Debate moderator keeps Kaine, Kilgore on task; A1
Daily Staff Writer
McLEAN — Former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore and Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine came to Northern Virginia prepared to slug it out over transportation Tuesday.
But the two major party gubernatorial candidates wound up throwing the most punches over abortion and taxes during a debate sponsored by the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce.
Neither candidate strayed far from their talking points, often completely avoiding questions from a panel of three Northern Virginia broadcasters.
But moderator Tim Russert of NBC’s “Meet The Press” pressed both men on issues of life and death, drawing the most memorable exchanges of the afternoon.
On the topic of abortion, the Republican Kilgore did his best to avoid very specific questions, saying he’d stay within the guidance of any new U.S. Supreme Court decisions, but not making a definitive statement.
“I’m a pro-life candidate running for governor. I don’t try to be two things to all people,” he said, taking a swipe at Kaine, a Democrat who has said he is pro-life for religious reasons but wouldn’t act to outlaw the practice.
Kilgore has supported “reasonable safeguards to this arena. Making sure parents were there with their minor daughters the entire period,” he said. But “I’ve never supported criminalizing women.”
Kaine saw an opening and took a shot, hammering away on Kilgore’s past statements where he has either said directly or strongly implied that he would ban abortion except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life or health of the mother.
“I will veto any legislation that criminalizes women and their doctor’s decision,” Kaine said.
Kilgore demurred when asked for a yes or no answer, saying he wouldn’t answer a hypothetical question. Russert pressed the issue.
“If the legislature passed a tax increase, would you sign it?” Russert asked.
“I would veto a tax increase,” Kilgore said.
“That’s a hypothetical question,” Russert said, drawing raucous applause and laughter from the crowd.
Both men hit transportation issues hard and often.
“I’ll be a governor that gets transportation moving again in this region,” Kilgore said, pledging to veto any attempt to take money from the state transportation trust fund.
He repeatedly pledged to work to widen Interstate 66 inside the beltway and champion another crossing of the Potomac River.
Kilgore also came out with guns blazing for Kaine, starting with his past support of a gasoline tax hike.
“Asking Virginia families to pay more for a gallon of gas than they presently do is unconscionable,” he said.
The candidates also went round and round on the 2004 budget deal — Kaine lambasting Kilgore’s opposition, Kilgore faulting Kaine for his support.
“You have to ask yourself a question. Is Virginia better off as a state after four years of a Warner-Kaine administration?” Kaine said.
Kilgore’s opposition to the plan, which “pulled [Virginia] out of a fiscal ditch” shows that he doesn’t understand the state, Kaine said.
“He has said he wants to undo the damage” done by the 2004 tax package, Kaine said. “If you don’t know success when it’s looking you in the face, you can’t be a leader.”
“Just admit it, Tim, you raised taxes,” Kilgore said. “He’s afraid to say, ‘I raised your taxes,’ because he understands” that Virginians don’t support the $1.6 billion tax hike.
He also faulted Kaine’s claim to a “Warner-Kaine” administration.
“He broke ties in the Senate, folks. That was his only duty,” he said. “I know the governor would be surprised to hear that you took credit” for the 2004 budget deal.
But rolling back the tax hike is like asking to “roll back higher SAT scores, roll back being the best managed state in America and roll back our triple-A bond rating,” Kaine answered.
He also defended his decision not to take an anti-tax pledge.
“I’m going to take my oath of office, but that’s the only oath I’m going to take,” he said.
Kaine also claimed partial credit for changes at the Virginia Department of Transportation, telling Kilgore the agency “had been managed by your campaign manager into the ground.”
The 1 p.m. debate was the main event of the day, but not the only political fight on the card. Kaine later debated independent gubernatorial candidate H. Russell Potts Jr., a Republican state senator from Winchester, in another room.
Kilgore has repeatedly refused to debate Potts, saying he would only take the stage with candidates who have a chance of winning the Nov. 8 election.