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POLITICS: PennAve

Ken Cuccinelli, Terry McAuliffe trade barbs over business, roads

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Politics,Congress,Virginia,Steve Contorno,Terry McAuliffe,Ken Cuccinelli,Campaigns,PennAve

Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on Thursday accused Democrat Terry McAuliffe of being a union hack while McAuliffe assailed Cuccinelli as an extreme cultural warrior.

Just another day in the Virginia governor race.

Cuccinelli and McAuliffe fielded questions from business leaders during a Northern Virginia Technology Council forum. And while both shared plans for how they would help grow Virginia's booming tech industry, they found plenty of opportunities to take shots at each other.

McAuliffe parlayed a question on economic incentives for businesses into an attack on Cuccinelli's past statements on gay rights. Cuccinelli, in turn, responded to a question about social issues by taking a jab at McAuliffe's decision to locate his electric car business, GreenTech Automotive, in Mississippi rather than Virginia.

And the race, already a slugfest, has barely begun in earnest.

Cuccinelli and McAuliffe shared the forum stage together for just 10 minutes during opening statements, then individually fielded questions from a panel and the audience.

Northern Virginia business leaders, who lobbied hard this year for a transportation funding fix, twice asked Cuccinelli if he would undo Gov. Bob McDonnell's signature legislative achievement — a $6 billion tax hike needed to improve the region's crumbling, congested roads. Cuccinelli, who denounced the deal as a "massive tax increase," reassured his audience that he would not try to repeal the law and pledged to be a better stewart of the road funds than McAufliffe.

"Do you want 'Union Terry' spending this money, or 'Frugal Ken?'" asked Cuccinelli.

From the very start, McAuliffe hammered Cuccinelli for opposing the transportation fix and promised to focus as governor on bipartisan solutions just like it.

The former Democratic National Committee chairman warned that Cuccinelli's legal battles against a University of Virginia professor's global warming research would hurt the state's ability to attract top professors. Cuccinelli's vocal opposition to abortion and gay rights also would discourage businesses from relocating to the state.

"You're not going to lure these cyber [businesses] if you're putting walls up around Virginia," McAuliffe said. "We need to stop the attack on gay Virginians."

Cuccinelli said his conservative views won't influence business decisions.

"I don't think the [social issue] concerns you raised have reached the level where it's blocking businesses from coming here," he said.

Between punches, the candidates offered similar promises to use the state's colleges as incubators for businesses and the community college system to train workers, all while boosting resources for math and the science classes.

But while McAuliffe repeatedly compared his governing style to the current Republican administration, Cuccinelli, the GOP nominee, often veered away from McDonnell.

Aside from Cuccinelli and McDonnell's disagreement over transportation funding, Cuccinelli promised to provide fewer taxpayer-funded development grants than McDonnell and said the state should shift more control of roadways to local governments.

He said state leaders have focused too much on Virginia's stature atop the rankings for business friendliness.

"It isn't enough to be the best place to do business," Cuccinelli said. "My goal is to make it foolish to leave."

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