One day before early voting begins, GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin and Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe faced off for the first time in a debate at the Appalachian School of Law in Southwestern Virginia Thursday. Moderators asked candidates about policies including abortion, Critical Race Theory (CRT), right to work, qualified immunity, vaccine mandates, and Confederate monuments.
Youngkin repeatedly tried to link policy issues to McAuliffe’s past record, while McAuliffe repeatedly tried to tie Youngkin to former President Trump. Both candidates also committed to accepting the result of the election if certified by the state.
Moderators asked McAuliffe if he would sign laws that legalize third-trimester abortions even without the currently required approval of three doctors in Virginia.
“If they came up with a solution, and the woman’s life has to be in danger, it has to be certified, and if you had a legitimate doctor that says, ‘This woman, her life’s in danger,’ of course I would support that,” McAuliffe said. “My opponent, as you know, wants to ban abortions. He has said that. He got caught secretly on tape saying, ‘I will go on offense’, ‘I will go on offense to defund Planned Parenthood and ban abortions.'”
Moderators asked Youngkin if he would sign into law a fetal heartbeat abortion ban that includes exceptions for rape, incest, and to preserve the life of the mother. Youngkin said he believes in those exceptions, and he wouldn’t support a ban like the recent Texas ban.
“My opponent does not want to talk about this topic tonight because he actually called legislation that would enable abortion, paid for with taxpayer money all the way up through and including birth, where the child is kept comfortable while the decision is made whether that child lives or dies, he called that legislation commonsense legislation and said he would sign it. Friends, my opponent wants to be the abortion governor and I want to be the jobs governor.”
When pressed by the moderator, Youngkin said, “I do believe that a pain threshold bill legislation would be appropriate.”
Moderators asked if the candidates would support an end to right-to-work laws.
“Absolutely not, and my opponent will. He looked at a camera and said when the bill’s going to come to his desk, he will sign it, and then every union endorsed him, and he’s collected literally tens of millions of dollars from the unions for his campaigns,” Youngkin said. “If we lose right to work it’s going to be the death knell for Virginia business, and my opponent is going to get rid of it.”
McAuliffe said, “Glenn always likes to bash the folks out there every day trying to make a living. I’m trying to raise the minimum wage, Glenn’s against raising the minimum wage. Glenn has raised hundreds of millions of dollars, and he doesn’t want to give some, you know, home healthcare worker who’s cleaning bedpans all day, get her $15 an hour and get her benefits, there’s a huge difference here.”
Moderators asked Youngkin to define CRT and to support his claim and how he would support equity in schools.
“Critical Race Theory has been in our schools in quite a while, and in fact, the first instance I can find is actually during Terry’s time as governor, where the Board of Education ran a training session and in fact, had a module, ‘Teaching Critical Race Theory’ in the classroom,” he said. “The problem with CRT is that it teaches our children to actually view everything through a lens of race.”
He added, “I want our children to thrive, Mr. Mcauliffe wants to lower standards in our schools and press forward with a leave every child behind education philosophy.”
McAuliffe replied, “His education plan would cut 43,000 teachers. Do your own independent analysis on it. And I really hate like, he’s talking about CRT. It’s not taught in our schools. What I hate about it is this is a big dog whistle. I really hate it. It divides people. I’m about bringing people together. We have a great K-12, it ranks fourth in the United States of America.”
McAuliffe also called for more investment in school buildings.
In his closing statement, Youngkin said, “My fellow Virginians. We live in turbulent and challenging times. My opponent wants to paint over that reality with mistruths, with excuses, and with extreme positions. He wants to distract you from those issues that are most important to Virginians today as we come together to build a better day. How do we work and live through this pandemic? How do we provide a great education for our kids? How do we make our communities safe again?”
Youngkin said he will reduce the cost of living by cutting taxes, will invest in law enforcement, will create 400,000 jobs, and will invest in education. He said, “We will make Virginia’s government work for us as opposed to telling us what to do.”
In his closing, McAuliffe said COVID-19 will still be a problem in the next year and a half.
“We need somebody with experience who has done this job before and lead us through it,” he said.
McAuliffe cited 200,000 jobs created in his term as governor, personal income increases, and his working in a bipartisan way. He called for higher teacher pay, universal broadband, and lower health care costs.
“We’ve got tough times ahead. We cannot go in with a candidate who is too extreme. He is a Trump wanna-be. He was endorsed by Donald Trump three times,” McAuliffe said. “The number one issue he talked about the entire campaign was election integrity. The big issue I am talking about is our jobs, economic development. That is how you grow.”
“I am running for you. Thank you very much and please vote,” he said.
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