The first debate between Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial race immediately got off to a particularly divisive start Saturday, with both candidates attacking each other’s past in politics and business as evidence of being unfit for office.
McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, found himself repeatedly on defense about why he is portraying himself as a job creator when the electric car company he recently founded failed to create jobs.
“You picked Mississippi,” Cuccinelli said to McAuliffe about the location of GreenTech’s plant. “So run for governor in Mississippi.”
Meanwhile, Cuccinelli — the state’s Republican attorney — found himself addressing repeated attacks by McAuliffe about his views on abortion and gay marriage.
McAuliffee accused Cuccinelli of a “social ideological agenda” over and over again, although Cuccinelli has talked very little about social issues during the campaign.
“He can stand up here and talk about jobs and transportation, [but he] has led with a social ideological agenda against women’s health, against gay Virginians and others,” McAuliffe said.
Nearly every time the moderator asked about such issues, Cuccinelli would emphasize that he’s running on a platform of jobs and the economy. But McAuliffe — whose campaign has been attempting to use Cuccinelli’s pro-life and pro-traditional marriage stances to paint him as “extreme” — went as far to say Cuccinelli is a liar.
“Ken, I mean, you are the true trojan horse of Virginia politics,” McAuliffe argued. “You come in pretending to be one thing, and you really are something else.”
McAuliffe also accused Cuccinelli of keeping business away from the state because of his views on these issues.
“You know Terry, you’ve made this same attack throughout the race,” Cuccinelli responded. “You’re notion that this somehow chases business out of Virginia would be laughable if it weren’t so offensive.”
Referencing McAuliffe’s GreenTech, Cuccinelli continued: “Look, the only candidate in this race who has chased business out of Virginia is you. It’s Terry. Not me.”
Cuccinelli accused McAuliffe of “intentional divisiveness.”
“This isn’t debating,” he said. “This is demonization. I have won four previous elections,” Cuccinelli said. “And you can go back at each election and you can see what I campaigned on. And you can see that that’s what I tried to do when I got elected.”