- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 26, 2012

Republican frontrunner George Allen shrugged off jabs from his U.S. Senate opponents Friday in the state party’s final debate before the June 12 primary.

The debate at the Fairview Park Marriott in Falls Church marked the last chance for Delegate Robert G. Marshall, tea party activist Jamie Radtke, and Chesapeake Bishop E.W. Jackson to put any major dents into Mr. Allen — and Ms. Radtke and Mr. Marshall took advantage of the opportunity.

“Barack Obama’s left-hand man, Tim Kaine, will not run to the right of me on spending,” Ms. Radtke said, alluding to the Kaine campaign’s attacks on Mr. Allen’s tenure in the U.S. Senate, when the national debt increased by $3 trillion. “This point in time does not call for politics as usual.”

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Mr. Marshall once again highlighted his legislative victories over Mr. Kaine, such as successfully suing over taxing districts in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads that were eventually declared unconstitutional.

“I am concerned that if our former senator is the nominee, when word gets out to the press — with Tim Kaine’s money — about the past votes to increase the debt ceiling, divert trust funds, expand federal programs … what will Republicans do?” said Mr. Marshall, Prince William Republican. “How will they make a principled, fiscal conservative case? Tim Kaine can’t make those arguments against me.”

Mr. Jackson, meanwhile, took a different tack. Though he passionately made his points about the country’s need to get back to its constitutional origins and argued that he was the right candidate at the right time, he also broached the need for the four adversaries to heal and come together when the primary contest is finished.

“I am not interested in fighting anybody on this podium — I’m not interested,” he said. “I am here to declare a war on Tim Kaine and Barack Obama.”

Mr. Allen, meanwhile, stuck to themes he’s been emphasizing for much of his campaign — the need for the federal government to get out of the way and let the free market thrive, the need to repeal the federal health care overhaul and stop environmental regulations being promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the need to unleash America’s energy resources.

“I’m optimistic because of freedom,” he said. “Keep smiling, because what we’re doing is helping our Americans catch their dreams and we’re standing strong and positive for freedom.”

Bob Holsworth, a longtime Virginia political observer and analyst, moderated the debate. Candidates answered questions submitted by the public to the Republican Party of Virginia’s Facebook page on issues such as the federal health care overhaul, how to deal with the creeping problems of rising college tuition and student loan debt, and the notion of deploying U.S. troops without congressional approval.

The candidates largely found common ground on such issues: they all want health care reform repealed, they want to minimize federal influence in higher education, and they all favored congressional approval before sending troops to Iran.

Both Mr. Jackson, a former Marine, and Mr. Allen knocked the president for his response to the Iranian uprising in 2009.

“What a missed opportunity,” lamented Mr. Allen. “Ronald Reagan would have said, ‘We’re on the side of those who want freedom.’”

One of the more timely questions was whether the candidates supported the nomination of Tracy Thorne-Begland, a Richmond prosecutor, to a general district judgeship in the city. Mr. Marshall, who decried Mr. Thorne-Begland as a “homosexual activist” not fit to serve as a judge, recently helped derail his election despite bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates. Mr. Thorne-Begland went on national television to speak out against the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy 20 years ago.

Mr. Jackson vehemently railed against the prospect of nominating him, saying that as a senator, he would put a hold on any judge who does not follow the Constitution or believe that a family is “one man, one woman, under God.”

Mr. Allen criticized the notion of “activist” judges, but he said that a candidate’s qualifications and capacities should determine whether they are elected and that sexual orientation is not a qualifying or disqualifying criterion for judgeship.

“I did not hear an answer from my colleague on whether he would vote yes or no,” Mr. Marshall quipped immediately afterward. “You know I won’t do it because I’ve already done it — you’ve seen it in the papers.”

Kaine spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine, meanwhile, said the debate was more of the same from the GOP.

“It is clear that George Allen and his colleagues are more focused on fighting yesterday’s battles, while Tim Kaine continues to present a comprehensive, Virginia-based vision to strengthen our economy and create jobs,” she said. “We are eager to contrast Tim Kaine’s forward-focused vision for our future with the GOP approach, which would roll back decades of progress and return to the same failed policies that crashed our economy.”

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