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Va. Democrats' Digs Deepen as Forums Continue

By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 28, 2009 10:44 PM

DANVILLE, Va., April 28 -- The three Democrats running for governor spent their third debate Tuesday night lodging their most personal attacks to date on each other's records and business connections.

Brian Moran immediately questioned the millions of dollars rival Terry McAuliffe made in his investment in failed telecommunications giant Global Crossing.

"With so many corporate disasters -- from Enron, to AIG, to Global Crossing -- it is time to turn the page from corporate greed to investing in people,'' Moran said.

McAuliffe defended his role in the company that went bankrupt in 2002, leaving 10,000 employees out of work and costing investors more than $50 billion when the company died. He said he was never an employee or board member.

The Democrats -- R. Creigh Deeds, McAuliffe and Moran -- used Tuesday's debate to try to alter the dynamics of the race with polls showing that many are still undecided six weeks before the June 9 primary.

The two-hour debate was held in a largely empty room at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, a high-technology research center in Danville. Former Danville Mayor Linwood Wright and Bob Gibson, executive director of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, moderated the debate, which was not televised but was available online.

McAuliffe accused Moran of voting for a series of proposal in the House of Delegates that involved coal, oil drilling and payday lending, but then later opposing them.

"People are frustrated when politicians have records that don't match their rhetoric,'' McAuliffe said. "Do you think people have a right to be confused?"

Moran said he opposed the proposals despite intense pressure. "I have taken on those corporate interests time and time again,'' he said.

Deeds questioned how McAuliffe could support the North American Free Trade Agreement when it has led to thousands of lost jobs in Virginia, particularly in economically distressed Southside.

"How can you have any credibility on economic development and job creation?" Deeds asked. "How can you look hardworking Virginias . . . in the eye?"

McAuliffe said he supported the concept of NAFTA, but that the trade agreement was poorly implemented.

The debate led to at least one nasty impromptu exchange between McAuliffe and Moran before moderators cut them off.

"Stand up and take a position,'' Moran to McAuliffe.

"Be honest about your record!'' McAuliffe barked back.

The three men largely agreed on jobs and the economy, but differed on a handful of issues.

McAuliffe would not say if he supports mining what is thought to be the nation's largest undeveloped uranium deposit in rural south-central Virginia. Moran said he opposes the state's study on uranium mining because it is being paid for by the company that wants to mine. Deeds did not rule out uranium mining, but said he is skeptical that it could be done safely.

When asked what topic they would take on outside the major issues of the economy, transportation and education, Deeds said he would continue to work to change the way the state establishes legislative and congressional boundaries. McAuliffe said he would combat gang violence and Moran said he would work on providing healthcare to all children in the state.

McAuliffe, Deeds and Moran are running to replace Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat who is barred from running for a second term. This year's Democratic primary is the party's first contested gubernatorial nomination battle in more than two decades.

The candidates have agreed to participate in a record number of five debates. They will appear together Wednesday in Blacksburg.

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