|English: Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|McAuliffe (Photo credit: mou-ikkai)|
RESTON – Gubernatorial hopefuls Ken Cucinelli and Terry McAuliffe outlined positions on taxes, transportation, workforce development and economic incentives in a candidates’ forum today for 150 technology business leaders.
But the orderly, business-themed event sponsored by the Northern Virginia Technology Council – in which both men responded to questions when the other was out of the room – did not keep the candidates from using the forum to indirectly attack their opponent’s perceived weaknesses.
Cuccinelli prompted murmuring in the hall when he said he does not "overdo" his focus on social issues.
"My track record is one of defending life and families but you know it’s not like I overdo this," he said.
McAuliffe described as “fiscally irresponsible” Cuccinelli’s plan to cut $1.4 billion in taxes through reductions in the personal income and corporate income taxes and reiterated Cuccinelli’s opposition the multi-billion transportation plan passed by the General Assembly earlier this year.
Cuccinelli said McAuliffe had not presented detailed plans for a gubernatorial term and suggested McAuliffe’s dependence on union funding in his campaign meant he could not be trusted as governor to get the most out of the transportation tax dollars.
“Do you want union Terry spending that money or frugal Ken?” he asked.
McAuliffe said he would be a “brick wall” in protecting the rights of women and will “veto any legislation that is taking any rights away from women” – a reference to the attorney general’s support for recently approved Health Department rules regulating abortion clinics as hospitals.
The Democrat was responding to a question asked by an attorney for the Venable Law Firm – which last week filed suit against the state on behalf of a Northern Virginia women’s clinic. McAuliffe suggested the attorney general’s positions on issues like gay rights in state hiring and women’s issues like the establishment of strict new building standards on abortion clinics – are bad for business.
Cuccinelli, responding to the same question later in the program, reaffirmed his stance “for life and for families” but pivoted to question McAuliffe’s concern about the impact the state’s reputation on those issues would have on attracting business.
“In fact the last time my opponent had a chance to plant a business somewhere, he put it in that bastion of tolerance – Mississippi,” Cuccinelli deadpanned – a reference to the struggling electric car startup, GreenTech Automotive, which McAuliffe founded in late 2009.
Both men came closer to defining their positions on several controversial issues during subsequent separate interview sessions with reporters after the forum, held at the Microsoft corporate offices.
Among the highlights:
McAuliffe, who has received substantial union support in his campaign, said he would not seek to change the state’s right to work law, which prohibits mandatory membership in a union as a condition of employment.
“Right to work has been the law here in Virginia for 65 years, and I wouldn’t change it -- plain and simple,” he said.
“As it (relates) to specific agreements, I have made it crystal clear, first and foremost, I am going to do whatever agreements are in the best interests of the commonwealth of Virginia...I will work with business. I will work with labor. I will work with everyone.”
Cuccinelli, who has received substantial financial support from energy companies, said cutting state tax subsidies to coal companies would be up for consideration among other tax credits when it comes to funding his proposed income tax cut.
“They’re on the table for sure,” he told reporters. “I’m not taking them off the table,” he added, saying he would spare health and education subsidies.
“Who supports me isn’t a determinant of our policy outcomes -- it just isn’t,” Cuccinelli said. “People are used to seeing that, but I have a track record of doing otherwise.”
McAuliffe said changing Virginia’s constitutional amendment on marriage to include gay couples was not practical given the current composure of the legislature, which must pass approve any amendment two years in a row before it could be placed on the ballot for referendum.
“It’s not an issue that I’m going spend my time focusing on…the constitution is not going to change in my term. I’m going to focus on issues I can make a difference on – jobs, economic development, Medicaid expansion…”
Cuccinelli also sought to temper concerns that he would preside over what McAuliffe has called a “divisive social ideological agenda” if he were elected governor. He drew a distinction between his job as attorney general, which he describes as reactive, and the General Assembly, which acts on legislation.
“There’s a difference between them doing their own thing and putting the political capital of the governor behind one program or another,” he said.
The attorney general also sought to put more distance between himself and running mate E.W. Jackson, whose controversial statements on gays, abortion and President Barack Obama have drawn criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.
“I’m not going to dive into their races or their statements,” Cuccinelli said of his running mates, Jackson and attorney general candidate Sen. Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg.
He said they had no planned events to appear as a joint ticket except for the traditional “fly-around” at the end of the election.
“I’ve got to stand on my own and they have to do the same thing,” Cuccinelli said. “Do I want every Republican in Virginia to win? You bet I do, you bet I do… We got a 20-20 Senate – and I’d sure like to have the 21st vote.”
Link to the original story at the Richmond Times Dispatch.