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The Blue & Gray Press | October 23, 2017

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McAuliffe takes lead in governor poll

BY STEPHANIE TIPPLE

After a heated campaign trail, two of the Virginia gubernatorial candidates, McAuliffe and Cuccinelli, faced off in the final debate on Oct. 24, at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va.

With many campaign ads focused on negative components of the opposing candidate’s ideology, previous public policy and political experience, the debate was more of the same, with both candidates speaking about the problems with the opposing candidate’s social and economic policies.

“These campaigns have both gotten in the habit of saying something really negative about the other at any opportunity, and the debate was no exception,” said Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington. “What you’re looking at in this debate is what we’ve seen in previous debates-which is a lot of personal attacks.”

Max Reinhardt, chairman of the College Republicans, said he was pleased with Cuccinelli’s performance in the debate.

“I thought Cuccinelli did a superb job. It was a great way to close out the debate series,” said Reinhardt.

Ben Hermerding, president of the Young Democrats, said he thought Cuccinelli’s agenda did not fit what the Commonwealth of Virginia is looking for in a candidate.

“We saw one candidate [McAuliffe] who offered a moderate proposal, who knows where expenses are going to be going to and where the money’s going to come from,” said Hermerding. “From the other candidate, a radical extremist agenda that frankly is just not Virginia.”

Among the many questions addressed in the debate was the implementation of the candidates’ proposed budget and spending plans. According to McAuliffe, the key to increasing spending and investment in Virginia is the expansion of Medicaid and establishing where governmental agencies can be more efficient.

“What we need to do is first figure out what efficiencies we can have in the government, the money we can save from the Medicaid expansion and once we know how much money we have, then we can put it to the priorities I’ve talked about including pre-K, early childhood development, reforming the SOLs, teacher pay, investing in community colleges and financial aid in higher education,” McAuliffe said.

For Cuccinelli, the answer to the Virginia budget lies with curbing government spending and closing tax loopholes.

“I’m the only candidate with a plan-an actual plan-with details to grow new jobs.” said Cuccinelli. “The way we do that is to reduce the growth of government spending to just under 3.5 percent and to cut out about one-sixth of our tax credits, exemptions and loopholes to pay for the cost of that tax cut.”

As the United States is repeatedly shaken over the past year’s shootings, and the Second Amendment debate being a crucial voting point in Virginia, the legislation of gun control was discussed.

Cuccinelli, who has been given an A rating from the NRA said the focus needs to be on mental health, not on restricting gun access.

“I’ve been one of the leading experts on mental health issues in the General Assembly as attorney general, and I would be as governor in Richmond,” said Cuccinelli. “We need to do more in that direction, to make sure less of these tragedies happen because they’re all tied, in one way or another, to mental health failures.”

Cuccinelli said he is a strong advocate of enforcing gun laws.

“Virginia is literally one of the best states in the country at doing that, and I’ll continue doing that as governor,” said Cuccinelli.

McAuliffe stated that he fully supports universal background checks as a means to help lessen gun violence.

“I think it’s important to understand when we drop our children off at school, or we drop our loved ones off at work, we want to make sure that our children and our loved ones are safe,” said McAuliffe. “I’m a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I’m a gun owner and I’m a hunter, but I support universal background checks.”

Another point addressed in the debate is the role of the governor as a fighter or a compromiser.

McAuliffe says he is willing to compromise with the Republicans on things such as the transportation needs of the state, but will fight for freedom in women’s health choices.

“The transportation package–I thought that was critical to Virginia’s future,” said McAuliffe. “Where I’m willing to fight, and I want every woman who is watching tonight or who is in this audience to know that I trust women to make their own decisions about their own personal health care choices.”

Cuccinelli looked to his experience of compromise and standing his ground in the state Senate.

“I’m the only one that has experience actually working on a bi-partisan basis to do anything. Terry McAuliffe didn’t do anything meaningful on the transportation bill this year,” said Cuccinelli. “I have compromised on a previous transportation bill when I was actually involved in it, in 2007 when I was in the State Senate. I didn’t compromise when it came to getting property rights passed in Virginia – it took 8 years of hard fighting. There is a time to fight, and there is a time to compromise.”

A noted absence during the debate was Libertarian candidate, Robert Sarvis, who was not invited to participate in the final debate. There was discussion as to whether he was to be included as a third party candidate in the weeks leading up to the debate.

Hermerding felt that Sarvis’ polling numbers and progress as a third party candidate earned him a slot at the last debate.

“I think that Sarvis has a level of support that he should have been allowed to participate,” said Hermerding. “I mean he got on the ballot–so I think he should be allowed in all of the debates.”

Farnsworth had a similar opinion to Hermerding.

“Well my personal view is that Sarvis should have been included. He was in the range of 10 percent, our Mary Washington poll had him at 10 percent, the [Washington] Post poll had him at eight,” said Farnsworth. “This is the strongest performance by a third party candidate in a Virginia’s Governor’s race in decades.”

Reinhardt, on the other hand, did not agree with Hermerding and Farnsworth.

“Sarvis did not meet the polling requirements to be included in the debate,” said Reinhardt.

With a recent Washington Post poll showing McAuliffe at a 12-point lead, the race will continue to be heated until Election Day.