Deeds, McDonnell go on the attack in final debate

Virginia gubernatorial hopefuls Bob McDonnell (R) and R. Creigh Deeds (D) faced off in their final debate Tuesday night in Roanoke.
By Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

SALEM, VA. -- With little time remaining before the Nov. 3 election, Democrat R. Creigh Deeds and Republican Robert F. McDonnell went on the attack Tuesday in the final debate in the race for Virginia governor.

McDonnell accused Deeds of plotting a tax increase and backing controversial Democratic proposals in Washington. Deeds sought to convince voters that McDonnell, a former legislator and state attorney general, had undergone a dramatic election-year conversion from a conservative ideologue to a pragmatic moderate.

"Legislator Bob McDonnell was never focused on jobs. Candidate Bob McDonnell talks a lot about jobs," Deeds said. "It's important for Bob and I to tell people what we're going to do as governor. But more relevant . . . is to take a look at our records."

McDonnell focused on a familiar topic -- taxes -- repeatedly accusing Deeds, a state senator from Bath County, of supporting a massive tax increase as he tried to tie him to Washington excesses.

"I believe a governor needs to stand up to Washington. I don't care if they're Republican or Democrat, if they do things that are bad for Virginia, that are going to kill jobs, create new bureaucracy or hurt small businesses," McDonnell said. "I will be a governor who will stand up and say, 'That's not good for Virginia.' My opponent and his Washington allies that want to raise taxes won't do that."

Deeds and McDonnell were generally polite, although they interrupted each other several times in a series of feisty exchanges made possible by an open-ended format.

When the moderator asked Deeds which taxes he would support increasing, McDonnell tried to jump in: "I can answer that!"

"No, you can't!" Deeds responded, glaring at McDonnell before saying that he would consider raising any tax tied to transportation funding.

Still, the lively 60-minute debate appeared to do little to change the dynamics of a race in which Deeds trails McDonnell in public opinion polls, fundraising and advertising. The questions covered mostly familiar ground, and there seemed to be no game-changing moments.

During the first half of the debate, the two were asked to discuss a trio of issues that have dominated the race -- transportation, the economy and McDonnell's controversial 20-year-old graduate school thesis, in which he wrote that working women, feminists and homosexuals were detrimental to the traditional family.

They were pressed by moderator Jay Warren of WSLS in Roanoke to answer questions they have largely sought to avoid in the campaign. For the most part, they continued to refrain from responding with specifics.

Deeds was asked several times in several ways which specific taxes he would support raising to pay for transportation fixes. Each time, he answered in the same general terms.

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