Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) and businessman Terry McAuliffe (D) have squabbled over a broad range of topics in their contest for Virginia governor, but few subjects have generated quite so much heat as energy policy.
As they attend a joint forum Thursday morning hosted by the Consumer Energy Alliance, each candidate is likely to use energy issues to raise questions about the other’s credibility. The event, at George Mason University Law School in Arlington, begins at 9 a.m.
Today's energy (and ethics and social issues) forum is over -- thanks for following along!
Answering questions after the energy forum, Ken Cuccinelli was asked about Terry McAuliffe's attacks on his women's rights record.
In reference to his involvement in a 2010 custody battle, reported in Thursday's Washington Post, Cuccinelli said it was simply an isolated case that had nothing to do with broader policy issues.
"I was not comfortable handing over child witnesses to another attorney, so I did it without pay just to finish out the case," he said. "That case had nothing to do with fathers' rights from a policy perspective."
As for not signing a letter in support of reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Cuccinelli said he wasn't in the habit of signing any of those letters. He noted that he didn't sign a letter supporting federal legislation backed by the National Rifle Association.
"I'm the only candidate in the race who has a record of defending women," he said. He founded a group at the University of Virginia to raise awareness about sexual assault, and he focused on human trafficking as attorney general.
"I don't see you taking any notes on that," he told the reporter who had asked about his record.
Ken Cuccinelli said he would not do anything for environmental reasons that might hurt the economy.
"We've got environmental issues that we need to deal with at the national level," he said. "But when you talk about state policy ... the tradeoff with our economy ... we've got to balance that, and the current federal administration is not doing that. They're way, way out of balance." Virginia's role right now is to push back by focusing on protecting the energy industry, he said.
"I don't expect Virginia to go out on its own and hamper its economic prospects as some states have done in a destructive fashion," he added.
Going back to the "war on coal" theme, Ken Cuccinelli argued that "the war on coal is a war on our poor" who do not have other options.
"The radical left environmentalist lobby," he said, has gone from attacking coal to attacking natural gas, another industry in the state.
That wrapped up Cuccinelli's appearance at the forum; he will now take some questions from the press.
Pushing back on Terry McAuliffe's attacks on his stand on social issues, Ken Cuccinelli said that his opponents want to "talk about these obscure and unrelated things to business and connect them to me" and claim they would hurt the state economy.
What would kill jobs, he said, is mandating that renewable energy meet 25 percent of the state's energy needs by 2025, something McAuliffe advocated in the 2009 campaign.
Ken Cuccinelli declared that "coal is critical" to Virginia's future, and charged that his opponent would join an Obama administration "war on coal."
"I don't think Terry McAuliffe is going to rest until coal plants are shut," he said.
McAuliffe said in the 2009 Democratic primary that he didn't want another coal-fired plant built in the state. But he has changed his position in this campaign, saying coal is a "vital industry" in the state that should continue to grow.
As expected, Ken Cuccinelli has repeatedly hit Terry McAuliffe for the troubles of GreenTech, the electric car company the Democrat co-founded. In addition to highlighting an SEC probe into the company and a DHS investigation of McAuliffe's business partners, Cuccinelli pointed to the firm as a "failure" and an example of government picking "losers at the taxpayers' expense."
He also criticized the McAuliffe for the company's decision to build a plant in Mississippi rather than the Commonwealth.
"He stepped over Martinsville and picked the liberal utopia of Mississippi and the People's Republic of China over Virginia," Cuccinelli said. "My opponent is the only candidate who has chased jobs out of Virginia."
Cuccinelli pointed to a Washington Post article in which former GreenTech employees said they were told to fake car production when potential investors were touring the plant. The company denies the allegations.
"Terry wants you to believe he's suddenly for offshore drilling, but you can’t trust him on that," Ken Cuccinelli said in his remarks.
He added, "Terry is of Washington, he's not really going to fight Washington" on federal regulation of the energy industry.
In the 2009 Democratic primary, McAuliffe opposed offshore drilling. His campaign says that technological progress has since made responsible drilling possible.
Ken Cuccinelli took his own detour from energy policy in his remarks, defending his ethical record as superior to Terry McAuliffe's.
"Will they vote for someone who may enter office with a federal investigation hanging over his head?" Cuccinelli asked, a reference to the SEC investigation of GreenTech, an electric car company McAuliffe co-founded but says he no longer has any ties to.
The Republican went on to hit McAuliffe for his role in raising money in Bill Clinton's White House and his loan to the then-president to buy a house in New York.
In his remarks, Ken Cuccinelli focused on keeping energy prices down by pushing back on federal regulation and focusing on offshore exploration.
"Government should do all it can to reduce energy costs to consumers and business," he said, pointing to North Dakota's low unemployment as a model.