E.W. Jackson, a Tea Party favorite running for the No. 2 two job in Virginia’s state government, was feeling a bit of government-shutdown heat Wednesday night at a lieutenant governor’s debate in Norfolk.

With thousands of Virginians forced from their federal jobs this week, Jackson sought to put some distance between himself and his ideological allies in Washington, who have been insisting on changes to Obamacare before passing a government-funding bill.

When Jackson told a crowd gathered at Old Dominion University that he opposes shutdowns, his Democratic challenger, Ralph Northam, pointed to an enthusiastic public appearance by Jackson at a Tea Party rally in 2011, when he was gearing up for a U.S. Senate bid.

“Just two years ago, at a rally in Washington, D.C., Mr. Jackson, you were yelling out to either, ‘Cut it or shut it.’ I think I would say, be careful what we ask for, because they have shut our government down and there are thousands of Virginians right now who are out of work,” Northam said. “The rigid ideology we’re seeing from the Tea Party is not doing this Commonwealth or this country any good.”

Jackson responded with a quote from a great American poet.

“You know, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.’ That was two years ago. The circumstances were different. The situation was different. I was in a different role,” Jackson said. He added that, “sequestration has done a job on Virginia. And this battle is over the Affordable Care Act. So this is a very very different situation.”

Asked after the debate about his own staunch opposition to Obamacare and whether he disagreed with congressional Republicans’ strategy on the issue, Jackson said he was “not second guessing them.”

“But I will say this: The impact on the people of Virginia is devastating. Virginia’s economy relies more on the federal government than any other state in the union, so I don’t want to see the people of Virginia punished and so we’ve got to figure out a way to come work together.”

He also declined to offer GOP leaders any advice.

“They’ve got their work cut out for them, don’t they. They’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said.

In the debate, Jackson also broke with Virginia’s socially conservative governor, Bob McDonnell, and argued that the Commonwealth should not provide marriage benefits to gay members of Virginia’s National Guard. Pentagon policy is to “treat all married personnel equally.” Northam supports gay marriage.

The two also sparred over state rules on vaccinating girls to prevent the spread of HPV, the human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer.