- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

WILLIAMSBURG | Virginia’s three Democratic candidates for governor traded barbs over campaign fundraising Sunday and differed on who is best qualified to build on the legacies of Gov. Tim Kaine and his predecessor, Mark Warner, now a senator.

Brian Moran, R. Creigh Deeds and Terry McAuliffe touched on the economy, the death penalty, the state’s gay-marriage ban and gun control during a 90-minute debate at the College of William & Mary. The debate is the first of five scheduled before the June 9 primary.

Mr. McAuliffe, former Democratic National Committee chairman and chief fundraiser for the presidential campaigns of Bill and Hillary Clinton, was put on the defensive for raising the vast majority of his campaign funds from out of state.

“I’ve got a lot of friends,” said Mr. McAuliffe, whose donor list includes Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. Mr. McAuliffe has raised about $5 million, more than both of his opponents combined.

“Terry raises money in places I’ve never been - Park Avenue and Hollywood,” Mr. Moran said.

Mr. Moran, however, had to answer for taking about $80,000 in contributions from defense contractors with business before a congressional committee his brother, Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, serves on.

Asked by Mr. Deeds if he thought those donations violated campaign-finance laws, Mr. McAuliffe said, “You should refer that to the U.S. attorney’s office, man, I can’t get into all that.”

Mr. Deeds also targeted both his opponents’ fundraising in his closing statement: “Our party will no longer be the party of the middle class if our nominee for governor is beholden to Donald Trump or Wall Street executives or to tainted defense contractors, who have received millions in earmarks from an older brother in Congress,” he said.

The winner of the primary will face Bob McDonnell, a former Virginia attorney general who is running unopposed for the Republican nomination in the general election. Mr. Moran and Mr. Deeds said that as state legislators, they supported Mr. Warner’s and Mr. Kaine’s initiatives, while Mr. McDonnell largely opposed them.

Mr. McAuliffe said he has created thousands of jobs as a homebuilder and in other businesses - experience he said would help him do the same as the state’s chief executive.

“To say you are creating jobs as governor is not accurate,” Mr. Deeds said. “You create an environment for the private sector to create jobs.”

All said they opposed Virginia’s 2006 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions, but only Mr. Moran said he would fight to repeal it. Mr. McAuliffe said “that’s just not going to happen” because it would require approval in two legislative sessions.

None of the candidates flatly rejected the idea of increasing the gasoline tax to raise money for transportation, although Mr. McAuliffe sounded more opposed than the others: “In a down economy, you don’t want to be taking more money out of people’s pockets.”

All three candidates said they support the death penalty and closing a so-called “loophole” that allows people to buy firearms at gun shows without undergoing a criminal-background check.

The debate was sponsored by the Farm Team, an organization formed in September to promote the election of women to public office.

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