Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

Hill Staffers Get Their Turn: Hot Contests for Region’s Voters

Beyer is running in Virginia's 8th District, one of three races Hill staffers will likely vote in. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Beyer is running in Virginia’s 8th District, one of three races Hill staffers will likely vote in. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The people who work in committee or personal offices on Capitol Hill can claim something of a unique benefit from representative democracy: They have more than one set of members to call their own.

Their allegiances aren’t only to the senator or House member, chairman or committee members who keep them on the payroll. Those lawmakers may dominate their workaday lives, but every such staffer is also a local congressional constituent — with a set of political allegiances and ideological interests that may well be different from what’s on display in their day jobs.

And this year, more than any other time in at least the past two decades, these Hill rats will be important players in deciding the makeup of the next Congress. That’s because thousands of them will be voting in three of the hottest contests of the midterms, for the pair of open House seats in northern Virginia and the state’s Senate race, which Republicans hope will become competitive.

Most congressional aides probably live close to their work in the District, where Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton is once again cruising toward another term (it will be her 13th) as the can’t-vote-on-the-House-floor delegate. Staffers who live in solidly blue suburban Maryland have seen only three congressional races that were even remotely close in the past decade.

But the booming Northern Virginia suburbs, fresh off their star turn as gubernatorial must-wins in 2013 and presidential bellwethers in both 2008 and 2012, are now looking at a very expensive triple encore in 2014. Commuters who cross the Potomac for jobs at the Capitol could prove decisive if all three contests remain close until their climaxes.

And they will all probably have the opportunity to vote for someone who knows their line of work: former Hill staffers are running as Republicans in all three races.

The stage was set last weekend in the contest that — for now, at least — looks to remain the closest until November, the House seat covering the commuter enclaves of Chantilly and Manassas, the palatial estates of northern Fairfax County and all of burgeoning Loudoun County.

Barbara Comstock, a Republican state delegate since 2010 and the choice of the party establishment, prevailed in an usual “firehouse” primary against five rivals who divided the vote of tea party and cultural conservatives. Her opponent is now Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust, unchallenged for the Democratic nomination. They are competing for the seat that Rep. Frank R. Wolf is relinquishing after 17 terms, and Comstock worked for him on the Hill in the early 1990s.

Virginia’s 10th looks like the very definition of a swing district: Mitt Romney prevailed by a hair in 2012, but the same precincts preferred President Barack Obama by 4 points in 2008.

Thanks in part to the same reasons GOP candidates nationwide have the edge, starting with the president’s unpopularity, the race at the moment is leaning in Comstock’s favor.

But Foust and Comstock both raised more than $750,000 in the first 90 days of this year, suggesting theirs could be one of the most expensive House races in the nation. An expanding roster of defense contractors, technology firms and consultants (with billions in federal billings every year) have addresses near Dulles International Airport, the district’s economic heart. And their legions of white-collar professional workers have given the 10th the highest median income in the Old Dominion — more than $110,000, meaning many voters have disposable income available for making donations.

The timetable and partisan dynamic are totally different in the adjacent district to the south and east — covering Arlington, Falls Church, Alexandria and Mount Vernon. (The dividing line twists through the middle of McLean, still home to many of the capital’s political and advocacy elite.)

The election of a successor to Rep. James P. Moran, retiring after 24 years, will effectively be a done deal after the June 10 Democratic primary. That’s because it’s overwhelmingly Democratic territory: 68 percent of the 8th District voted for Obama in both of his elections.

In a macro sense, the district is similar to its neighbor. Both are bustling and mostly affluent, the home of many well-paid federal workers, government contractors and the sorts of businesses that need to keep a keen eye on Congress. But the area Moran has represented is much closer to downtown Washington, so it has very few of the rolling greenswards and mansions found on Wolf’s turf, and many more people who live in apartment towers and take Metro to work. That’s helped to yield more demographic diversity; Moran’s 8th is 45 percent African-American, Asian or Hispanic, whereas Wolf’s 10th is only 30 percent non-white.

Eleven Democrats are running in the 8th District primary, but one seems to have a decided advantage based on his name identification, broad experience and fundraising clout. That’s Don Beyer, the longtime star of the TV ads for his eponymous chain of Volvo dealerships, Virginia’s lieutenant governor from 1990 through 1997, Obama’s major campaign bundler and ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein during Obama’s tenure.

He raised $672,000 in the first three months of 2014 and began April with $450,000 in the bank — more than twice as much as his three closest fundraising rivals: radio host Mark Levine, former Navy pilot Bruce Shuttleworth and former Northern Virginia Urban League head Lavern Chatman. But each of them could claim more than $200,000 in cash on hand only because they’ve loaned or donated substantially to their own efforts. Beyer clearly has the capacity to do likewise, but so far hasn’t opted to be a self-funder.

The likeliest Republican nominee is aerospace industry lobbyist Micah Edmond, who has worked for several House Armed Services Committee members. He raised only $44,000 this year, reason enough to suspect he won’t put up much of a fight in November.

The most expensive race in Virginia, however, will surely be the Senate contest. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, the former governor, remains the clear but hardly prohibitive favorite. Helped by his new seat on the Finance Committee, he raised $2.7 million in January, February and March and began April with $8.8 million in his campaign account. But the lobbyist and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, who got his big political boost working for the House leadership in the 1990s, has raised $2.2 million just since announcing his bid in January. That’s an amount that suggests he’ll have the resources to sell his message.

All this is before candidate fundraising and spending, and waves of independent expenditures, shift into overdrive. Once the television advertising and direct mail onslaughts begin, there will be one more reason why this campaign season is unusually meaningful for so many Hill staffers: For evidence about what happens at the intersections of big money, politics and congressional policymaking, many aides won’t even have to leave home.

  • hippie1367

    Lets stop pretending staffers are anything but prostitutes and bagmen for their bosses – inserting random rules into laws for whoever pays them. And then they move onto “lobbying” where the payoffs really begin.

    Their ability to vote for whichever corruptocrat they want is irrelevant

    • robertbubba2

      Do you just post to post

      • hippie1367

        Being critiqued by an idiot with bubba in his name is a badge of honor. Go 2nd amend yourself.

        • robertbubba2

          ha ha ha ha that’s all you got, but at least I got a response.

          Not a very intelligent one but a response .

          • hippie1367

            It’s not like you actually had anything worthwhile to say – just another white trash staffer who doesn’t like it pointed out that he and his coworkers are criminal scum.

          • robertbubba2


            Are we having a bad day at Woodstock?

            Pass the government filled dope bong around one more time guy.

            Hey like it or not[and I know you won’t like it]
            I have gone to a South Carolina race track and listened to Emerson lake and Palmer and 16 other bands with 100,000 people years ago .

            The difference between you and I is, I grew up.

          • Layla

            I’d like to suggest that you go apply for a job on the Hill and spend some time there, likely working for peanuts with a boss who likely won’t appreciate you, but nonetheless you will gain a stronger appreciation of what it means to be working there, for the people, when you know you could be working elsewhere.

            Then perhaps you will stop generalizing and insulting.

          • robertbubba2

            Layla read some of this guys posts , if anything is good for a good laugh.

            Have a good day.

          • Layla

            I wish you both a good day, but let’s stop with the insults, please. We’re all better than this.

          • robertbubba2

            Layla you are probably right but hippie1367 and SacramentoJim post such nonsense I just live messing with their head’s .

        • SacramentoJim

          And he has posted that he did not finish high school and that lack of education hasn’t hurt him.

          • robertbubba2

            God are you redundant and repetitive .

            Careful Jimmy Mom said if you do that too many times you have a risk of going blind, so take it easy on that hole in your bedroom wall ha ha ha ha

          • SacramentoJim

            You keep proving to everyone that you are just a fool with a keyboard. So why don’t you grow up bubba and actually make a contribution to society? Getting a real job and getting off your government benefits would be a good start, bubba.

          • LuvMolly Sis of Max the Galoot

            Hahaha. Lil jimmy the sick troll stalker is on a roll this morning, pounding his keyboard while collecting his government benefits. He’s stalking you and me this morning. Can’t you just picture him at his keyboard, pounding the keys, smoke coming out his pointy ears, slobber dripping down his 3 chins, maniacally laughing?

            He refuses to F O A D! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!

          • robertbubba2

            ha ha ha ha careful Molly you are going to get Jimmy and his Mommy’s wrath if you keep posting things like this

            Hi Molly.

          • Jamie the Union Leech

            Actually Molly is the hole and she takes anything.

          • Jamie the Union Leech

            Jim have you noticed that she is still spiking the ball after helping to shaft you with her army of suck puppets. Her suck puppet convention was successful.

  • Buro Cratz

    With moral standards as the basis for general rules of law, government’s coercive actions become more predictable and people are able to make rational decisions based upon them.

  • Hugh Jass

    Our emotions are exploited relentlessly by those who oppose liberty and understand the manipulative power of the mass-TV-media.

  • The Savage Hombre

    As we are seeing more today, nefarious quacks have begun to argue that there is no need to limit the power of government officials because they have been chosen through democratic processes.

  • Ben Archer

    What are Edmond’s views on same sex marriage in VA, and the repeal of DADT?…heh heh I wonder what his ex-fiance Heather thinks on those issues as well?

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...