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Kaine, Allen lock horns

Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat from Virginia, former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, left, speaks as Republican candidate, former Sen. George Allen, right, takes notes during a debate at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

In last debate for U.S. Senate seat, former governors trade criticisms, disagree on many topics



RICHMOND—U.S. Senate candidates Tim Kaine and George Allen met in their last debate of this campaign Thursday night, an occasionally contentious clash over familiar themes.

The debate was held in Blacksburg at Virginia Tech, but broadcast over C–SPAN and Roanoke TV station WSLS, a debate co-sponsor. The Free Lance–Star viewed the debate on C–SPAN.

Their most-heated moments came over questions about how to reduce the U.S. debt and deficit, and the related issue of how to avert looming “sequestration” cuts that will start in January if Congress doesn’t act.

Those sequestration cuts have been a frequent bone of contention between the two. They would require billions of dollars, about half of which would come from defense programs.

The cuts were planned—with support of both parties—to reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling last year and avoid a default. The cuts were intended as a threat, to prompt lawmakers to craft a different path toward spending cuts, but that has not happened.

Kaine supported the deal, although, like most who voted for it, he says he doesn’t want the cuts to actually take place. He proposes letting the Bush-era income-tax cuts expire on those making more than $500,000 a year, as a compromise to partially reduce the debt and deficit and avoid the cuts.

Allen opposed the sequestration deal, and at the debate accused Kaine and Democrats of using defense jobs “as a political bargaining chip to raise taxes.”

Kaine bristled.

“You and I are both fathers, and this one is very personal to me,” Kaine said. “I have a son who has just started a career in the military. I am not going to do things that will hurt the troops or hurt defense or hurt veterans.”

But while the two differ on how to address debt and deficit problems, neither would agree—in response to a moderator’s question—to support debt-reduction proposals from the federal, bipartisan Simpson–Bowles commission.

Both said they like some proposals from that group, but not others. Allen said President Barack Obama “walked away from it as if it was a dead animal on the front porch.”


Allen also sought to tie Kaine to high-profile policies from the Obama administration, including the cap-and-trade bill to regulate emissions, and the Affordable Care Act, all of which Allen called “job-killing proposals.”

“Tim, do you realize folks out there are hurting people cannot afford any more taxes,” Allen said, adding that high gasoline prices are especially problematic. Allen has advocated use of all available natural energy resources, including offshore oil and gas drilling and a reduction of regulations on coal.

“These are real people in the real world who are being hurt by your counterproductive energy policies,” he said to Kaine.

“You and I have a different point of view on science,” Kaine responded, talking about the effect of carbon on climate change as the two men took opposing sides on whether climate change is real and manmade.

Kaine said it is, and that he supports “strategies to over time reduce our carbon use.”

The two differed on safety-net programs, with Allen advocating a repeal of the Affordable Care Act—which he said is “adding trillions of dollars in spending and trillions of dollars in taxes”—and Kaine accusing Allen of wanting to privatize Social Security.


Allen said Social Security and Medicare need to remain solvent, and that while he “would never force someone out of Social Security,” he supports “new additional options for people to provide for themselves in their retirement years” as well as gradual increases in eligibility ages for those under 50.

Kaine said allowing people to divert their Social Security contributions into individual accounts deprives the program of money needed to pay benefits now.

“I will battle against the privatization of Social Security, tooth and nail,” Kaine said.

They bickered several times over their respective records in government—both were governors, and Allen had a previous term in the U.S. Senate.

Allen accused Kaine of ignoring Virginia’s needs in his last year of office by taking on the role of chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2009; of proposing tax increases that would have affected even those making $17,000 a year; and of leaving office with higher unemployment than when he started.

“Tim had a choice to make when he was governor, and he talked about the economic crisis in Virginia and he chose to go around the country demonizing Republicans. He called Republicans ‘corrosive,’” Allen said. “That is not bipartisan, that does not engender any goodwill.”


Kaine said Allen ignores his own role as chairman of the National Senatorial Campaign Committee while governor, and that Allen was lucky to be governor in flush times, whereas Kaine was governor when the recession hit.

“Virginians care about results, and in the toughest times since the 1930s, we got results especially in 2009,” Kaine said.

For his part, Kaine accused Allen, as senator, of voting for policies that increased the nation’s debt and deficit, such as supporting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without accompanying measures to pay for them.

Allen said it was Democratic policies in the years since then that have exacerbated the debt problems now.

He used his opening statement to cast Kaine as a lock-step vote for President Barack Obama.

On a number of issues, Allen said, “Tim has been for the Obama policies that are hurting Virginians.”

Kaine took offense, saying he worked with former Republican President George W. Bush when he could, and that no one accused Allen of being anti-Virginian for voting for Bush’s policies.

“This is a huge difference between the two of us,” Kaine said. “I do not think it is anti-Virginian to support the president of the United States.”

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028