U.Va. Center for Politics appoints two new resident scholars

Former Congresswoman Barbara Comstock and journalist Jamelle Bouie to join University faculty

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Barbara Comstock (left) is a former Republican politician and Jamelle Bouie (right) is a journalist who now lives in Charlottesville.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons and Jamelle Bouie

The University’s Center for Politics officially appointed Barbara Comstock and Jamelle Bouie as resident scholars last week. The new employees will be working for the Center for Politics as guest speakers and panelists, as well as developing a public program for the spring of 2021 on behalf of the Center for Politics, which will include several events organized by Comstock and Bouie.  

Comstock — a prominent Republican politician, attorney and lobbyist — served in the Northern Virginia House of Delegates from 2009 to 2014 and in Congress for Virginia’s 10th District from 2014 to 2018. Comstock served two terms in Congress, representing Clarke, Frederick, Loudoun and parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties. She was defeated in November 2018 by Democratic State Senator Jennifer Wexton. 

Jamelle Bouie is best known for his work as an opinion columnist for the New York Times. A Virginia Beach native and University alumnus, Bouie currently resides in Charlottesville and was formerly the chief political correspondent for Slate magazine. In January 2019, Bouie was dubbed “one of the defining commentators on politics and race in the Trump era,” according to David Uberti in the Columbia Journalism Review. 

These two individuals come from varying political ideologies and the Center for Politics is hoping this diversity of thought will enhance student education at the University. Kyle Kondik, the communications director at the Center for Politics, commented on this long-standing tradition of bringing prominent political figures from across the ideological spectrum to the University. 

“Jamelle Bouie and Barbara Comstock will bring diverse perspectives to the Center for Politics, and their participation as resident scholars is very much in keeping with the Center’s mission,” Kondik said. “We thought both of their backgrounds would be of great interest to students and the broader University community.”

Kondik also noted that students will be able to interact with these resident scholars through both classes provided by the Center of Politics and public events. 

The University Democrats are already familiar with both of the new scholars, having hosted Bouie earlier this fall and having worked on the campaign trail for Wexton last year. Kathryn Williams, third-year College student and communications chair of the University Democrats, said that although UDems is excited that Bouie is returning to Grounds, she expressed discomfort regarding the presence of Comstock at the University. 

“We are fans of [Bouie’s] writing and believe he writes compelling and interesting articles condemning Trump and on other topics in the midst of this chaotic time for politics,” Williams said. “On the other hand, Barabara Comstock, a former Congresswoman who voted with Trump 97.8% of the time does not align with our values at all ... While we appreciate the importance of differing opinions, the University Democrats do not support Comstock and her appalling voting record.”

Comstock denounced Donald Trump’s candidacy in 2016 following the Access Hollywood tape scandal. Addressing Trump’s candidacy for the first time amidst this scandal, Comstock urged Donald Trump to step aside so that the Republican party could replace him with “another appropriate nominee.” She continued to state that she could not “in good conscience” vote for Trump.

However, since that statement in 2016, her voting record does show a nearly perfect alignment with Trump’s position on various issues, including immigration and healthcare.

The College Republicans did not respond to request for comment as of press time.

Comstock formerly served as a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics and founded The Young Women’s Leadership Program for young women in high school and junior high at the beginning of the year. The program is currently housed at the Barbara Comstock Institute for Women in Leadership at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government in Fairfax, Va.

Although not full-time employees, Comstock and Bouie will each be paid $5,000 by the University for their services and will be available for student interaction through classes and panels held by the Center for Politics, Kondik said.

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