- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2006

Republican Sen. George Allen, in the second of back-to-back debates in the U.S. Senate race yesterday, tried to portray Democratic challenger James H. Webb Jr. as a one-issue candidate who focuses on the war in Iraq.

The showdown in Tysons Corner also saw Mr. Webb, Navy secretary under President Reagan, argue that several issues divide the front-runners for one of the U.S. Senate seats in Virginia.

During the debate, both candidates spelled out their differences on the federal government’s handling of the war in Iraq, embryonic stem-cell research and increasing health-insurance options. They also weighed in on the possibility of granting the District a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“[The war in Iraq] is the one issue that drives my opponent’s campaign,” Mr. Allen, 54, said.

Mr. Allen said he does not share Mr. Webb’s view that the U.S. immediately must work with the countries neighboring Iraq, including Iran and Syria, on a diplomatic plan that allows American troops to pull out without jeopardizing the region’s stability.

“It doesn’t make much sense to me to have a country like Iran, which is clearly a state sponsor of terror … forming the future of Iraq,” Mr. Allen said.

In response, Mr. Webb, 60, reminded Mr. Allen of the comments the senator made last year in which he said, “We should be talking to our enemies.”

After the debate, Mr. Webb told reporters that Mr. Allen is like other Republicans who say Democrats lack a plan but then express their stance through vague slogans like “stay the course.”

“Where is their plan?” Mr. Webb asked. “They are the ones running the war, and they are not even able to articulate what the endpoints should look like.”

The debate was organized by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and moderated by George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s “This Week.”

About 600 business executives attended the event. Independent candidate Gail Parker, who did not participate in the debate, sat in the crowd, wearing a white cowboy hat.

On embryonic stem-cell research, Mr. Webb said he — like former first lady Nancy Reagan — supports federal funding for the research. Mr. Allen, like President Bush, said he opposes federal funding for such programs because advancements in science have allowed adult stem cells to fill a similar scientific role without destroying human embryos.

“This is an issue that has the weight of medical science with it,” Mr. Webb said in support of using tax dollars for the research. “My understanding is these were embryos that were created … [and are] not going to become human life as we know it.”

When asked whether they support Rep. Thomas M. Davis III’s bill that would grant the District a vote in the U.S. House, Mr. Allen said he would rather see the non-federal part of the District ceded to Maryland. Mr. Webb said he would vote in favor of the bill.

Mr. Allen said he supports giving small businesses the ability to band together to buy health-insurance coverage for their employees, making it more affordable by spreading risk among a bigger group.

Mr. Webb said he favors a system similar to a mandatory health insurance plan that Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney recently signed into law. That plan forces people to have health coverage and subsidizes uninsured residents who fall under income brackets of up to three times the federal poverty level.

The candidates once again had to explain past statements that have fueled questions about each candidate’s character.

Mr. Allen apologized for calling a worker from Mr. Webb’s campaign a “macaca” at a rally in Southwest Virginia last month. The word refers to a genus of monkey and is considered a racial slur in some cultures.

Mr. Allen said he made up the word and added that he recently received an endorsement from state Sen. Benjamin J. Lambert III, a Richmond Democrat who is black, because of his support of historically black colleges and universities in Virginia.

Mr. Webb apologized for the tone of a magazine article he wrote in 1979 that questioned the role women should have in the military. The article recently drew the ire of some female graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy, who said it fed an atmosphere of sexual harassment during their time at the academy.

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