Virginia gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe (D) and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) squared off Wednesday night in a debate in McLean, VA six weeks before the election. MSNBC’s Chuck Todd acted as moderator, asking questions regarding government spending, gun control and the Attorney General’s social conservative beliefs, which have been a source of criticism from his opponent throughout the campaign.
Early in the debate, McAuliffe launched the familiar 'war on women' charge against Cuccinelli for ‘wanting to rid contraceptives’ and introducing ‘personhood’ legislation, while also accusing the Attorney General of calling gay people ‘soulless.’
“He hurled mean-spirited attacks on women's health and on gay Virginians.”
Cuccinelli was quick to respond.
“I have beliefs important to me, but I’m moving Virginia forward economically […] The ‘soulless’ claim is offensively false. […] and no one has done more to protect women than I have.”
After addressing his opponent’s accusations, Cuccinelli explained why he is the right man for the job.
“There’s a broad array of support we’re getting […] because I’ve put out thought out plans. I’ve been fighting back against overreaching regulations and we saved taxpayers $250 million. […] Governor is not a good entry-level job, but that’s what it would be for Terry. […] I’m the only one who has a plan.”
Todd then switched the conversation to gun control, in light of the Navy Yard shootings in the nation’s capital last week that tragically left 13 dead. Mcauliffe answered first with a passionate plea.
“As a father and as a husband, when we drop our kids off at school, we want to know they’re going to be safe. That’s why I’m for responsible gun ownership and universal background checks. They take just a couple minutes. There are certain individuals who just should not own a gun. How many people have to be killed until we wake up and have responsible gun ownership?”
Cuccinelli, however, believed that the real cure comes in addressing mental health issues.
“I’m deeply involved with people who suffer from mental illness […]We are the best state to screen out mental illness with guns. We have not found gun control to be effective. The best way to enforce gun laws is to be aggressive.”
He also noted McAuliffe’s ‘F’ rating from the NRA does not qualify him to solve the issue.
McAuliffe, who touted the need for Medicaid expansion throughout the night, raised the issue once more.
“Without Medicaid expansion there’s not a penny for mental health issues.”
Despite the early personal attacks, the candidates eventually seemed to understand that a debate on substance is what Virginians were looking for.