by Michael Mozelle
The new Representative elect from Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, Barbara Comstock, will have a difficult time living up to the legacy of sitting Representative Frank Wolf (R-Va.). As a 23-year veteran member of Congress, Wolf has been a rare model of bipartisan leadership and legislative effectiveness.
Congressman Wolf was first elected in 1980 during a wave of Republican victories under Ronald Reagan, after serving in the Army and working as an Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior from 1974-75. He faced few serious challenges to his seat during his time in Congress.
He has consistently used his position in Congress to advocate for human rights and religious freedom around the world, particularly in China, unlike many of his more hyper-partisan junior colleagues. Though he holds socially conservative stances on abortion and marriage equality, he falls within the ever shrinking middle ground of ideological moderates in Congress. Such a narrowing of ideological purity does little good for constituents, who may find themselves increasingly unrepresented by the platform of either major party.
According to Vanderbilt Prof. Alan Wiseman and Batten Prof. Craig Volden’s The Lawmakers, Congressman Wolf fell below average legislative effectiveness only once during his career in Congress and consistently ranked well above average between 1981 and 2012.GovTrack.us, a similar site that tracks voting records, placed Wolf in the top 5 percent of Republicans for bipartisan voting.
Congressman Wolf’s lengthy tenure has allowed him to remain an effective legislator without being wrangled into too much of the partisan mud-slinging that is increasingly becoming the norm for American politics.
Consistent with his commitment to human rights, Congressman Wolf added a clause in the 2011 Budget that the US would not conduct space technology partnership with China due to that country’s human rights abuses. A similar effort saw the change of thestreet name outside of the Chinese embassy to a well known Chinese dissident.
The two leading contenders for Va.’s 10th seat, Republican Barbara Comstock and Democrat John Foust, ran a contentious campaign. Both are also professionals with long histories of local public service. Comstock worked previously with Congressman Wolf, but she has often espoused positions far more in line with the Republican party. She called for an immediate repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Representative elect Comstock will likely find it more difficult to resist the Republican Leadership’s call for party unity on divisive issues. The Republican Party in particular will now be looking to make the most of holding both houses of Congress to make changes. Here’s to hoping that constituents of VA’s 10th can continue to count their new representative to promote bipartisan decision making.
This article represents the opinions of the author only, and not those of the Virginia Policy Review. This author previously lived in Va.’s 10th Congressional District.