Two Political Outlooks Clash Head-to-Head in 34th District

In Virginia’s 34th delegate district, covering McLean and Tysons Corner, two divergent political philosophies are pitting Margaret Vanderhye, the Democratic incumbent first elected in 2007, against her GOP opponent, Barbara Comstock. debate

In Virginia’s 34th delegate district, covering McLean and Tysons Corner, two divergent political philosophies are pitting Margaret Vanderhye, the Democratic incumbent first elected in 2007, against her GOP opponent, Barbara Comstock.


Barbara Comstock (left) and Margi Vanderhye at the McLean Debate. (Photo: News-Press)

The candidates participated in a debate several weeks ago held at the Alden Theatre in McLean. They butted heads on policy focuses and how Virginia can emerge from the ongoing economic crisis that has decimated budgets on the state and local levels.

In the debate, Vanderhye said she supported raising additional funds for solving Northern Virginia’s transportation problem, as well as protecting the current allotment of the state’s general fund for education.

Comstock said that Northern Virginia has continuously been shortchanged, by Republicans and Democrats in Richmond when it comes to how much is spent back in this area. “We need more than a 20 percent return on the money we send to Richmond,” she said, adding, “We can’t raise taxes in this economy.”

“My opponent won’t call the new revenue for what it is, new taxes,” she said.

Vanderhye said her opponent’s fiscal plan, which calls for privatizing the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control agency and drilling off-shore oil reserves for new revenue, is unresponsive to Northern Virginia’s present needs.

“We haven’t had a serious infusion of transportation funds in 23 years,” Vanderhye said.

Vanderhye said she “advocated equal taxation powers for the county level to the level that cities like Alexandria or Falls Church enjoy when it comes to the power to leverage their own taxes.”

“Voters have to ask if they want the same old Gilmore policies that had trouble maintaining Virginia’s triple-A bond status, and pushed for an extreme right-wing agenda?” she said.

The debate underscored the fundamental divide between a public policy-driven recovery, which Vanderhye supports, and a private industry-driven recovery supported by Comstock.

Vanderhye, who has resided in Northern Virginia for over 30 years, told the News-Press in an interview that she has “directly seen the impact of state policies on many levels.”

“Our current state formulas, when it comes to issues like tax diversification, are very inequitable,” Vanderhye said. “They put a lot of pressure on property taxes and on school budgets.”

“My opponent wants to take money from the general fund, which supports public education, and pay for our transportation problems,” she said. “How are we going to maintain a decent class size, among other concerns in education, if we start diverting money away from the schools?”

Vanderhye said she is committed to keeping Northern Virginia’s business environment economically viable. “I’m business friendly and the endorsements from the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce reflect that.”

On the Democratic and Republican initiatives for the state, Vanderhye said “there are stark differences between how we solve the transportation problem, and keep focus on important issues such as social policy.”

Vanderhye said using education funds will have “real economic and social consequences for the state.”

On social policy, she added, “Frankly, my opponent would not like to talk about reproductive rights and issues like access to contraception for married women. Health care policy has a direct economic impact on people’s lives.”
Vanderhye also refuted claims that she does not support Virginia’s “right-to-work” status, stating that “only four percent of Virginia’s workforce is unionized, and those are mostly our teachers and firefighters. The Republicans are trying to conflate federal and state initiatives. In Virginia, we’re one of the 32 states that upholds the right to work.”

Despite policy differences with Comstock, Vanderhye said she has collaborated with Republicans in the House of Delegates.

She cited three bills that had unanimous Republican support, in addition to having some of the legislation co-sponsored by members of the Republican leadership.

The bills included legislation to treat underserved women for breast and cervical cancer, a waste-to-energy initiative to utilize methane gas on farms and a consolidation of two advisory boards to the governor.

“The legislation I introduced and successfully pushed through the House was either revenue-neutral or saved the state money,” Vanderhye said. “In the case of the advisory boards, we saved the state $100,000 a year.”

“I look forward to building on what we’ve done and to expand these ideas to save Virginia money and serve the voters,” she said.

Virginians “cannot afford more of the tax hikes which Vanderhye has supported for the past two years.”Barbara Comstock, a resident of McLean since 1983 and an experienced political activist, said Northern

“We’re in a recession, and it’s my philosophy that I don’t want people to be giving government more of their money, especially when tax payers in Northern Virginia aren’t seeing any of that money come back in services,” Comstock said.

Comstock pointed to her experience since the 1990s working for GOP U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, who represents Virginia’s 10th district, as a proving ground for her policy ideas.

“Wolf pushed for telecommuting and other initiatives to solve the transportation problem,” she said.

“We could also promote four-day work weeks to reduce the stress on families, and while none of these are total solutions to the transportation problem in Northern Virginia, they can help.”

Comstock said her work for Wolf, at the Justice Department and in the private sector has given her “far broader knowledge and expertise to bring to Northern Virginia’s problems than my opponent’s.”

“My opponent has voted to consistently raise taxes and that puts a horrendous economic pressure on families and small businesses,” she said.

“We need to find ways to do more with less, and there are plenty of models that work – nationally and internationally – I’ve come across in my experience at the federal level.”
As she had in the debate, Comstock highlighted the budget successes of Illinois Gov. Mitch Daniels, a fellow Republican.

Comstock, however, emphasized that Northern Virginia’s economic problems “are not a matter of the left or the right: these are bipartisan problems caused by downstate Republicans and Democrats.”

“Virginia is still run on a 1940s agricultural and tobacco economic model, and it doesn’t work just to say that is how things are run in Richmond,” she said, adding, “We can’t let Richmond treat the 34th district as a cash cow it can just milk whenever it wants. We are already paying more than our fair share to Richmond and getting little in return.”

Comstock said she supports a “common sense approach to fiscal management” which includes off-shore oil drilling and private initiatives to generate income for the transportation problem.

On social policy, Comstock said her opponent has used abortion and other health care issues for political purposes. “These fights have all been for political gain and for crumbs from the government,” she said.

“When it comes to contraception access, I don’t want citizens to depend on the government. I want them to have the health care provider they need that provides them those services.”

She continued, “With the limited time we have to fix these major problems – and I’ve prioritized mine: jobs, transportation and education – we can’t re-litigate and fight over these issues.”

Comstock said the debate on government involvement in reproductive rights is “largely settled with broad bipartisan consensus.”

“People should be able to make their own decisions, in their own lives, with whatever health care they want.”

Comstock said she has knocked on more than 15,000 doors across the district and found her policies to resonate with voters.

“Whenever I see a fellow parent picking their kids up from school and shuffling the groceries around the back seat, with another place to go, another soccer match to attend, I want to give them a break,”

Comstock said. “I’ve lived their lives as a parent and these are real kitchen table issues they are facing. We can’t just tell them to pay more in taxes.”

Comstock mentioned she has garnered support from some Democratic voters in the 34th district as well.

“When you’re involved with your community, you’re working with your friends and neighbors, not with political parties,” she said. “Several prominent Democrats have supported me like Cynthia Alksne, whose husband, Steve McMahon, worked on the Howard Dean campaign. They know we need some commonsense in Richmond.”

“The state government needs to learn what we have had to do as families and small businesses,” she added.