- The Washington Times - Friday, August 9, 2013

Virginia gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli mixed nasty with nice Friday morning as they made their pitches to a business-friendly crowd in Manassas at the latest forum in a campaign many have labeled a “race to the bottom” for both candidates’ incessant attacks on one another’s policy positions and personal character.

Mr. McAuliffe, a businessman and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, pledged to work “24 hours a day, seven days a week” to advance the state’s economy and promote job creation, while the Republican Mr. Cuccinelli promised to be a frugal steward of Virginia’s budget and economy who, with his experience as a state senator and current job as the state’s attorney general, would be ready to do the job on day one.

Much of the discussion at the “Battleground Forum” hosted by regional Chambers of Commerce dealt with how each man planned to unclog the state’s congested roads and highways, and how they would approach the application of the federal health care overhaul in Virginia, notably the provision that will expand access to Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor.

Mr. McAuliffe repeatedly touted his support for a bipartisan transportation compromise passed by the General Assembly this year — a package Mr. Cuccinelli opposed but many prominent fellow Republicans, including Gov Bob McDonnell, supported.

“It wasn’t a perfect compromise, but no compromise is,” Mr. McAuliffe said, accusing Mr. Cuccinelli of opposing the plan for “ideological reasons, and he led the tea party opposition to the plan.”

Mr. Cuccinelli said that despite his opposition to the proposal, he would do nothing to roll back its implementation if elected governor. He pledged to be a solid fiscal steward of taxpayer money, alluding to Mr. McAuliffe’s ties to labor unions and a scuttled labor-friendly project deal that saved $300 million on the rail-to-Dulles project.

“My frugality will make every penny in this transportation bill go farther,” he said.

Mr. McAuliffe declined to say whether he would support a proposed bi-county parkway project that would affect the surrounding area and could bump up against the Manassas National Battlefield Park, saying he would not make decisions without having all the facts in front of him. The business-friendly crowd applauded after a tart but cordial exchange when moderator Derek McGintey of WUSA9 said he’d consider moving to Virginia if Mr. McAuliffe told him whether or not he supported the project.

But Mr. McAuliffe did receive applause later on when he made the point of saying that he thinks women should be able to make their own health care decisions.

Mr. Cuccinelli has faced significant ire from women’s groups for his role in the Virginia Board of Health’s approving new hospital-like regulations for abortion clinics in the state after the General Assembly passed a bill instructing them to do so in 2011. NOVA Woman’s Healthcare in Fairfax City, which had performed more abortions than any other location in Virginia, recently shut its doors in the wake of the new regulations.

For his part, Mr. Cuccinelli got applause from the crowd when he spoke about the federal health care overhaul, referring to it as a “rolling jalopy.” The crowd, many of whom have jobs tied in some way to the federal government, clapped after Mr. Cuccinelli predicted the federal government would not follow through on its pledge to eventually cover 90 percent of the states’ Medicaid expansion costs associated with the law.

“I don’t care whether Republicans or Democrats are in charge in Washington; they never get those numbers right,” he said.

Though the two candidates never shared the stage — Mr. McAuliffe spoke and answered panelists’ questions, followed by Mr. Cuccinelli — they also did a fair share of sniping at one another, exemplifying a campaign many inside and outside the state has been unusually nasty Virginia’s standards.

Mr. McAuliffe said the campaign is a choice between “rigid ideology and mainstream compromise,” arguing that the governor cannot put up walls around the state, citing past comments from Mr. Cuccinelli in the past such as homosexuality was “against nature and harmful to society.”

In their first debate last month, Mr. Cuccinelli said his personal beliefs about gays and lesbians have not changed, but that he wants to work to create an environment in the state where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.

Mr. Cuccinelli, meanwhile, lambasted Mr. McAuliffe as a serial exaggerator and peddler of access to the Lincoln Bedroom and Air Force One when he was a fundraiser for President Clinton during the 1990s.

Mr. McAuliffe has argued that a letter Mr. Cuccinelli sent to state colleges and universities advising them not to include protections for gays and lesbians in their non-discrimination policies nearly scuttled a deal with defense giant Northrup Grumman, which relocated its corporate headquarters to Virginia several years ago.

But Mr. Cuccinelli said Mr. McAuliffe is the only candidate in the race who chased jobs out of Virginia. Mr. McAuliffe chose to locate a plant for GreenTech Automotive, the electric car company he founded, in Mississippi, rather than Virginia.

Issues with the company have dogged Mr. McAuliffe, who quietly resigned as chairman of GreenTech in December. The Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating whether the company allegedly guaranteed returns for its investors, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is also investigating whether Alejandro Mayorkas, President Obama’s pick to be the next No. 2 at the agency, helped push through a foreign investor visa application on behalf of GreenTech’s sister company despite it being twice denied. Mr. Mayorkas is currently the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) director.

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