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Monday, October 7, 2013

McAuliffe, Cuccinelli address minority chambers of commerce

At the first-ever Minority Chambers Candidates Forum, Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe stressed his position as a mainstream leader able to work with both parties, while the Republican candidate, Ken Cuccinelli, focused on his accomplishments as Virginia attorney general.

The event, at the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College Oct. 6, was hosted by the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Asian-American Chamber of Commerce, and the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce.

There were so many politicians in the room, they nearly outnumbered the audience. Although only McAuliffe and Cuccinelli gave speeches, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor E.W. Jackson, Republican candidate for attorney general Mark Obenshain, and independent libertarian candidate for governor Robert Sarvis were at the forum on a meet-and-greet basis.

E.W. Jackson at the minority chambers forum.

McAuliffe spoke about his ability to bring people together in a bipartisan way and seek mainstream solutions for education, economic development, and healthcare and for bringing 21st century jobs to Virginia, while labeling his opponent an extremist with an ideological agenda.

Noting that the shutdown of the federal government is hurting Northern Virginia more than other areas of the country, McAuliffe called for state leaders to “stand up for Virginia jobs.” He said, “Democrats and Republicans should be completely unified on this.” Cuccinelli, meanwhile, has been campaigning with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the architect of the shutdown. McAuliffe accused his opponent of being “more concerned with this reputation with the Tea Party than in dealing with the shutdown.”

McAuliffe praised Sen. Ralph Northam’s pragmatic leadership, which will be critical in a divided Senate. Northam is running for lieutenant governor against E.W. Jackson, a fundamentalist religious leader and Tea Party favorite.

As an example of how bipartisanship can pay off, McAuliffe cited the landmark bill approved in the last session providing the first significant investment in transportation in 27 years, which will alleviate traffic congestion and improve the quality of life. He reminded the audience that Cuccinelli had stated he wouldn’t have voted for it.

When it comes to education, McAuliffe vowed to “end the current form of the SOLs,” the state’s high-stakes Standard of Learning tests, by giving school districts more flexibility. He said districts should be allowed to break up the SOLs into smaller portions and give different tests to students with different learning styles.

He said raising teacher pay is essential if Virginia is going to be able to attract new teachers, especially in science and math and also called for a greater investments in prekindergarten and community college workforce training.

McAuliffe promised to sign the Dream Act, which gives certain children of undocumented immigrants more opportunities for higher education. And he promised to “fight against any forms of discrimination,” noting “no one should feel unwelcome here.” He pledged to make his administration “the most diverse Virginia has ever seen.”

McAuliffe said he is “honored to have the support of many Republicans.” He was endorsed by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce following a debate sponsored by that group, as well as the Virginia Association of Realtors, 12 former Republican legislators, and William Sessoms Jr., the Republican mayor of Virginia Beach.

Cuccinelli noted that he had been endorsed by the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s Tech PAC and a group representing small businesses.

Cuccinelli spoke about this goals to create new jobs, emphasize education in science, math, and technology in high schools, and ensure higher education remains affordable to the middle class. He also vowed to build the economy by cutting taxes and utility costs.

Cuccinelli cited his accomplishments, including helping to “exonerate more wrongly convicted felons than any attorney general in Virginia,” fighting healthcare fraud, and aggressively fighting human trafficking.

“I would not need on-the-job training if you elect me governor,” Cuccinelli said. He touted his anti-union credentials, noting “my opponent’s race is funded by unions to an extraordinary degree” and said he fought attempts to gut Virginia’s right to work law.

Neither candidate spoke about the more controversial topics—such as Cuccinelli’s opposition to expanding Medicaid and efforts to curtail women’s access to reproductive healthcare—that have dominated other campaign appearances and TV ads.

Among elected officials at the forum were Rep. Gerry Connolly (D), and several members of the House of Delegates: Vivian Watts (D-39th), Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41st), Kenneth Plum (D-36th), Alfonso Lopez (D-49th), Mark Keam (D-35th), Tom Rust (R-86th), and Charniele Herring (D-46th).

Candidates who attended include Stacy Kincaid, who’s running for Fairfax County sheriff, and several candidates for the House of Delegates: Patrice Winters, Republican candidate for the 37th district; Fredy Burgos, a Republican running in the 41st district; Marcus Simon, a Democratic running in the 53rd district; and Hung Nguyen, the Democratic candidate for the 67th district.

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