“There are consequences to this mean-spirit attack on women’s health, on gay Virginians,” McAuliffe said. “If we’re going to build a new economy in Virginia, we’re going to do it by bringing everyone together.”
Read a transcript of the debate
Cuccinelli fought back by highlighting two recent business endorsements and the softer side of his record, including working with homeless and mentally ill people, helping to free a wrongly convicted man, and establishing a program to help victims of sexual assaults on college campuses.
“I’m the only candidate in this race with a lifetime of fighting for Virginians,” Cuccinelli said. “I’ve also served in state government for over 10 years. And I know how it works. I’m the only candidate in this race who won’t need on-the-job training.”
The debate came at a pivotal moment in the race for governor, with recent polls showing McAuliffe building a small but solid lead. Yet both candidates carry political baggage that has limited their likability with voters and given each an opening to attack the other.
McAuliffe linked Cuccinelli to the tea party movement that has helped fuel a threat to shut down the federal government, while Cuccinelli cast his opponent as a glib operator who improperly mixes business and politics.
“If Terry becomes governor, we’ll have to change the state’s motto from ‘sic semper tyrannis’ to ‘quid pro quo,’ ” Cuccinelli said.
Earlier, he said: “My opponent has spent a lot of time telling you why you shouldn’t vote for me for governor but not much time telling you why you should vote for him.”
There was no obvious gaffe in the debate, and the sparring featured no game-changing pronouncements or exchanges. When McAuliffe said he would sign legislation to legalize gay marriage, Cuccinelli corrected him on a point of process: That sort of change would not come by way of a bill but as an amendment to the Virginia Constitution.
Both men ducked questions: McAuliffe on the cost of raising teachers’ salaries, funding pre-kindergarten programs and other priorities on his agenda; Cuccinelli on what tax loopholes he would close to pay for his promised $1.4 billion tax cut. Speaking to reporters afterward, Cuccinelli said it would take him a year to determine what to eliminate.
Cuccinelli also ducked a question about why he accepted $18,000 in gifts from a Richmond area businessman, instead pointing to the fact he met the businessman through Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R).