The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Allen, Kaine offer voters stark choice in Senate race
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
On Wednesday morning, either George Allen or Tim Kaine will wake up as Virginia’s newest U.S. senator.
And the other one will have to find something else to do with his time after spending nearly two years campaigning.
Virginia’s Senate race has been a long and expensive affair. As of mid-October, Kaine had spent $18.4 million and Allen $11 million. The race also attracted about $50 million—the most in the country—in spending by outside groups, much of it on negative ads.
Polling in the race has consistently showed it neck-and-neck, and both campaigns say Virginia’s Senate race could be a deciding factor in which party gets control of the Senate in Tuesday’s election.
The matchup between two former governors (Allen led the state from 1993–97, Kaine from 2005–09) made political junkies in Virginia salivate when it became clear early last year that the showdown was inevitable.
Allen, a Republican, had lost his Senate seat after one term to Sen. Jim Webb in 2006, after a campaign marred by missteps—including Allen calling an Indian–American Democratic campaign tracker “macaca” at a rally in Southwest Virginia.
Allen announced in early 2011 that he wanted the seat back and defeated several opponents in a June primary to earn the GOP nomination.
Democrat Kaine had spent two years as head of the Democratic National Committee before Webb’s announcement that he would not run for re-election left Democrats searching for a candidate. With his party in a battle to maintain control of the Senate, President Barack Obama personally appealed to Kaine to make the run.
Allen’s campaign has been geared toward “America’s comeback,” advocating lower taxes, less regulation, more domestic energy, and less government spending. In his political career, he has generally taken the position that government overreaches and that the private sector generally does better when government gets out of the way.
Kaine has made bipartisanship a key point in his campaign. He frequently talks about working with Republicans when he was governor and promises to do the same as a senator.
He advocates improving educational opportunities to enhance a “talent society,” which he said would improve business and the economy. He says government budget cuts must be done carefully, and be paired with revenue increases when necessary.
DEALING WITH THE DEFICIT
During the year-plus in which Allen was seeking the Republican nomination, he ran against Kaine more than his GOP opponents. He casts Kaine as an obliging henchman of Obama, guilty by association—and outright support—of many of the administration policies Republicans hate most, such as the new health care law and cap-and-trade emissions regulations.
As Allen has tried to tie Kaine to an unpopular president, Kaine has equally attempted to link Allen to an unpopular Congress. When Allen talks about his experience in office, he mostly talks about being governor.
But Kaine more typically refers to Allen’s Senate term. He cites Allen’s support for expensive wars as a reason for today’s high deficits and notes that Allen voted for some level of private-sector options for Social Security.
As the campaign has progressed, other issues have emerged. Perhaps the biggest, at least from Allen’s perspective, is sequestration.
That’s the shorthand term for a $1.2 trillion package of federal budget cuts that will automatically start in January if Congress doesn’t act to avert them. Half of the cuts would come from defense, and studies say that would lead to the loss of thousands of contracting jobs in Virginia.
Allen never supported the short-term debt-ceiling deal Congress made that called for the future cuts as an incentive to reach a longer-term solution. He has run ads claiming Kaine supports the cuts.
Kaine supported the debt-ceiling deal last year that included the sequestration cuts as an alternative to U.S. debt default. Many Republicans voted for the cuts at the time—but they, like Kaine, never expected them to take effect and now advocate for an alternative from Congress.
The sequestration issue is really a question of government spending, and both Kaine and Allen would approach that in different ways.
Allen says the government should cut spending—but not in the drastic ways spelled out under sequestration—and bring in more revenue by improving the economy. He says expanded domestic energy production would help accomplish that, and also claims that repealing the Affordable Care Act would save billions of dollars.
Kaine supports the ACA and disputes Allen’s math on it. He says debt and deficit problems should be solved by balancing spending cuts and revenue growth, and supports increasing taxes on those earning more than $500,000 a year. He wants Medicare to be able to negotiate prescription drug prices and proposes to end tax subsidies for large oil companies.
TAXES AND BENEFITS
Taxation has also been a frequent issue in the campaign, although a fairly cut-and-dried one. Kaine had proposed tax increases as governor and supports them for high-income earners. Allen opposes raising taxes and signed Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise them.
Both men have at times expressed support, at least in concept, for tax reform that could lower tax rates on individuals and businesses while closing some breaks and loopholes.
Debates over the federal budget also take in questions about the future of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Both Kaine and Allen say they don’t advocate any action that would affect Medicare or Social Security for current beneficiaries.
Kaine doesn’t want to change Social Security much at all, saying it’s largely solvent and that he would support some adjustments, such as raising the payroll tax cap over time. Allen says he could support some age adjustments to the programs.
Kaine has accused Allen of wanting to privatize Social Security. Allen says he supports offering private options for retirement, but not mandating them.
Kaine has frequently brought social issues into the race, at least in terms of women’s health issues. He is far from the only Democrat nationwide to do so, spurred by Republican proposals such as “personhood” bills that define life as beginning at conception—something opponents say could threaten birth control.
Kaine says women should control those decisions themselves, without the interference of politicians or government.
Allen is a supporter of the personhood amendment, although he also says he doesn’t want to prevent women from getting birth control.
Allen wants to drill for more oil and gas and relax environmental regulations on coal, which he says would create more jobs. He also criticizes Kaine and Obama for what Republicans this year have termed a “war on coal.”
Republicans say the Obama administration has increased regulations on coal, leading to reduced production and layoffs. But there are other market factors at work in the coal industry, such as the availability of cheap natural gas.
Kaine says he supports clean coal, and has pointed to a plant in Wise, permitted during his administration, as evidence. But he also says he does not want to weaken environmental regulations that protect public health.
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028