- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 16, 2021

The first Virginia gubernatorial debate began with spats between Democratic nominee and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and his GOP opponent Glenn Youngkin over who is more pro-vaccine.

The two candidates accused one another Thursday evening of being “anti-vaxx,” while highlighting the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Virginia and the rest of the country. 

He told college students if you don’t want to take the vaccine, just fill out an exemption. You know, I think that’s life-threatening. And I think that’s disqualifying as governor,” Mr. McAuliffe said, citing Mr. Youngkin’s “anti-vaxx record.” 

Mr. Youngkin hit back at his opponent, pointing to his 2014 appointment of campaign donor Claire Dwoskin to a state board. Mrs. Dwoskin is linked to an organization that reportedly promoted claims that vaccines are linked to autism in children.

“He called me anti-vaxx. That’s a lie. I’m not anti-vaxx. In fact, he appointed a woman to the George Mason board that was absolutely anti-vaxx and the only reason he did it is because she gave him hundreds of thousands of dollars for his campaign,” Mr. Youngkin said. 

Mr. McAuliffe also touted his stance on requiring vaccines, while attacking Mr. Youngkin’s public service announcements on the effectiveness of vaccines as being “a political stunt.”

Mr. Youngkin asserted that he believed all Virginians should get vaccinated, referring to his opponent’s anti-vaxx attacks on him as being the “biggest lie.”

Both candidates have recently put out ads highlighting their stance on the vaccine.

The two also had a back-and-forth on Twitter on Thursday over where one another stand on the COVID-19 vaccine, after Mr. Youngkin invited Mr. McAuliffe to participate in his PSA.

The debate was held at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia, on the eve of the first day of early voting in the Nov. 2 election.

The race is tight. Different polls in the past month have varyingly shown each candidate having a slight lead.

An 8News/Emerson College poll that came out Thursday ahead of the debate showed Mr. McAuliffe had 49% of voters’ support, compared to Mr. Youngkin’s 45%.

The poll surveyed 778 likely voters between Sept. 13-14 and had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

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