When Democrat John Foust first launched his campaign for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf had not yet announced plans to step down at the end of his current term. When the announcement came it meant Foust would not face an incumbent.
“I keep saying I’m the luckiest man alive,” Foust told supporters gathered Wednesday at his new Leesburg campaign office.
Now Foust, a Fairfax County supervisor, finds himself running against state Del. Barbara Comstock, a Republican who worked for Wolf, as well as three third party candidates: Independent Green Dianne Blais, Independent Brad Eickholt and Libertarian William Redpath.
He’s crossing the district now on his Women’s Priorities Tour in which he is casting himself as the women’s candidate in a race where he faces two women.
While earlier this week in Ashburn, Comstock left much of the harsh rhetoric to her supporters, Foust took the reins of criticism in his own hands during a stop at his new campaign office in Leesburg.
On creating jobs, Foust said, “In her mind that means giving tax benefits to special interests and the super wealthy. I don’t think she’s even had a real job.”
Meanwhile, Foust’s supporters at the rally touted him as a hard-working, self-made businessman.
“He put himself through college like I did,” said Tom Keefe, of Veterans 4 Foust.
Another member of that group, Leesburg Mayor Kristen Umstattd, said Foust started working at a Christmas tree lot when he was 12, later moving on the working for the railroad and in steel mills.
“John comes from a working-class family,” she Umstattd said. “He knows what it’s like to work hard.”
Speakers included Leesburg Council member Kelly Burk and state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (33rd), all not just touting Foust, but questioning Comstock’s support for women, as well as her positions on a range of other topics.
Wexton referred to a “stark contrast” between Comstock and Foust, particularly on issues important to women. Wexton and others highlighted a series of Comstock’s votes and statements, including among others:
“She’s all on board with those kinds of things,” Wexton said. “This is quite frankly not what we think our legislators should be working on.”
Foust said, “The party of small government wants to dictate health care choices” for women.
Some referred to Foust as self-made, but he clarified that had not accomplished everything on his own, casting a measure of his success and his spotlight onto his wife, Marilyn, an OB-GYN.
“I’m not going to take credit as a self-made man, but together we’ve done a lot,” he said.
His wife explained in an interview that she supported her husband’s candidacy in great part because of women’s issues.
“I wanted a representative who believes in equal pay for women and who supports the violence against women act,” she said.
Wexton and others said, legislators should focus on education, transportation, climate change, building infrastructure, and energy, among other things.
Touching briefly on those issues, Foust said community colleges provide a great opportunity to increase educational opportunity across all income levels and that the time has come for congress to respond to climate change. In addition, he criticized Comstock on state transportation funding, pointing to congestion as a major concern for companies contemplating investments in the Old Dominion.
Finally, he suggested Comstock is out of touch with the working class.
“Barbara Comstock says people making $250,000 a year are struggling to make ends meet,” Foust said, pointing to Comstock’s call for tax incentives and deregulation to improve the business climate and grow the economy.
“The thing that drives me crazy about that is how she can recognize the challenges of someone making $250,000 a year,” Foust said, yet she is not supportive of a minimum wage increase.
What was unclear, however, was how Foust would accomplish his goals with what is expected to remain a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
[The original version of this article indicated Foust worked in the coal mines. The article has been corrected; he worked in steel mills.]