George Allen and Tim Kaine on Thursday delivered sharp critiques on the ills plaguing an intransigent Washington and predicted better days ahead — albeit in markedly different ways — in a likely preview of pitches they’ll make to Virginia voters in their bids for a U.S. Senate seat.
“The government doesn’t create jobs — you do,” Mr. Allen, a Republican, told a crowd of business people and legislators at the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s second annual economic summit in Tysons Corner. He and Mr. Kaine, the early presumptive nominees to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Jim Webb in what could be the marquee matchup of the 2012 congressional election season, delivered separate addresses to the group on the subject of the federal government’s impact on the state economy.
Mr. Allen said government should focus on its core functions, notably national security.
“We really don’t need Washington telling us what kinds of light bulbs to buy,” the former Virginia governor and U.S. senator said. “We can make those decisions for ourselves.”
Mr. Kaine, a Democrat and also a former Virginia governor, led off his address later in the day by saying he was going to “focus on optimism,” citing the state’s strong, well-educated and talented labor force, as well as the preponderance of federal agencies that help attract them.
“There is one attitude that says that the right strategy to take is to fight Washington,” he said. “I have a different attitude. I think we need to fix Washington.”
“When you look at Washington, you see … gimmicks,” he continued. “The Grover Norquist no-tax pledges, brinksmanship over the debt ceiling, [the idea] that we can solve our debt problems purely through cuts, which would devastate defense and other industries that are critical to Virginia.”
Both candidates garnered a few laughs, and each got some applause from the crowd of a few hundred people.
Mr. Allen sounded the conservative refrain about economic, health care and energy policies from Washington fostering an environment of uncertainty, making businesses unwilling — or unable — to make new hires. As possible solutions, he reiterated portions of the economic and energy plans he’s discussed in the past, including a proposal to reduce the U.S. corporate income tax from 35 percent to 20 percent and another to clear the way for oil drilling off Virginia’s coast.
“Obviously, I would love to work for you to effectuate these positive policies in Virginia,” he said.
Mr. Kaine, too, saw brighter days ahead, adding that the state has faced adversity in the past.
“We’ve managed to come out fine. Now, we haven’t come out fine by accident. It doesn’t just automatically happen, there’s no magic beans to plant. … You’ve got to make hard decisions that are going to be tough in the short term to do the right thing [for] the long term, but there’s no reason to believe that we can’t have better days ahead than we had in the past.”
The appearance Thursday was a preview of an event next week, when the candidates will face off in the first debate of the 2012 U.S. Senate race next Wednesday at the annual AP Day at the Capitol in Richmond — a debate that has raised objections from some other candidates.
Julien Modica of Reston, a Democrat running against Mr. Kaine, has filed a lawsuit against the Associated Press, the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association and AP reporter Bob Lewis, seeking to be allowed to participate in the debate or have it canceled. Fundraising and polling qualifications will prevent all candidates except for Mr. Kaine and Mr. Allen from participating.
Other candidates, such as tea party activist Jamie Radtke and Republican businessman Tim Donner, have also decried the restrictions.