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Allen, Kaine debate at the Homestead

Accusations of partisanship and poor governing records marked the first general election debate between U.S. Senate candidates Tim Kaine and George Allen.

Allen and Kaine faced off before the Virginia Bar Association at the Homestead.

Allen criticized Kaine for his ties to President Barack Obama, support for unions, decision while governor to close rest stops, and support for last year’s bipartisan congressional deal on the debt ceiling that now means looming defense cuts that could cost Virginia jobs.

Kaine repeatedly accused Allen of a record of “smashmouth politics,” a poor fiscal record in his previous term as senator, and support for divisive “personhood” and other social-issue legislation.

Kaine painted himself as a bipartisan, cooperative leader whose experience leading Virginia during a poor economy would help him advocate for a mix of revenue increases and spending cuts to shrink the federal debt.

Allen presented himself as a defender of business owners and workers who would fight in the Senate against policies that could hurt business and economic growth.

Allen blasted Kaine for supporting last year’s deal in Congress over the debt ceiling, which included billions in mandatory cuts – including defense cuts– over the next 10 years if federal lawmakers don’t agree on how to make cuts themselves. That deal, also called “sequestration,” is getting renewed attention in Washington because the cuts would start kicking in in January — and no deal for alternative cuts appears forthcoming in Congress.

Kaine supported the sequestration deal, while Allen opposed it, saying Saturday that the defense spending cuts in the deal would be “devastating” for Virginia.

“The deal had no spending caps, there was no balanced budget amendment, no line item veto authority, nothing,” Allen said, adding that he never would support legislation that makes such harsh cuts to national defense.

He called it a “failed deal” and repeatedly tied it to Kaine.

Kaine said he believes the sequestration deal was “the right thing to do,” because it helped stave off threatened downgrades from the bond rating agencies.

Had Allen had his way, Kaine said, the nation could have defaulted on debts and seen a credit downgrade.

Several times, Kaine accused Allen of helping create the federal government’s current debt, by voting for Medicaid expansions, wars and congressional pay raises without a way to pay for them.

“You planted time bombs in the budget,” Kaine said to Allen. “They continue to be a wrecking ball …You talk like a fiscal conservative but you’ve never governed like one.”

Allen countered by describing Kaine as a tax-raiser, painting Kaine’s gubernatorial administration as one of high unemployment and attempts to raise taxes.

He took issue with Kaine’s claim that Virginia was a well-managed state in Kaine’s administration.

“I don’t see what’s great management when you’re shutting down rest areas in Virginia when there’s a billion dollars sitting in the VDOT account being unused,” Allen said, referring to Kaine’s unpopular decision as an outgoing governor to close numerous highway rest areas, and the subsequent finding by a VDOT audit that the agency had about $1 billion on its books it hadn’t spent.

Gov. Bob McDonnell reopened the rest stops. Kaine’s campaign sent out an email during the debate, saying the $1 billion hadn’t been spent because VDOT managers under Kaine were conservative fiscal managers.


Check and tomorrow’s paper for more on the debate.