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.
“I’m glad to be here to talk what this forum is about — energy,” Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said at the start of his remarks, “because I actually have an energy policy.”
Republicans have been criticizing Democrat Terry McAuliffe for focusing on social issues during an energy forum.
But Cuccinelli also strayed a bit in his introduction, noting his support for helping the homeless and people with mental illnesses.
“I’m the only candidate in this race whose had a lifetime of putting Virginians first,” he said.
In his remarks and when speaking to reporters today, Terry McAuliffe repeatedly referred to an article in the Washington Post explaining Ken Cuccinelli’s positions on family law and how they have won him the support of the fathers’ rights movement. From that article:
Cuccinelli’s legal work for [fathers' rights activist Ron M.] Grignol, whom he also knew from Virginia political circles, is one facet of his relationship with the fathers’ rights movement, a loose national network of activists who think the legal system is stacked against men in divorce and custody cases. As a state senator, Cuccinelli introduced legislation on divorce law backed by national fathers’ rights groups, which have urged members to get out the vote for him.
Cuccinelli’s support for aspects of the groups’ agenda illustrates how his personal and religious views have helped shape his political career and continue to affect it as he runs for governor against businessman Terry McAuliffe (D).
Republicans are criticizing McAuliffe for focusing on an issue that has nothing to do with energy policy, the topic the candidates are supposed to discuss today.
Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign blasted out an e-mail after Terry McAuliffe’s appearance, noting that the Democratic candidate talked at least as much about social issues as he did about energy policy.
“During twenty minutes of opening remarks, McAuliffe spent a total of twenty seconds on energy and the rest on shamelessly dishonest attacks on Ken Cuccinelli and a tired rehash of a stump speech he has been delivering since the the holiday season of 2012,” Cuccinelli spokesman Richard Cullen said in a statement.
Anna Nix, another spokesperson for the Republican campaign, agreed on Twitter:
— Anna Nix (@AnnaKNix) August 29, 2013
Asked by reporters about his change in position on coal plants, McAuliffe reiterated his support for the industry without explaining why in 2009 he said he would not want another coal-fired plant in the state.
He was recently in a coal mine talking to workers, he said, and the state has “to make sure that they have options, that we’re growing those jobs.”
But McAuliffe also appeared to qualify his support for the energy industry a bit, noting that tourism is one of the state’s top industries and needs to be protected. Beachfront tourism areas are wary of offshore wind turbines.
Asked about the role of the federal government in Virginia’s energy industry, McAuliffe promised that he will “protect every job that we have in Virginia today” and ensure that federal policy has not “adversely impacted one Virginia job.”
There are “billions of dollars that have been allocated at the federal level” to invest in energy policy, he said. He promised to be a “great ambassador” to the government helping Virginia get “more than our fair share” of energy dollars.
That was the last question, and McAuliffe left to take questions from the press.
In discussing alternative energy, Terry McAuliffe revealed that he has installed geothermal energy in his Fairfax home. It’s “spectacular,” he said.
The state should be the second to have offshore wind energy, he said. But he said conserving energy is more important than finding new sources.
Terry McAuliffe said that Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) transportation plan will help to ease congestion, which will help people spend less money on gas in Northern Virginia.
“And I want to commend Governor McDonnell,” he said. “This was not an easy thing to do.”
In Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach, McAuliffe said, congestion is also a problem and he will spend transportation money “wisely” to deal with traffic.
“I’m also a huge proponent of the Metro,” he said, because it gets some people out of their cars and onto public transportation.
“Ken Cuccinelli’s social agenda is not just extreme, it is bad for business,” McAuliffe said.
Seeming to acknowledge that he’s not actually talking about energy policy, McAuliffe said he would get into specifics with the panel. He went on to attack Ken Cuccinelli’s social views and climate change skepticism, calling them bad for the state.
“If we want to lower energy costs … Virginia needs to be a leader in cutting edge technology,” he said. “That requires a governor who values scientific research and supports innovative work in the energy field.”
In attracting scientists and researchers, he argued, “focus on a social ideological agenda … attacking women’s rights, scientists and gay Virginians is not good for business.”
McAuliffe referred to a story in today’s Washington Post on Cuccinelli’s “ties to a radical group that fought against adequate child support because they think it is ‘punitive’ to men.” He called Cuccinelli’s position “inexplicable and just plain wrong.”
Arguing against tax cuts that his opponent supports, Terry McAulliffe says the state is already friendly to business and that Ken Cuccinelli’s tax cut plans would undermine the state’s educational system.
“Virginia is already a very low tax state,” he said.
Instead, McAulliffe said, he would focus on putting funding into community colleges.
McAuliffe took a shot at Ken Cuccinelli for opposing Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation package, calling it “the most important issue facing Virginia’s competitiveness.”
Cuccinelli, he said, backed a “tea party alternative” to the deal. The attorney general was also “the only statewide official” to oppose the Metro Silver Line currently being built, he added.
McAuliffe begins remarks at energy forum in Arlington pic.twitter.com/VsTs1zpDSM
— Jeff Goldberg (@jgoldbergABC7) August 29, 2013
Terry McAuliffe positioned himself as a natural entrepreneur, starting his remarks by noting that he started his first business (paving driveways) at 14 as a way to pay for college.
“I’ve been a lot of different things,” he said, and he’s learned that “innovation isn’t easy” — a possible reference to the troubles of GreenTech, the electric car company he founded in 2009.
David Hart, the senior associate dean of George Mason University’s school of public policy, introduces the Democratic candidate as a “businessman, entrepreneur and a dad who’s lived in Fairfax County for over 20 years.”
Both candidates are wooing the energy sector today, but Ken Cuccinelli already has an edge with the industry. From National Journal:
To date, energy companies have donated $202,000 to McAuliffe, and more than double that — $564,589 to Cuccinelli. Of that, more than half–$285,744–comes from the coal industry, including companies based outside of Virginia, such as Ohio-based Murray Energy Group, the nation’s largest privately-owned coal company, and Kansas-based Koch Industries.
Environmentalists have sided with Terry McAuliffe, even though he’s been more welcoming of coal and offshore drilling than he was when he ran for governor in 2009.
— NOIA (@oceanindustries) August 29, 2013
In the first panel, Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute is focused on new safety measures designed to avoid another major oil spill during offshore drilling in deep waters. “I think we’re in pretty good shape,” he said.
Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli will appear back to back this morning, answering questions from a group of panelists from the energy sector. Michael Whatley of the Consumer Energy Alliance will moderate. In between, the candidate appearances there will be two panel discussions, one on offshore and renewable energy and one on affordable electricity.
On panel one, moderated by Randall Luthi of the National Ocean Industries Association:
* Eddie Pharr, Spectrum
* Brian O’Hara, SE Coastal Wind Coalition
* Erik Milito, American Petroleum Institute
On panel two, moderated by Brett Vassey of the VA Manufacturers Association:
* Marshall Cohen, Babock & Wilcox
* Bruce Burcat, Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition
* David Hudgins, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative
Cuccinelli has criticized McAuliffe for changing his positions on oil and gas drilling off the Virginia coast – McAuliffe opposed the idea when he ran for governor in 2009 but is open to it now.
Cuccinelli has also sought to tie McAuliffe to the Obama administration’s positions on coal, which the coal industry fears could slash coal mining jobs and raise electricity prices.
McAuliffe, for his part, has seized on a state Inspector General investigation into how the attorney general’s office has handled a complex dispute over gas royalties in Southwest Virginia, and whether an assistant in Cuccinelli’s office improperly helped a gas company battling landowners in court.
And Democrats have attacked Cuccinelli for his attempt in 2010 to get records from climate scientist Michael Mann, then at the University of Virginia.