The ongoing debate over whether recovery funding for Hurricane Irene must be offset has trickled into Virginia’s high-stakes Senate race, with former governors Timothy M. Kaine and George Allen falling on opposite sides.

The controversy began last week when Cantor told reporters that any federal disaster aid for Irene should be “offset with appropriate savings or cost-cutting elsewhere.” Democrats jumped on Cantor’s remark, accusing him of putting ideology before the needs of his constituents and others affected by the storm.

Those critics include Kaine, the likely Democratic nominee in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D-Va.). In an e-mail to supporters Wednesday, Kaine cited Cantor’s remark and said, “Congressional leaders are holding emergency victims hostage to pursue a narrow ideological agenda.”

Kaine spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine elaborated that “Kaine understands the need for budget cuts — he cut more from Virginia’s budget than any governor. But he believes we should never look at hard-hit families and communities after a disaster and tell them that relief funds depend on budget negotiations in Washington.”

But Allen, the frontrunner for the GOP Senate nomination, agrees with Cantor on this front.

“George Allen believes that one of the responsibilities of the state and federal government is to provide emergency aid and relief during a natural disaster like the recent earthquake and hurricane,” said Allen campaign spokesman Bill Riggs.

“Washington spending has exploded in the past three years and it needs to be reined in. Of course there is wasteful spending that should be cut and reprioritized for those affected by the storm. Americans expect the government to respond effectively and efficiently to these emergencies, just as they expect the government to live within its means.”

Allen and Kaine have differed repeatedly on spending issues in recent months. Allen, who faces Republican primary opponents accusing him of being too liberal, opposed the deal to raise the debt-ceiling that was enacted this month, while Kaine supported it.