Candidates Spar In First Debate

By: Garrett Wymer Email
By: Garrett Wymer Email

HOT SPRINGS -- Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe met Saturday morning at the Homestead Resort for the first debate of the campaign for governor. The candidates' main point of contention was each other.

Each was forced to defend his own record, while attacking the other in the process.

"This is more of Terry McAuliffe saying whatever he think he has to say to get elected," said Cuccinelli.

"He says one thing and he does something else," McAuliffe said. "Ken...I are the true Trojan horse of Virginia politics."

They took center stage, tackling each other instead of the issues. The debate focused largely on the candidates' verbal battles, like over McAuliffe choosing to base his business GreenTech in Mississippi.

"He picked Terry over the people of Virginia," Cuccinelli said. "Look, I've been putting Virginians first my entire adult life."

"I picked Mississippi, not Terry," McAuliffe said, interrupting.

"OK, so you picked Mississippi, then run for governor of Mississippi," Cuccinelli said.

McAuliffe went on the attack when it came to Star Scientific, saying Cuccinelli neglected his duty as attorney general by failing to report gifts from company CEO Jonnie Williams.

"Instead of taking him to court, he was taking you to New York City," McAuliffe said. "He was giving you a mountain resort - Smith Mountain Lake Resorts. He was buying you $1500 turkey dinners. (Laughs.) That's a lot of turkey."

Cuccinelli defended himself by firing back.

"I made several mistakes on my disclosure, and who brought them forward?" Cuccinelli asked. "I did. No one was going to find them. Not only did I bring them forward, I even turned them over to the local prosecutor and asked for an independent review. Does anyone in this room think Terry McAuliffe would have ever done something like that? Of course not."

The negative tone did not surprise analysts. Larry Sabato, director of UVA's Center for Politics, tweeted "Exceptionally negative debate, but that was inevitable. Candidates' flaws are as (more?) obvious than virtues."

Each candidate dueled with how voters perceive the other. The two candidates also sparred over transportation, the economy and social issues. is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

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