- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2008

Two Virginia governors — one past, one present — debated the policies of their preferred presidential candidates Wednesday, waging a friendly partisan battle in an effort to sway voters in the swing state toward either Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain.

Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, and George Allen a former Republican governor and U.S. senator, sparred over the energy and environmental policies held by Mr. Obama, a Democrat, and Mr. McCain, a Republican, during a roughly 45-minute debate hosted by the Environmental Committee of the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Washington Dulles International Airport Marriott.

Mr. Kaine, 50, stressed Mr. Obama’s plan for a cap-and-trade program involving the auction of carbon allowances, and the senator’s goal of using the funds to invest $150 billion over 10 years to promote and research green energy issues. He said the Democratic presidential candidate also would hold a global summit aimed at coming up with an updated strategy to deal with energy and climate change.

“Senator Obama very much wants to re-engage with the world on this issue,” Mr. Kaine said.

Mr. Allen, 56, emphasized Mr. McCain’s incentive-based energy approach that would include promoting the use of fuel-efficient vehicles through a tax credit of up to $5,000 for those who purchase them.



He also said that the Obama campaign has been inconsistent with its stance on coal as an energy source and that Mr. McCain wants to invest $2 billion a year into clean coal technology.

“I think coal really has a great deal of potential benefit for our country, for energy independence and also [for] the hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the country that are involved in the coal industry,” Mr. Allen said.

The match between Mr. Allen and Mr. Kaine came on the morning of the third and final debate between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama, at Hofstra University in New York expected to focus on domestic policy and the unstable economy.

But the characters in the surrogate contest were equally as interesting as the context.

Mr. Kaine — who began his term as Virginia’s 70th governor in 2006 — was the second consecutive Democrat elected to the executive mansion in a sign that the typically red Republican state was perhaps turning Democratic blue.

That same year, Mr. Allen lost his Senate re-election bid to Democratic challenger Jim Webb. Mr. Webb’s victory helped Democrats take control of Congress and came after Mr. Allen’s infamous use of the word “macaca,” which means monkey, to describe a Webb campaign volunteer.

Now, Democrats also are in control of Virginia’s state Senate, and polls have shown a tight race between Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain in Virginia, which a Democratic presidential candidate has not won since 1964.

Mr. Kaine, who was considered a contender to be Mr. Obama’s running mate, has stumped hard for the senator. After being passed over for the potential vice-presidential spot, the governor has said he will finish out his gubernatorial term instead of taking a possible spot in an Obama Cabinet.

He said he will think about what his future holds next year.

“What I’ve decided is, and my wife’s in the same spot, that probably sometime next summer … we’ll start to think about it,” Mr. Kaine said. “If what you want to do is serve other people, there’s always a million opportunities to do that.”

Mr. Allen, meanwhile, has been out of political office since his defeat. He said Wednesday that he is focused on helping Mr. McCain get elected but offered no insight on his political future.

“Political activity now is focused on the McCain-Palin campaign and helping them out,” Mr. Allen said. “I haven’t said ‘yea’ or ‘nay.’ I’m focused on this.”

The debate covered a swath of specific topics but featured a friendly tone between Mr. Kaine and Mr. Allen.

When discussing energy, Mr. Kaine said Mr. Obama supports letting states have the autonomy to decide whether to permit drilling off their shores.

But he said Mr. McCain’s stance is typified by the slogan “Drill, baby, drill” and is short-sighted. A better long-term approach is to use tax incentives and research to drive alternative and renewable energies, he said.

“Drilling strategies are short-term strategies, and it’s a dead end to focus on that as the long-term strategy,” Mr. Kaine said.

Mr. Allen noted that Virginia has been seeking permission to pursue drilling off its shores and that Mr. McCain is for the state being able to keep royalties from the process, which could be used to fund key areas like transportation.

“We need to have all these sources of fuel and of energy, and I’d just as soon be getting it off the coast of Virginia than off the coast of Saudi Arabia or Venezuela,” Mr. Allen said.

Mr. Allen also discussed Mr. McCain’s plan to build 45 nuclear reactors in the country by 2030 and said the country should work to recycle the radioactive waste produced by nuclear power.

Gale Paige, a 42-year-old undecided voter from Ashburn who attended the debate, said she remained indecisive afterward. But she took notes during the contest and planned to do follow-up research - as well as watch the presidential debate.

“The thing is, I like to do the research and follow the funds to see what decisions they’re going to make,” Ms. Paige said.

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