In a debate that has become a campaign tradition, the candidates for Virginia governor sparred for an hour Sept. 13 at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner. The debate was sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.
Timothy M. Kaine (D) and Jerry W. Kilgore (R), the major party candidates, faced off first. Then Kaine debated state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. (R-Winchester), the independent candidate, at the same hotel. Potts was not asked to participate in the first debate, and Kilgore did not join Potts and Kaine in the second.
Tim Russert, NBC's Washington bureau chief and host of "Meet the Press," was the moderator for the Kaine-Kilgore debate. Journalists Peggy Fox (WUSA-TV), Bruce DePuyt (NewsChannel 8) and Mike Moss (WTOP Radio) also asked questions. The election to succeed Mark R. Warner (D) is Nov. 8.
Here is a text of excerpts from the Kaine-Kilgore debate; the excerpts were edited for space and clarity.
Excerpts From Statements
Kilgore: In listening to voters, I know that the number one issue facing Northern Virginia is transportation. I'll be a governor who gets transportation moving again in this region. I'll do so by securing the transportation trust fund, making sure that I veto any raids on that trust fund. I'll pour more state dollars into the transportation trust fund by targeting those surplus dollars, making transportation spending part of the regular budget process.
I'll trust the region by empowering regional transportation authorities to make decisions about their own needs. I'll come into office with priorities on Day One. I'll work with [Republican] U.S. Reps. Frank R. Wolf and Thomas M. Davis III to widen Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway. I'll work to secure another crossing of the Potomac River. My plan stands in stark contrast to the lack of a plan by my opponent. Last year he wanted to raise the gasoline tax, making sure that the gas tax would not only be doubled but the highest in the nation, asking Virginia families to pay more for a gallon of gas than they currently do. It's unconscionable.
In our last debate, he indicated that he would consider no new revenue sources until he secures the commonwealth's transportation trust fund with a constitutional amendment. We can't afford to wait four years. You will hear code words today from him -- "budget reform," "investment in Virginia" -- to shield the fact that he supported the largest tax increase in Virginia history. He's raised taxes in each and every office he's held. He always has, he always will.
Kaine: During the time that I've been in statewide office for the last four years, the Fairfax chamber has fought vigorously for two major priorities. First, to come together behind a regional transportation referendum in 2002. Second, to support us to reform our budget so that we could invest in education and transportation. I've stood with you and fought with you for both of those priorities. My opponent has fought vigorously against those priorities. This is a clear choice in this race for governor.
The question to ask is: Is Virginia better off after four years of the Warner-Kaine administration? Do you want this state to go forward or backward? I want Virginia to go forward because I've worked with Mark Warner, with bipartisan legislators and with most of you to pull the state out of a fiscal crisis. Four years later, we have the second-fastest job growth in America, 300,000 new jobs, and new investments in transportation and education. We were just named the best managed state in the U.S.
My opponent wants to take us backward. Jerry Kilgore has fought against every reform that Mark Warner and I have worked on in the last four years. He recently said he wants to run for governor so he can undo the damage that Mark Warner and I have done to Virginia. If you don't know success when it's looking you in the face, you can't be a leader.
The eyes of the nation and world have been on Hurricane Katrina. As governor, what would be your precise evacuation plan for Northern Virginia? Please take into mind the number of people who live below the poverty line and the number of households who do not have automobiles who live in this area.
Kilgore: I'm the only one on this stage who has actually responded to statewide emergencies. Serving Gov. George Allen as secretary of public safety, we responded to floods, hurricanes and blizzards. The important thing is to have a leader -- a leader who's compassionate and who is on the ground as soon as the wind dies down and the rain stops pouring. I'll be that leader because I understand how to respond to an emergency.
We'll make sure that the National Guard, food and water are in place before the storm gets there. We'll make sure that we enter a state of emergency prior to the storm so that we'll be prepared.
In being that leader, we have to invest in our infrastructure. We have to make sure that we have a transportation system that is second to none. I'll widen I-66 inside the Beltway, I'll work for another crossing of the Potomac, I'll be the leader who's building more roads, not less roads that will allow the evacuation of this region. When my opponent was mayor of Richmond, Governing magazine gave him a C-minus for how they dealt with infrastructure needs.
Kaine: The word leadership is cheap. It is actions that matter. And if you're going to lead Virginia, dealing with preparedness issues or others, you've got to be willing to act decisively. I was mayor of Richmond dealing with hurricanes, the Y2K problem. I had to deal with the effect of natural disasters on our city. I've worked with Gov. Warner in dealing with Hurricane Isabel and other emergencies. We put in a secretary of homeland preparedness.
I have fought for transportation infrastructure in Virginia. Jerry Kilgore has fought against funds for first responders and emergency personnel who are needed to help folks evacuate. I've worked in a city with a lot of folks who are poor, and I know the importance of public transportation, like rail to Dulles and the Metro here, that we have to have available if we're going to evacuate low-income people or residents of nursing homes.
If, God forbid, a natural disaster or another terrorist attack struck Northern Virginia, would you be willing to contemplate raising taxes to help prepare for evacuation and for recovery?
Kilgore: You wouldn't have that opportunity at that time. You would have to act immediately because our General Assembly only meets once a year for 60 or 45 days. I'd be a governor that knows who to call to get federal assistance immediately. I've led statewide disaster relief operations. I'd work with Wolf and Davis to bring dollars to Northern Virginia so we could evacuate immediately, so that Virginia could be at the forefront of leading this response.
Kaine: Jerry, this isn't a question about taxes, it's a question about people. It's a question about people who might have their homes flooded, who might not be rich enough to have a vehicle so that they can travel, who might need the help of government. I've cut taxes in my life, unlike you. But I won't take a "no tax pledge" or a "tax only by referendum pledge" when it means ignoring the needs of people of Virginia as they face an emergency. So no, I won't rule anything out. I'm going to take my oath of office to serve Virginians, even in times of emergency, and not sacrifice them to some anti-tax rhetoric that looks good on a TV ad.
Mr. Kaine, in the last few weeks we started hearing about this new animal called the "Warner-Kaine administration." For most of the last three-plus years, Virginia has been governed by the Warner administration. Could you list, say, three things that would not have occurred had you not been lieutenant governor?
Kaine: The budget reform of 2004 would be first. The "Warner-Kaine administration" was a term that occurred to me when I read a letter that my opponent sent out attacking the "Warner-Kaine administration" and saying he wanted to undo the damage that we had done. The 2004 budget reform was the pivotal issue in Virginia during the Warner term because after two years, Mark and I, as part of his Cabinet and president of the Senate, tightened our belt, reduced spending and the state workforce, and saved our AAA bond rating.
Kilgore: Just admit it, Tim. You raised taxes. Once again, he's using the words "budget reform." He'll use the word "investment" in Virginia, but he's afraid to say to Virginians, "I raised your taxes," because he understands that Virginians from Cumberland Gap to Tangier Island expect a government to live within its means, just as families have to live within their means.
As lieutenant governor, he broke ties in the Senate. That was his only duty, and he oversaw an office of three or four people. Those were the duties of the lieutenant governor, and I know Gov. Warner will be surprised to hear that you took credit for the budget reform, as you call it, in 2004. As mayor of Richmond, he was termed a mediocre mayor. That's his management, a C-plus rating. We don't need a mediocre mayor serving as our governor.
Kaine: Jerry, you don't recognize progress when you see it on the state level, and I'm not surprised you don't recognize it in Richmond. We came a long way in Richmond, just as we have on the state level. And Jerry says, "Tim, admit it, you raised taxes." Well, Jerry, read your newspapers. What was budget reform about? It was about reducing expenses by $6 billion and the state workforce by 5,000 people. It was about tax reform that did increase the sales tax and the tobacco tax, but also eliminated the sales tax on food. We eliminated the marriage penalty in the income tax. We took 141,000 working Virginians off the income tax rolls, and you stood against us every step of the way.
Mr. Kilgore, if you became governor, would you try to repeal the tax increases? If so, how would you replace that lost revenue?
Kilgore: I'm not going to re-battle the past. I'm not going to ask the General Assembly to repeal the tax increases of 2004, but what I am going to do is bring real tax relief to our citizens. We'll start by making sure that we end the estate tax so that individuals can pass down their family business or family farms to their family members. We'll make sure that we give tax credits to those businesses that want to conduct research, such as George Mason University. I'll be a governor who brings tax credits to the table, making sure that Virginia creates more jobs and opportunities.
And how will you pay for those programs?
Kilgore: First, I'm going to create a watchdog commission that looks for waste and inefficiency. The commission will not go away after a few weeks -- they're going to hang around and help me run this government more efficiently. Second, we're going to use the growth in revenue. We've seen $2.2 billion in new economic growth come into the commonwealth since 2004, absent the raising of taxes. And finally, I'm going to be a governor who sets budget priorities.
Mr. Kaine, if you had to cut programs in order to balance a budget this year, which programs would you cut?
Kaine: Well, first let me just say to Jerry, be a man of your convictions. When you say you wouldn't roll back the budget reform of 2004, that's not what you've been telling your supporters. Again and again, you've said you would roll back the budget reform. You sent out a letter weeks after we got our AAA bond rating reaffirmed, saying your whole goal in running for governor was to undo the damage that Mark Warner and I have done, and you've repeated that even in the last two weeks. Roll back high SAT scores, roll back best-managed state in America, roll back AAA bond rating. This is no time for a rollback. This is no time for a U-turn. It's a time to go forward.
If I had to cut anything to balance the budget, I'd do what I did when I was mayor. We had eight budgets. We always had to balance them. We wanted to put more money into education, and so what we did is, we took an Exacto knife and we cut tiny slivers off virtually every priority in the city so that we could put more money into our public schools. There's no wholesale cut you make. You make careful decisions just like Mark Warner and I have made, and we made them in the first two years of this administration. I cut my own salary 30 percent. We've cut everything. We held education harmless. That's what I would do as governor -- keep that priority firm.
Mr. Kilgore, you say you support widening I-66 inside the Beltway and another crossing over the Potomac River. Tell us why you think those projects are so important, how you're going to pay for them and how are you going to connect I-66 with the bridges?
Kilgore: It is important to widen I-66 so that we can move commuters back and forth. Northern Virginians are spending more time waiting in traffic and less time eating dinner with their children or going to that soccer game. I'll be a governor who cares about this huge quality-of-life issue in Northern Virginia. I'll make sure that we spend surplus dollars from the state budget on transportation priorities. I'll make sure that we make transportation part of the regular budget process down in Richmond, so that as our general fund budget grows as it has every year, transportation will be part of that growth.
Kaine: What Mark Warner and I have done is take a Virginia Department of Transportation that had been managed by your campaign chairman [Sen. George Allen] into the ground and turn it around so that it's one of the best-managed DOTs in the nation.
We fought with these folks in this room for transportation funds in Northern Virginia, with you standing in the way. Do you know that the budget reform produced $850 million in transportation funding for rail to Dulles, for Metro, for a whole series of projects here, and you fought against them? The best judge of whether somebody is going to be a good governor for transportation in Virginia is not what they put on a campaign ad, it's what they've done when it mattered.
I've managed a transportation system in local government. As your governor, I'll do three things: urgency, accountability and balance. Urgency: We've got to do something soon. I'll barnstorm the state in November and December to build a coalition. Accountability: Make sure transportation funds are only used for transportation. Take our auto insurance premium taxes that are going into the general fund and put them into transportation, and make sure we do a better job of connecting land-use and transportation planning. Finally, balance: It's not just about roads, it's also about rail to Dulles and the other transportation venues.
Kilgore: I've been barnstorming the state for the last year. I get it. I get that the number one problem in Northern Virginia is transportation. I don't have to be elected governor to understand that. Abortion
Mr. Kilgore, in the confirmation hearings of John Roberts, Sen. Arlen Specter's first question was about abortion. You have said that you would eliminate abortion, have exceptions for rape, incest and life of mother. What would happen under Gov. Kilgore to a doctor and a woman who underwent an abortion if, in fact, your scenario became law?
Kilgore: I'm a pro-life candidate running for governor. I don't try to be all things to all people. I support a culture of life. As attorney general, I've worked to bring reasonable safeguards to this arena, supporting parental involvement for minors, making sure parents are there with their minor daughters every step of the way, working for parental consent and a 24-hour waiting period. I've also worked to ban the partial-birth abortion, which the American Medical Association says there is no health reason to carry out. I've been working for reasonable safeguards, and if states are given more authority by the United States Supreme Court, we would work within those parameters supporting a culture of life.
I've never supported criminalizing women, and Tim Kaine and I have supported holding doctors accountable under various legislation we have supported or he claims to have supported in his past. The candidate on this stage that cannot be trusted on this issue is Tim Kaine. In western Virginia, he rolled out even newer ads yesterday, claiming to be pro-life, yet when he's in Northern Virginia, he claims to be pro-choice. You can't have it both ways on this important issue.
Kaine: Jerry, let's talk about trust. You have repeatedly given speeches in which you've said that you look for the day when Roe v. Wade is overturned and that abortion would be outlawed in this country and that women and doctors who would seek abortions would therefore be criminals. You've said that repeatedly, and today you try to back away from the position. In fact, Jerry's position has been this: that even in the event of rape or incest, someone couldn't go and end the pregnancy and terminate it by abortion unless they had complained to the legal authorities within seven days. And so a minor victimized by incest or domestic violence, or raped in a tragic incident, if they didn't report within seven days and then sought to end their pregnancy, they'd be a criminal in Jerry Kilgore's Virginia.
I want to reduce abortions, and there are proven ways to do it: better education, better access to health care and contraception, and enforcing the restrictions we have. But I will veto any legislation that criminalizes women or doctors for their health care decisions.
If Roe v. Wade was overturned and returned to the states, would you sign legislation in the commonwealth outlawing abortion?
Kilgore: Not knowing what any Supreme Court would do, I would work within the parameters supporting a culture of life. I'm not backing away from that on this stage, but . . .
Russert: But Mr. Kilgore, it's a simple question: If Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, and it is a possibility according to people for and against abortion rights, would you as governor sign legislation outlawing abortion except exceptions for rape, incest and life of mother? Yes or no?
Kilgore: And my response is, that's a hypothetical. You don't know what any Supreme Court in the future is going to do. I am going to work within the parameters laid down by the Supreme Court. That's what attorneys do.
Russert: If the legislature passed a tax increase, would you veto or sign it?
Kilgore: I would veto a tax increase unless . . .
Russert: That's a hypothetical question.
Kilgore: And you didn't let me finish my response. I would veto a tax increase unless a referendum was on it, giving the voters the ability to participate in that tax increase. You know they passed the largest tax increase in Virginia history, and they wanted to exclude the voters. They called those of us who wanted to involve the voters in this important decision the angry mob. I don't treat voters of Virginia like that.
The Death Penalty
Mr. Kaine, let me ask you a question on this whole subject of culture of life. You are talking about being a Catholic and how your faith governs your positions on abortion and the death penalty. You have opposed the death penalty -- you have called for a moratorium, saying that it was applied unfairly to poor people on death row. If you became the governor, would you, in effect, because of your moral convictions, seek to outlaw the death penalty in Virginia . . . no matter what the odds, take on that crusade because you believe in it so strongly from a moral perspective?
Kaine: I will answer that question, but I just have to point out in Jerry's last answer about abortion, saying he won't answer a hypothetical. Jerry, it's not a hypothetical right now, and it's a question you've answered again and again when you've given speeches, that you want to outlaw abortion and make it criminal for women unless in the instance of life, rape or incest.
Moving, Tim, to your question about the death penalty. I am a Catholic. I'm against the death penalty and abortion, and I decided that I wasn't going to change my religious beliefs to get elected. But beginning in 1994, I've had to put my hand on a Bible and I've had to swear to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and I will. I am against the death penalty and I have a faith-based objection to the death penalty, and I'm not changing that view, but I will uphold the laws of Virginia.
I have other strong passions about things I want to do in Virginia. I'm not going to spend my time fighting a quixotic battle that I can't win. And I will also use the powers of the governor the way they're supposed to be used. I won't use the clemency powers in any unusual way. To do so would be imposing my will over the will of the legislature. So while my position on the death penalty is strong, I know what the legislative position is, and I'm going to work with the legislature to accomplish things we can accomplish rather than beat my head against the wall.
So you won't use the powers of your office as governor to try to persuade the legislature and the people that the death penalty is wrong?
Kaine: The power of the office is clemency and pushing legislation. I will do neither of those things.
Kilgore: This is one issue that Gov. Warner had to distance himself from Lt. Gov. Kaine in the 2001 race for office. Warner said, I'm not like him, I don't support his opposition to the death penalty. [Kaine] supported a moratorium on the death penalty in 2001. He compared our criminal justice system to the Soviet gulag, and I asked him to apologize to law enforcement officials all over Virginia and he refused. And when Northern Virginians are facing a rising gang problem, I want to enhance the death penalty. Apply the death penalty to gang leaders who order gang murders. He refuses to support this simple enhancement.
Kaine: Jerry, if you don't think a person of faith can follow their oath of office, then that's your position. I know people of faith who take oaths of office every day -- elected officials, judges, police officers. I'll follow my oath.
Kilgore: This is about his public policy position, folks. He's always been against the death penalty. He always has, he always will be.