As Democrats work to take back state legislatures, governorships and Congress there is a group of activists in Virginia’s 10th congressional district who have an idea on how to succeed in this effort. Their work could be the prototype for efforts across the nation as we look to defeat Republicans district-by-district. Whether it’s Darryl Issa in California, Paul Ryan in Wisconsin or Steve King in Iowa this could work. The Dump Comstock group in Virginia is spending the time and effort needed to help voters in their district understand what is at stake and how their lives are being negatively impacted by President Trump and his administration, and their current representative’s votes supporting what he is doing and saying.
The 10th congressional district in Virginia is currently represented by Barbara Comstock. She is a legislator with right-wing opinions doing everything she can to masquerade as a moderate. She is able to do this because most residents of the District, like those in so many others, don’t follow their representatives’ actual votes and get easily fooled by her double-speak; something legislators become very adept at. Like so many Republicans she has refused to hold a town hall in the District to directly answer voters’ questions because she has no legitimate answers that wouldn’t expose the hypocrisy between what she says and what she does.
So in the 10th, a group of community activists, with some private advice and expertise, which could be provided to other groups around the country wanting to replicate this effort by either the Democratic National Committee or their state Democratic Party, have created a Dump Comstock campaign two years before the next election.
When Comstock first refused to hold a town hall the group came up with the idea of putting up a billboard in the community to bring voters’ attention to that fact. Abbey Ruby, a leader of the group and resident of the District said, “Part of a congressperson’s job is to interact with and hear from all constituents, not just supporters and donors.” She added, “If Barbara Comstock is not comfortable with that, then I’m not comfortable having her as my representative in Congress.” The organizers of the group realized before they could raise money to pay for the billboard if they were to do it legally they needed to become familiar with federal regulations related to campaign spending. Another member, Lynne Anderson said, “We soon realized that we needed to form a Super PAC”.
They got help to do that and on March 22, the Dump Comstock group announced its intention to raise funds for the billboard on social media. One day later they had raised the full amount needed through a series of small donations, which according to the Dump Comstock Twitter account, was raised with an average donation of $26.
The Dump Comstock effort now has a website, a Facebook page the group administers with nearly 1,400 members and a Twitter handle @dumpcomstock that already has 650 followers all focused on ensuring Comstock is retired in 2018.
The group is organized as an unaffiliated PAC. The idea is not to raise big bucks but to raise money to fund things such as the billboard and other projects they will want to undertake over the next two years. Currently on their donation page the suggested donation amounts range from $5 to $100. This is truly a grassroots group.
The organizers of the group understand there will be a Democratic primary in the District as a number of people spurred on by the activity of the Dump Comstock group have said they will vie to take her on. The group isn’t supporting any one candidate in the primary but rather taking responsibility for introducing district voters to the real Barbara Comstock, which will make it easier for the winner of the Democratic primary to run against her and win.
Comstock is one of those Republicans sometimes trying to hide from Trump while at the same time supporting all he is doing. During deliberations on the ACA repeal, Comstock refused to say which way she would vote until she knew she wouldn’t have to cast a vote and then opposed it. Unfortunately for her, the Republican Party had apparently gotten a commitment from her to vote yes and had a commercial in the can touting her vote. That commercial ended up being shown. The Dump Comstock website is now using it to highlight her hypocrisy.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.