Va. gubernatorial candidates differ on debate, too

Cuccinelli wants one question to McAuliffe

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Just as Virginia Democrats were rounding out their statewide ticket for the fall elections this week, their party standard-bearer, Terry McAuliffe, was objecting to a rule for the first scheduled gubernatorial debate that would allow the candidates to ask each other one question.

The debate, scheduled for July at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs and sponsored by the Virginia Bar Association, has long been a staple of statewide campaigns in the state. But the rules are still an open question.

“We agreed to the debate several months ago and format discussions are still in progress,” McAuliffe campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin said in an email. “We hope Cuccinelli will agree to all five debates that Terry agreed to in early April.”

According to the campaign office of Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Mr. McAuliffe objected to rules in the long-held debate that candidates are allowed to ask one question of each other. Mr. Cuccinelli has challenged Mr. McAuliffe to 15 debates across the state, though five is a typical number for a statewide race.

“Again, it’s one question,” said Dave Rexrode, Mr. Cuccinelli’s campaign manager. “The people of Virginia deserve a serious debate.”

Richard L. Saslaw, the Democratic leader in the state Senate, said Wednesday that he plans to talk with Mr. McAuliffe about the debate matter.

“I think he should reconsider that,” he said on “The John Fredericks Show.” “First off, Terry does very well in a debate and I think that he would do quite well if he met [Cuccinelli] head on.

“I don’t know the reasoning behind that, but, the advice I would give to him is ‘go ahead and have a free and open debate,’” Mr. Saslaw said.

Marilyn Shaw, a spokeswoman for the bar association, said both candidates will be there but acknowledged there has been some discussion over the format.

“We’re in negotiations right now,” she said.

The debate development arose as the Democratic ticket held a “unity breakfast” Wednesday morning to celebrate the newly minted ticket of Mr. McAuliffe, state Sen. Ralph S. Northam of Norfolk, the lieutenant governor candidate, and state Sen. Mark R. Herring of Loudoun, the nominee for attorney general.

Democrats are trying to paint the trio of Mr. Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson — now widely known for his derogatory comments about homosexuality and likening Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan — and state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain of Harrisonburg as “too extreme” for Virginia.

On Wednesday, Mr. Jackson held a news conference in Northern Virginia at which he attempted to get out in front of Democratic attacks by pre-emptively acknowledging a wide variety of past misdeeds.

He told reporters that he would “reveal as many of my weaknesses and shortcomings as a curious press and my opposition might want to look into” in order to “save you and your colleagues some further research.”

In a 45-minute speech, Mr. Jackson acknowledged having used marijuana and other unspecified controlled substances as a youth, having been forced to file for bankruptcy, and details of fights as a high school student. He blamed the bankruptcy in part on the difficulties his gospel radio station had with federal regulators.

Chris Jankowski, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, said he wasn’t concerned if Democrats try to portray the GOP candidates as the “tea party ticket.”

“I think the tea party’s been a great strength for the Republican Party,” he said. “You’ll never be able to convince me that bringing new people into the process and participating and supporting your party … is a bad thing for the Republican Party.”

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