Virginia voters got a first-look today at the dynamic between the two former Virginia Governors vying to replace retiring Senator Jim Webb (D).
Candidates Tim Kaine (D) and George Allen (R) traded barbs for more than an hour during a debate that got a little “frisky” at times, as moderator Bob Gibson put it.
The Virginia AP Managing Editors and the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association hosted the debate as part of Associated Press Day at Virginia's Capitol in Richmond. It was the first of three debates for Virginia’s open U.S. Senate seat. Although multiple other candidates are running for the seat, only Kaine and Allen met the requirements to participate in the debate, including polling at 15 percent or higher and raising a certain amount of money by October 31.
The debate – which took place in the middle of the day - primarily served as an opportunity for each candidate to test out his campaign message and attack the other’s record as governor.
Allen repeatedly criticized Kaine for serving as chair of the Democratic National Committee during his fourth and final year in office.
Allen said if Kaine had been focused on his job as governor instead of DNC chair, maybe 100,000 Virginians wouldn’t have been out of work when he, Kaine, left office. He also criticized him hanging out with the “likes” of President Obama and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Kaine attacked Allen for voting to raise the debt ceiling when he was a Senator.
“On the issue of tough choices, you’re all boots and no cattle. You voted to increase the debt ceiling again and again,” he said.
Allen held the seat the two men are vying for one term before he lost his re-election bid to Webb in 2006. Nevertheless, Kaine spent the debate trying to bracket Allen as the incumbent in the race and himself as the underdog.
“You talk about what I advocate? You were a senator. You voted for these things,” Kaine said. “You’re running for re-election.”
Topics of discussion during the debate were: transportation, crime, national security, foreign aid, the Tea Party, Cap and Trade, abortion and “Obamacare.”
Kaine said that Virginia had no choice but to look at raising taxes and creating new toll roads to pay for improvements in Virginia’s transportation system.
“I think the consensus is today that we need increased fees and revenues,” he said.
Allen also used the debate to subtly tie Kaine to the infamous Occupy Wall Street movement, saying voters "have a very clear choice in this campaign,” and that those who pay taxes, work for a living and like having a job and electricity “will join the A-Team. The Allen Team.”
On the topic of healthcare reform, Allen said he’d heard from a diverse number of Virginians who were concerned about Obamacare, including seniors and small business owners.
“The reality is that this is hurting jobs,” he said.