 2014. 
  • “NFIB Endorses Barbara Comstock for Congress”. www.nfib.com. Retrieved July 30, 2014. 
  • Baratko, Trevor. “Race for Virginia’s 10th: Debate set, endorsements touted”. www.loudontimes.com. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  • “Comstock Gets Police Endorsement”. Bearing Drift. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  • “Virginia 10th District: Barbara Comstock Declares Victory”. NBC Washington. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  • LuAnn Bennett declares congressional bid against Barbara Comstock
  • ^ Outrunning Bellwethers and Coattails in a Swing State
  • Weiner, Rachel (March 28, 2016). “Barbara Comstock gives away Donald Trump donations”. Washington Post. Retrieved 26 April 2016. 
  • 2016 November General
  • Zanona, Melanie (April 27, 2016). “House lawmakers want big changes to Washington’s Metro board”. The Hill. Retrieved 28 April 2016. 
  • https://www.conservativereview.com/scorecard
  • Blake, Aaron. “Coffman, Gardner join Republicans against President Trump’s travel ban; here’s where the rest stand”. Denver Post. Retrieved 30 January 2017. 

Electoral history

Virginia House of Delegates General Election, 2009
PartyCandidateVotes%
RepublicanBarbara Comstock12,63650.85%
DemocraticMargaret Vanderhye12,21449.15%
IndependentWrite-in candidates260.10%
Total votes24,850100%
Virginia House of Delegates General Election, 2011
PartyCandidateVotes%
RepublicanBarbara Comstock11,62854.81%
DemocraticPamela Danner9,57345.12%
IndependentWrite-in candidates160.08%
Total votes21,217100%
Virginia House of Delegates General Election, 2013
PartyCandidateVotes%
RepublicanBarbara Comstock14,96250.64%
DemocraticKathleen Murphy14,54049.21%
IndependentWrite-in candidates420.14%
Total votes29,544100%
U.S. House of Representatives General Election, 2014
PartyCandidateVotes%
RepublicanBarbara Comstock125,86756.49%
DemocraticJohn Foust89,89540.35%
LibertarianWilliam B. Redpath3,3931.52%
IndependentBrad A. Eickholt2,4411.10%
Independent GreenDianne L. Blais9440.42%
IndependentWrite-in candidates2610.12%
Total votes222,801100%
U.S. House of Representatives General Election, 2016
PartyCandidateVotes%
RepublicanBarbara Comstock210,79152.69%
DemocraticLuAnn Bennett187,71246.92%
IndependentWrite-in candidates1,5800.39%
Total votes400,083100%