Byline: Gary Emerling, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A longtime conservative tagged as part of the Republicans Party's vast right-wing conspiracy is plunging into the newly blue pool of Virginia politics. Barbara Comstock - the former head of research at the Republican National Committee and ex-spokeswoman for Attorney General John Ashcroft - plans to challenge Democrat Margaret Vanderhye in Fairfax County's 34th House District in November.
I have always been a strong advocate in anything that I've been working on, and I felt very strongly about keeping Northern Virginia the community that it is, Mrs. Comstock said.
Her race comes as Virginia again stands to get its share of the national political spotlight. Virginia and New Jersey are the only states to hold gubernatorial contests this year, and all 100 members of the state House also are up for re-election.
Mrs. Comstock was a veteran political operative who headed I. Lewis Scooter Libby's defense fund and was a thorn in the side of the Clinton administration. She also served as an adviser to the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, and as counsel for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee in the 1990s.
She began her career as an intern for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, before switching sides, so to speak.
She's clearly an all-star, said former Virginia Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, a Republican who served on the House committee during Mrs. Comstock's tenure.
What's happening around Northern Virginia is the Republicans are back, said Mr. Davis, who thinks the party will be more successful, in part, because critics can no longer attack the Bush administration. They are mounting strong challenges in a number of districts, and that's one.
During her time with the House committee and the RNC, Mrs. Comstock probed the Clinton presidency for evidence of scandal and compiled information for use against Vice President Al Gore, a former presidential candidate.
She helped lead the investigation into Travelgate, looking into first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's role in firing employees in the White House Travel Office.
In her book Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mrs. Comstock's colleague Barbara Olson - the wife of former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson and a passenger on American Airlines Flight 77, who died when the plane crashed into the Pentagon - said working with Mrs. Comstock was like having the entire IBM mainframe working with you.
Besides being an incredibly gifted congressional investigator and lawyer, she worked literally around the clock to expose the well-concealed wrongdoing in the White House, Mrs. Olson wrote.
Mrs. Comstock said the issues that have attracted her attention have been driven by policy and concern for constituents, rather than a political agenda.
She highlighted her support of a media shield bill opposed by the Bush administration and said some travel office employees fired during the Clinton administration were constituents of her former boss, Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican.
It was a matter of these people had been wronged, Mrs. Comstock said.
Despite her credentials, a Comstock victory in Northern Virginia could prove difficult: Virginia last year voted for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1964, delivered an open U.S. Senate seat to Democrat Mark R. Warner and reversed the Republican majority among its congressional House delegation.
President Obama also bested Sen. John McCain in the 34th District's precinct …