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McAuliffe calls debate haggling a staff matter

Terry McAuliffe (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

While Terry McAuliffe’s campaign haggles over gubernatorial debate rules, the candidate said Monday that he is not personally involved in the “silly” debate over debates.

“I’m not involved in any of the debate negotiations,” McAuliffe said during a campaign stop at New Richmond Ventures, a firm that mentors and invests in what it describes as “purpose-driven ventures.”

McAuliffe was asked at that event about his campaign’s objection to the Virginia Bar Association’s traditional debate format, which allows each candidate to directly ask questions of the other.

McAuliffe and his Republican rival, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, have agreed to the Bar Association debate, which takes place July 20 at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Va. But McAuliffe’s campaign objects to the planned candidate-to-candidate questions. McAuliffe was asked if he opposed having Cuccinelli ask him a question and vice versa.

“We have huge issues facing Virginia — as I spoke about here with the cuts to defense, sequestration,” McAuliffe said, referring to across-the-board federal spending cuts. “That’s why I’m not spending any time on it and I’m letting my staff deal with it. ... I’ve got big things I’ve got to deal with. I’ve got to deal with a possible ’nother year of sequestration. I’ve got to figure out what to do on transportation. I’ve got to worry about a Medicaid expansion. I’ve got big issues that I focus on every single day. And to have a debate on debates when we are facing such huge challenges I find silly.”

McAuliffe has agreed to participate in five debates. Cuccinelli has challenged him to 15 across the state.

“Voters in Danville, Bristol and Hampton Roads are looking to see which candidate can lead Virginia for the next four years, and if Terry McAuliffe is incapable of coordinating with his staff on debates, how can he possibly serve as the Commonwealth’s next chief executive?” Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix said via e-mail.

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.

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