“Okay, you picked Mississippi, so run for governor of Mississippi,” Cuccinelli said, prompting a rare burst of laughter from the staid audience.
McAuliffe said Cuccinelli had forgotten his “fiduciary duty” when he accepted a $1,500 Thanksgiving dinner for his family from Williams, whose gifts have prompted scrutiny.
“That’s a lot of turkey,” McAuliffe said.
In the most obvious misstatement of the debate, McAuliffe attacked Cuccinelli over the findings of a Richmond prosecutor who had been tasked with investigating Cuccinelli’s financial disclosures.
“If you read the whole report, which I have,” McAuliffe said, “it says in here that the attorney general should have been prosecuted” over his failure to disclose his stock holdings in Star Scientific and gifts from Williams. McAuliffe also said that because of Cuccinelli’s ties to Williams and Star, which filed a civil tax case against the state, “a judge took the case away from him because of a conflict of interest.”
Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring said in a report last week that he found no evidence that Cuccinelli had violated the law. And it was Cuccinelli’s office that requested recusal from the tax case.
“So much is inaccurate,” Cuccinelli said when asked in the debate to respond, “I’ll let the fact checkers take care of it. That one’s gonna get sliced up.”
After the debate, McAuliffe sought to clarify his comment. “On the report — the attorney general could have been prosecuted if we had stronger disclosure laws in Virginia,” McAuliffe said, although Herring’s report did not make that assertion.
Asked specifically why he had taken gifts from Williams, Cuccinelli did not give a direct answer but said Williams had asked him for no favors and had gotten none.
Cuccinelli said McAuliffe was the candidate hiding the ball from Virginia voters. Cuccinelli has released eight years of his tax returns, while McAuliffe made public only summaries of three years of returns.
“I think the people of Virginia, right now more than ever, need confidence in . . . the commitment to transparency of our next governor,” Cuccinelli said.
Two Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly have called for McDonnell to resign, but neither gubernatorial candidate followed suit when debate moderator Judy Woodruff, of PBS’ NewsHour, asked directly whether they thought the incumbent should step down.
Cuccinelli said he did not think it would be “appropriate” for the sitting attorney general to call for the governor to resign while an investigation was continuing. McAuliffe said that “everybody should stand down” until all the facts are clear and that McDonnell “shouldn’t be tried through the media.”
On economic policy, Cuccinelli declined to say how he would pay for his plan to cut taxes by $1.4 billion a year. He said he would study all tax loopholes and close those that no longer make sense. Woodruff pressed him, but he declined to elaborate.