Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin met in southwest Virginia on Thursday for the first Commonwealth Governors’ Debate of general election season.
Much of the talk between McAuliffe, a longtime Democratic Party fundraiser seeking a rare second term as governor, and Youngkin, a former company executive and political newcomer, has centered on the terms of vaccination and abortion policy.
Here’s a look at other topics the candidates clashed over during the hour-long debate in a race that’s being closely watched ahead of next year’s mid-sessions:
During the GOP nomination contest, Youngkin made “electoral integrity” a major campaign issue, allowing him to appeal to supporters of former President Donald Trump who mistakenly believed that the 2020 had been stolen.
Moderator Susan Page urged Youngkin to simply answer yes or no on Thursday to a question of whether he agreed with remarks Trump made recently in a radio interview, in which he suggested that the Democrats could “cheat” in the race for governor.
“No.… I think we’re going to have a clean and fair election that I fully expect to win,” said Youngkin, who added that he didn’t think there had been any “substantial” fraud in the election. elections in Virginia.
Page also asked the two candidates if they would concede if the state certified their opponent won. Both are committed to doing so.
McAuliffe and Youngkin have found a common ground on whether to end qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that often shields police from liability.
Both have made it clear that they will not seek to make any changes to this policy in Virginia. It’s a change of direction for McAuliffe, who in April’s Democratic primary told the Virginia Mercury he would support ending it. He gave a less direct answer during a debate in May between Democratic candidates.
CONTROVERSIES OF STATE AGENCIES
Youngkin took on two state agencies that faced persistent complaints from Virginia during the pandemic: the Virginia Employment Commission and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
“We will introduce the concept of customer service, not a faulty process,” he said.
And during a segment where candidates were allowed to ask one question, Youngkin insisted on McAuliffe about the woman he appointed chair of the state parole board, where the oversight agency the state discovered a number of serious problems.
“If you could start all over again, would you appoint her as chair of your parole board?” Youngkin asked.
Without directly addressing the issue of former board chair Adrianne Bennett, McAuliffe replied that if anyone in state government had acted inappropriately, “people would be fired.”
RENEWABLE ENERGY POLICY
Energy policy and climate change have so far not taken center stage in the campaign.
Candidates were asked on Thursday whether they would have signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act, a sweeping bill passed by Democrats in 2020 that outlines a plan to bring Virginia electric utilities to 100% production. renewable by 2050.
Youngkin said he would not have signed the measure.
“I believe in all sources of energy. We can use wind and solar, but we have to preserve our clean natural gas, ”he said.
McAuliffe said “of course” he would have signed it. In a campaign platform, he called for accelerating Virginia’s path to “100% clean energy” by 2035.
STATUE OF ROBERT E. LEE OF RICHMOND
Page, the Washington bureau chief of USA Today, had a direct question for the candidates about the removal last week of a huge statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond.
“What went through your mind when you saw this statue fall?” She asked about the state-owned bronze equestrian piece. Gov. Ralph Northam ordered his removal last summer after the police murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, but litigation had stalled work for more than a year.
McAuliffe, whose position on Confederate statuary in Virginia has changed over the years and who could have sought to remove the monument when he was previously in office, responded that he was “happy” to see it disappear, calling it symbol of “division and hatred.” “
Youngkin first shot at McAuliffe’s changes in stance, then said he believed the Virginia Supreme Court ruling that allowed the statue to be removed “reflected the law.”
“I think this statue should be in a museum or on a battlefield, so we’re not erasing our history,” he said.
The Independent Gt