Kaine, Kilgore square off in debate on TV; A1
Daily Staff Writer
RICHMOND — The debate didn’t break much new ground, but it undoubtedly had the largest audience of any gubernatorial campaign event this year.
Republican nominee former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore and Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine squared of in Richmond Sunday night in the studios of WWBT-TV in a debate carried live around the state.
Neither candidate strayed far from their established, scripted themes of the campaign — often completely ignoring questions posed by moderator Larry Sabato, of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, and a media panel.
Kaine came out swinging, hitting on conservative themes such as law and order and fiscal responsibility, billing himself as the only candidate voters can trust “to lead this commonwealth forward.”
Along with Gov. Mark R. Warner, Kaine said he made the hard decision to raise taxes by $1.6 billion and put the state’s fiscal house in order.
Kilgore, on the other hand, is “always crying liberal when we try to move the state forward,” Kaine said.
Kilgore responded in kind, challenging his opponent’s as-sociation with Warner.
“What you’re going to find on the ballot is no Mark Warner,” Kilgore said. “It’s time for Tim Kaine to stand on his own record.”
The most memorable ex-change of the evening came on one of the most timeworn subjects of the campaign, the death penalty.
Sabato challenged Kaine on his opposition to the death penalty, even in the face of the apparent murder of Virginia Commonwealth University student Taylor Behl. Missing since Labor Day, Behl’s body was found in rural Virginia last week.
“I’m against the death penalty and abortion. That’s what my church teaches,” Kaine said. But “I’m not going to change my religion to just to get elected.” Kaine compared his relationship with the Catholic church to that of President Kennedy.
“Tim Kaine, you’re no John F. Kennedy,” Kilgore said.
Behl’s death was “a heinous crime that deserves our ultimate penalty,” Kilgore said. Meanwhile, Kaine was “busy calling for a moratorium,” he said.
Kilgore firmed up his position on abortion.
Kilgore has said he is a pro-life candidate, but has declined to say specifically if he would sign a ban on abortion if changes on the Supreme Court permitted it.
“I do not support the criminalization of women,” he said, but added that he would agree to legislation that would “hold doctors accountable,” specifically for performing “partial-birth abortion.”
Kaine renewed his attacks on Kilgore’s abortion position, saying that the right to choose would be a thing of the past in Virginia if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and Kilgore is in office.
“He would outlaw all abortion,” Kaine said.
One place where the two men broke out of their talking points was on negative campaign ads. Sabato asked both men to pledge to run positive ads for just more than half of their remaining ad buys. Kaine agreed to the pledge, but Kilgore demurred.
The two candidates came together on Oceana Naval Air Station, the Virginia Beach naval station recently put on the chopping block by a federal base-closing panel.
Both men said they would do everything within their power to keep the base open, including using the state’s power of eminent domain to buy out homes and businesses near the base.