Five Democrats who are looking to unseat Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) in November agreed last week that the best response to gun violence are universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and closing the gun show loophole.
There wasn’t much daylight between the candidates at a question-and-answer session at Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation in Reston and sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.
The candidates — Alison Friedman, Lindsey Davis Stover, Dan Helmer, state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-District 33) and Paul Pelletier — are running in the June 12 Democratic primary. Julia Biggins, a sixth Democrat, was absent from the forum. Comstock, who represents Virginia’s 10th District, faces a primary challenge from Shak Hill.
Here is some of what each candidate had to say:
Asked what she thought about the relationship between the United States and Israel, Friedman, a former State Department official who is Jewish, said she thought President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem had put the two-state solution in jeopardy. “I am troubled by the loss of diplomatic heft and experience in this administration and the replacement of that with bombast and the failure to engage thoughtfully,” she said.
Friedman also criticized Comstock for comments she made in 2014, comparing the federal government’s ability to track immigration to FedEx’s package tracking service, saying “that’s not respecting human dignity.”
Helmer, a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, said Trump represented the “gravest threat to our democracy” by enabling anti-Semites and others who hold hateful beliefs. Helmer, who is Jewish, said if elected, he would vote to impeach the president to “ensure that no future demagogue can hold us to their extremist views.”
He added that Congress must be held accountable for partisan gridlock and he would sponsor a bill to prohibit lawmakers from going on recess or fundraising if they do not pass a budget by Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
Pelletier, who was a federal prosecutor for 27 years, said his experience overseeing juries sets him apart from the other candidates because he had to unite people holding different points of view. “I had to get them to agree [to a verdict], and that’s not easy,” he said.
To address the district’s transportation woes, Pelletier said he would support increasing the federal government’s share of funding for Metro. He also said he would support a national infrastructure bill — something Trump has mentioned but not pursued.
Lindsey Davis Stover
Stover, a former congressional staffer and Department of Veterans Affairs employee, criticized several policies of the Trump administration, including the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects immigrant children from deportation. She said the decision was “heartless and reckless,” and promised to support legislation promoting a path to citizenship and work for immigrants.
Stover also took aim at Trump for his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement. “This puts security and peace in jeopardy around the world, and jeopardizes our ability to be a leader going forward,” she said.
Wexton, a Virginia state senator representing District 33, said one priority is to increase transparency in government by sponsoring legislation that puts limits on so-called dark money, which is given to nonprofit organizations and then used to finance political campaigns.
She criticized Comstock for her “A” rating from the National Rifle Association and for taking money from the lobby (Comstock received more than $28,000 from the NRA in 2016 according to Politico). “I have never taken a dime from the gun lobbies and I never will,” she said.