The Washington Times - September 20, 2011, 03:33PM

Here we go.

Virginia Senate candidates Tim Kaine and George Allen are set to participate in the first debate in the race for the U.S. Senate in 2012.


The Dec. 7 debate will coincide with Associated Press Day at the Capitol, an annual event hosted by the Virginia AP Managing Editors and the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association.

Bob Gibson, Executive Director of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, will moderate the debate. Other than the two perceived front-runners, declared candidates averaging 15 percent or more in published, non-candidate primary polls and have raised at least one-fifth as much money as their party’s front-runner by the end of October. The two have been in a virtual dead heat in recent polls.

“George Allen is the only candidate in this race with a comprehensive pro-growth plan of action to reinvigorate America’s entrepreneurial spirit and create millions of new jobs, and we look forward to this opportunity, as well as others, to continue that important discussion,” Allen campaign spokesman Bill Riggs said.

Given both candidates’ hefty fundraising bona fides — both pulled in more than $2 million during the second quarter — it could  be tough sledding for other candidates to qualify; the next campaign finance filing deadline is October 15.

And a poll released last month by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling firm put Allen at 68 percent of 400 Republican primary voters surveyed, Tea Party activist Jamie Radtke at 6 percent, Northern Virginia television mogul Tim Donner at 2 percent, Chesapeake Bishop E.W. Jackson at 2 percent, and Hampton Roads lawyer David McCormick at 0 percent.

“Virginia’s AP Day debate is a long-standing tradition and Governor Kaine looks forward to participating,” said Kaine campaign spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine. “As he does in speeches all across the Commonwealth, Governor Kaine will emphasize his message of bringing the Virginia lessons of fiscal responsibility, sound economic management and a willingness to seek common ground to Washington.”

Other declared Democrats include Courtney Lynch of Fairfax City and Julien Modica of Reston.