Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine and Republican challenger Corey Stewart on Tuesday accused each other of hypocrisy on the hot-button issues of sexual assault and harassment in the third and final scheduled debate in the U.S. Senate race in Virginia.
The debate also touched on issues such as taxes, transportation and the violent protests last year in Charlottesville, but the sharpest exchanges came when the subject turned to sexual assault and the allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Mr. Kaine said the allegations raise “serious questions of character” and that the judge shouldn’t be elevated to the high court “unless we resolve these significant claims.”
Mr. Stewart, meanwhile, said people have to get to the bottom of sexual harassment claims involving members in the halls of Congress. He said $17 million has been paid out in settlements.
“Clean up your own house first. Clean up what’s going on in the United States Senate,” he said. “This is your money — this is $17 million of our money that’s being used to settle these claims.”
Mr. Kaine said the total encompassed an array of claims made over the course of many years against Capitol Hill staff in general — not just members of the House and Senate.
“Corey, don’t make stuff up and don’t pretend,” he said. “There’s never been a claim filed against me or anyone in my office. You know that.”
Mr. Kaine said he pressed for more information on the sexual harassment claims in December and that it was up to Republicans in the majority to release the complete information, including any names of those involved.
He said Mr. Stewart isn’t one to cast aspersions after campaigning with Roy Moore, the candidate in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama this year who faced accusations of having sexual relations with underage girls as a grown man.
“Don’t pretend to care about sexual assault here with this crowd,” Mr. Kaine said.
But Mr. Stewart kept pressing the issue, saying the public still doesn’t have the names of members who might have been involved.
“Is Sen. Booker on that list? Is Sen. Kaine on that list? Is Sen. Blumenthal on that list?” he asked.
Mr. Kaine responded by saying that Mr. Stewart was employing a “Joe McCarthy tactic.”
Mr. Kaine raised questions about Mr. Stewart’s ties to Jason Kessler, one of the organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August 2017, and Paul Nehlen, a past Republican primary challenger to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan. Mr. Nehlen has come under fire for racially charged online posts.
Mr. Stewart has said he doesn’t want anything to do with anybody who has racist views but that he won’t apologize for every “lunatic” who’s out there.
Mr. Kaine, a former Virginia governor, lieutenant governor and mayor of Richmond, is seeking a second term in the Senate.
He said his campaign theme of “a Virginia that works for all” is upbeat and positive and that Mr. Stewart is running a divisive campaign.
Mr. Stewart said all Mr. Kaine and other Democrats have had to offer recently is “resistance.”
“They resist everything,” he said, including Republican tax cuts, securing the border and the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh.
Mr. Kaine has held sizable leads over Mr. Stewart in public polling on the race. The latest Real Clear Politics average puts him almost 19 points ahead.
The race hasn’t received as much attention from national committees and outside groups as some of the Senate races in red states such as North Dakota, West Virginia, Indiana, Montana and Missouri, where Republicans are more bullish on their chances to pick up Democrat-held seats.
Republicans haven’t won a statewide race in Virginia since 2009. Democrat Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie by 9 points in last year’s governor’s race.
Mr. Stewart came close to defeating Mr. Gillespie in the Republican gubernatorial contest. He made defending Confederate monuments in the state a key theme in that race and has continued that defense this year.
Mr. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, has tied himself to Mr. Trump and says he wants to “stir things up” in the Senate. He has had a penchant for engaging in attention-grabbing stunts.
He waved toilet paper at a press conference outside the state legislature this year to criticize Republicans for being “soft” and “flimsy” for supporting Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.
He also called for the arrest of Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Ann Kincaid after she announced that the county was ending a partnership with the federal government on an immigration enforcement program.
Mr. Stewart helped shepherd a tough crackdown on illegal immigration in his county in 2007.