RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – Virginia’s most high-profile and competitive congressional race took an eyebrow-raising turn early Tuesday when former FBI Director James Comey went out canvassing for Democrat Jennifer Wexton.
“Voted. Now going to knock on doors to urge everyone to vote,” Comey tweeted shortly after 8 a.m. “Should be fun.”
A short time later, Comey, who was famously fired by President Donald Trump, showed up at a canvassing launch spot for Wexton, whose opponent, Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock, was seeking her third term representing Northern Virginia’s 10th Congressional District.
Aaron Fritschner, Wexton’s communications director, told Courthouse News that Comey said it was his first time canvassing for a candidate and that he “just wanted to help out.”
He was given Wexton stickers, handed a script, and away he went to get out the vote.
Comey and his wife Patrice returned their canvassing packet after knocking on several doors, and the former FBI director offered words of encouragement to a few dozen volunteers who had gathered nearby.
“This is beyond Democrats or Republicans or Independents, this is about the values of our country, and I thank you for what you’re doing today … we will be ok because of people like you,” Comey said.
Fritschner described the response from voters who saw Comey canvassing as “very positive.”
In previous races, Comstock has relied on support from at least some Democratic-leaning voters to win — a phenomenon that recent polls suggested would not materialize this year.
Joe Richards, of Manassas, was all smiles as he prepared to vote for Wexton in a rainy Prince William County Tuesday morning.
Richards said he was smiling because he was “excited to see a change come to Washington.”
“Comstock has got to go,” he said. “I think there will be a lot of unhappy Republicans tonight.”
The former federal employee said while he voted for Comstock in the past, her close allegiance to President Trump made it impossible this time.
The Republican party, he said, is a party “off the rails.”
Comstock hadn’t lost all of her longtime supporters, however.
Carla Watson, a retiree from Prince William County, told Courthouse News that while Comstock “might not win … she won’t raise taxes like [challenger Jennifer Wexton] will.”
“That’s too bad. But [Comstock] has got my vote. It was an easy choice,” she said.
Back in Glen Allen, another hotly contested congressional race was that one in which incumbent Republican Rep. Dave Brat was facing off against former CIA Agent and Democrat Abigail Spanberger.
Brat made headlines when he overtook House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the GOP primary two years ago.
But this time out, he faces resistance from suburban mothers, who disagree with several of the positions he’s taken.
“I think today showing up and saying we’re tired of what’s happening matters,” said Lynda Reider who said she’d voted for Spanberger as her two twin daughters practiced pirouettes on the steps of the polling precinct.
Reider is the kind of voter Democrats have been courting ever since Trump’s win. She called herself a “Deep South Republican” until Obama’s first election. She said she’s voted for Democrats ever since.
“I wanted something different, someone who was open-minded and thought the status quo wasn’t okay,” she said as she kept an eye on her young daughters. “Everything that’s happening right now, it affects our future.”
If there’s any such thing in Virginia this year, it’s the now near-certain re-election of Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, who is expected to easily dispatch his Republican opponent, Republican Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart.
Kaine exuded confidence Tuesday morning as he arrived at his voting precinct on the north side of Richmond.
“It’s a good morning,” he said to a gaggle of press as a misting rain fell. “Polls tell you about preference, but elections are about energy and the evidence shows we have the energy.”
Absentee voting, voter registration and turnout in local precincts were all up according to the candidate.
Stewart, an insurgent candidate roundly criticized for his past association with white supremacists, tried to piggyback on President Trump’s anti-immigration message and blamed Democrats for inaction on the issue.
But Stewart’s message is seen as having but a slim chance of connecting with voters. Trump lost Virginia in 2016, and Republicans haven’t won a statewide race here in nearly a decade.
Despite his likely victory, Kaine stayed on script as he spoke with reporters Tuesday morning, touting himself and other Democrats as an alternative to President Trump and his policies.
“Healthcare is on the ballot, immigration reform, minimum wage, but the real issue on the ballot is if people want leaders who will unite us or leaders who divide us,” he said.
That message is one which seemed to appeal to Jonathan Ball, an Alexandria resident who works in IT. He said he voted for Kaine because of his “down to earth” attitude and his stance on expanding gun laws.
“I couldn’t vote for Stewart,” Ball said of Kaine’s opponent. “[Stewart] is a lot of what we have seen for the last two years in Washington and I don’t think we need more of that.”
Down in Virginia Beach, however, Kaine’s message was being welcome with less enthusiasm.
“The images I see on the news, I don’t mind civil disobedience, I mind destructive disobedience,” said James Baloo, a local Republican who voted for “law and order” and said he wasn’t impressed with democratic efforts to stop Trump’s agenda.
Though, at the same time, he admitted he wasn’t “really thrilled with Corey Stewart,” but voted for him anyway because he’s “anti-democrat right now.”
Another candidate Balloo voted for was Incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Taylor.
A former Navy Seal, Taylor faced criticism for his campaign’s role in collecting forged signatures to get a third party candidate on the ballot. A judge ultimately removed the third party candidate from the ballot, and a criminal investigation is underway,
But Balloo was unfazed by the allegations.
“There’s games played on both sides in all elections,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that and let the courts take care of it.”
Michael Hundley, a resident of Glen Allen, Virginia, also pushed back against Kaine and the Democrat’s calls to support change in Washington.
“[Trump] did what he said he was going to do while he was running,” Hundley said.
But while he said he’d still vote for Trump if given the chance, he did admit the President’s rhetoric didn’t make it easy.
“Is he a man I’d invite to Christmas dinner, maybe not, but he’s getting things done,” he said. “I wish he would act a bit more presidential … if someone calls you a name, let it go, but he’s doing the bulk of what he says he’s going to do.”
Brandi Buchman and Jocelyn Rardin contributed to this report.