|Terry McAuliffe (left) and Ken Cuccinelli attack one another during a debate. [Photo by NBC4.]|
At a lively debate Sept. 25, the Democratic candidate for Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe emphasized his business background and mainstream agenda, while Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli focused on his experience as attorney general and downplayed his ties to Gov. McDonnell’s troubles with Star Scientific.
McAuliffe pointed to his “common-sense solutions on issues of education, transportation, and workforce development,” noting that he’s been endorsed by “many prominent Republicans, many of whom have never supported a Democrat before.”
Cuccinelli argued, “I'm the only candidate in this race who won’t need on-the-job training” if elected governor, referring to McAuliffe’s lack of experience in elective office. He cited the federal investigation of McAuliffe’s car company, Greentech, and said “I’ll fight for policies that grow jobs for the middle class.”
McAuliffe charged his opponent with promoting a “social ideological agenda,” including “personhood” legislation that would outlaw most forms of contraception and policies that caused many women’s health clinics to shut down. “Women are 50 percent of the work force of the United States of America. You cannot grow an economy by putting walls up around Virginia,” he said.
Cuccinelli cited his endorsements from the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s TechPAC and the Virginia branch of the National Federation of Independent Business and accused his opponent of being more interested in politics than the issues.
“I have some basic beliefs that are fundamental to me,” Cuccinelli said. “But an overwhelming proportion of my time as attorney general has been spent moving Virginia forward economically and protecting liberty and our constitution.”
McAuliffe criticized Cuccinelli for proposing a $1.4 billion tax cut—amounting to $6 billion over four years—without saying how he will pay it.
Cuccinelli said his tax relief plan, if fully implemented, would grow 58,000 jobs. He also vowed to cut the personal income tax rate by 4 percent and the business income tax by 5 percent.
To pay for those cuts, he would reduce spending and “eliminate tax loopholes” that don’t have any economic benefits. When asked to identify the loopholes, he said “there are scores of them,” but didn’t name any.
If Cuccinelli’s plan is approved, McAuliffe said, “Virginia will be in financial ruin.”
Predictably, the candidates clashed over Medicaid expansion, with McAuliffe supporting what he called a bipartisan, mainstream plan endorsed by the both the Fairfax County and Virginia chambers of commerce. Cuccinelli opposes the expansion, urging the current system be made more efficient instead.
When asked what he would say to low-income people who couldn’t get Medicaid in Virginia but could if they lived in Maryland or D.C., he said “we need to make the Medicaid system we have now work better for the people in it.”
McAuliffe said if Virginia accepts the money to expand Medicaid, 400,000 people will gain access to life-saving healthcare. That would free up $800 million in the budget for other uses, and “if we don’t take this money, many of our rural hospitals will be jeopardized.”
In response to a question about preventing gun violence, McAuliffe called for “sensible gun ownership” and said he will push for universal background checks. “There are certain individuals who just should not own a gun,” he said, referring to people with mental illness. “When we drop our children off at school and our loved ones off at work, we want to know they will be safe.”
“I will support the Second Amendment,” Cuccinelli said, vowing to focus on “resolving mental health issues.”
Without the Medicaid expansion, “there’s not a penny to invest in mental health,” McAuliffe countered.
When asked if he approved of congressional Republicans’ attempt to force a government shutdown unless Obamacare is defunded, Cuccinelli said he opposes Obamacare but “but this is not the kind of thing you would see in a Cuccinelli governorship. . . . “This is not an appropriate tactic.”
Cuccinelli accused his opponent of threatening to not sign a budget that doesn’t include the Medicaid expansion. “No budget will be shut down in Virginia over Medicaid expansion,” McAuliffe, said. “I will work in a bipartisan way to get it done.” He said he’s been endorsed by many Republicans because “they know we will work together to get things done,” noting that Cuccinelli almost derailed the Virginia budget when he tried to defund Planned Parenthood.
McAuliffe blasted Cuccinelli for not going after Star Scientific, which owes Virginia $1.7 million, because of CEO Jonnie R. Williams Sr.’s ties to the McDonnell administration. “Instead of taking him to court, Ken was being taken on trips to New York City and got a $1,500 turkey dinner,” McAuliffe said. “That’s a lot of turkey.”
Cuccinelli claimed he didn’t know about William’s business when he accepted $18,000 worth of gifts. He later donated $18,000 to a charity. During the debate, he said ethics reform “is an area I’ve led on.”
McAuliffe touted his proposals to strengthen ethics laws, including a measure to prohibit officials from accepted gifts worth more than $100.
When it comes to letting gays marry, Cuccinelli said, “I believe the institution of marriage should remain between one man and one woman.”
“I support marriage equality,” McAuliffe asserted, accusing his opponent of referring to gays as “soulless” human beings. He blamed Cuccinelli’s anti-gay statements of nearly sinking Northrop Grumman’s plan to relocate to Northern Virginia.
McAuliffe blasted Cuccinelli for being one of just three attorney generals in the United States who refused to endorse the federal Violence Against Women Act.
He also accused his opponent of refusing to defend the rights of thousands of landowners in southwest Virginia who were owed money for having methane taken off their lands, because the company involved contributed to his campaign.
McAuliffe said he opposes allowing schools to open before Labor Day because that would hurt tourism to the tune of $369 million a year. Cuccinelli said “children outrank tourism” and localities should be able to decide when school should start.