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Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin clashed Tuesday night over vaccinations, tax policy, education and their respective records in the second and final Virginia gubernatorial debate, very supervised.

The event got off to a combative start and neither candidate gave up within the hour, each accusing the other of lying to voters.

With five weeks before election day and with early voting already underway, recent polls suggest a close race between McAuliffe, who is running for a second term after his first term ended in 2018, and Youngkin, a former company executive and political newcomer.

Democrats made huge gains in Virginia while President Donald Trump was in power, taking full control of the state government, but Republicans are more energetic and optimistic about their chances this fall than they are. ‘have been for years. The contest, one of only two regularly scheduled governors’ races this year, is also gaining national attention as a possible indicator of voter sentiment heading into next year’s midterms.

The first question of the night was about the coronavirus pandemic, and the candidates maintained the positions they have consistently outlined on vaccination mandates, which McAuliffe generally supports and Youngkin does not.

“He wants employers to fire employees who don’t get the vaccine,” said Youngkin, who is vaccinated and said he believed everyone should get it.

McAuliffe called Youngkin’s position on the issue “disqualifying.”

Moderator Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News, asked Youngkin if he thinks getting vaccinated against “measles, mumps or rubella is a personal choice.”

Youngkin struggled to find his words for several seconds, then said, “I think the data associated with these vaccines is something that we absolutely need to understand the difference between this vaccine.”

When questioned again, he said he believed these vaccines “may be mandatory”.

McAuliffe, as he has done throughout the campaign, has consistently sought to tie Youngkin to Trump, who lost Virginia by 10 points. At one point, he called Youngkin “bought and paid for” by the former president.

“There is an over / under on how many times you would say Donald Trump,” Youngkin replied. “You are running against me. It’s Terry McAuliffe vs. Glenn Youngkin.

In the last question of the evening, Todd asked Youngkin if he would support Trump if he ran for president in 2024. After first discussing the matter, Youngkin said, “If he’s the candidate Republican, I will support him. “

One of the most intense exchanges of the event came during a question about the state’s historic $ 2.6 billion surplus, which Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam says is due to strong the state’s economic outlook, but Youngkin called the result an over-taxation.

When asked why some of that money shouldn’t be returned to taxpayers, as Youngkin proposed, McAuliffe argued that the Republican’s “crazy” tax regime would devastate Virginia’s economy and lead to hardship. cuts to public education.

“The income and expenses, I know, have been difficult for you. I know they’re tough on you, ”retorted Youngkin, a former co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, to cheers. “In the end, Terry, you have no idea what you’re talking about.

As Youngkin sought to portray McAuliffe as a failed politician, McAuliffe lashed out at Youngkin’s background in private equity, citing unflattering reports on the performance of some companies his company acquired, including a chain of houses. nursing that a Washington Post investigation found exposed its patients to “increased health risks” and racked up health code violations.

On education, Youngkin said he has seen school systems “refuse to engage with parents” in the past 20 months, citing recent parental outrage in Fairfax County over books as an example. with explicit sexual content.

He hit McAuliffe for vetoing a measure in 2017 known as the “Beloved” bill, based on Toni Morrison’s novel, which allegedly allowed parents to refuse their children to study documents deemed sexually explicit. Opponents of the measure criticized it as a form of censorship.

“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what to teach,” McAuliffe said, in a line Republicans sought to highlight online after the event.

Virginia does not allow its governors to serve consecutive terms, and McAuliffe is seeking a rare return after deciding not to run for president in 2020.

Also on the ballot this fall are the races for the attorney general and lieutenant governor, as well as the 100 seats in the House of Delegates.

After many back and forths this summer, Youngkin and McAuliffe only accepted two debates. Tuesday’s event, hosted by the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, took place on the campus of a community college in Alexandria.

Third-party candidate Princess Blanding, who was not invited to participate, interrupted the debate, shouting into the audience that she was being excluded. The station took a commercial break.

She told The Associated Press earlier today that the Chamber of Commerce invited her to sit in the audience and meet the press afterwards.

“What I felt was, yes, you can come and get on the bus like everyone else… but you’re going to sit in the back of the bus. I fulfilled the conditions just as they did to participate in the poll, however, I am stuck, ”she said.

Election day is November 2 and the deadline to register to vote or update an existing registration is October 12.


Associated Press editor Denise Lavoie contributed to this report.

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