Economy big issue in Senate debate

Published 10:16 pm Monday, October 8, 2012

Women’s rights, Medicare and affirmative action were some of the other issues Virginia U.S. Senate candidates Tim Kaine and George Allen sparred over in Richmond Monday, but the economy was the dominant weapon for both.

Hosted by AARP and the League of Women Voters Virginia, the debate between the ex-Virginia governors, Democrat Kaine and Republican rival Allen, was held before a live television studio audience.

“I governed in the most difficult economy since the 1930s, but we were the best-managed state … the best state for business … and the best state to raise a child,” Kaine claimed.

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Allen said that Kaine as governor was more concerned with playing partisan politics as chairman of the Democratic National Convention, adding, “When the president asked you take on this job, you could have said to the president, ‘I appreciate the offer, but I have a job.”

The Republican was less confident on women’s matters. Asked by league President Lynne Gordon how he would address the gender pay gap, he said that “no one works harder than women” and, bringing it back to the economy for not the last time, “There’s … 5.5 million women who would like a job but are unemployed, and many others are underemployed.”

Kaine said he has a “significant difference” with Allen on the topic, raising the battles over reproductive issues fought in the state Capitol earlier this year. “You can’t have a strong economy for women if you take their rights away,” he said.

Allen said he “would never have prohibited contraception. Some will say you can’t have access to contraception and religious freedom,” but those people are wrong, he contended.

After Kaine had said it is “very important we pursue” the perpetrators, Allen brought the debate back to the economy yet again when the candidates were asked if America should go after terrorists in Libya following the recent murder of a U.S. diplomat there.

“This is a reminder to all of us of how wrong and dangerous it is to be having the dangerous cuts to our military preparedness,” he said, referring to automatic deep federal budget cuts, so-called sequestration, that will take effect next year if Congress can’t agree on deficit-reduction measures.

After a jobs report said national unemployment has dipped below eight percent, Kaine said there are “some signs” the economy is “starting to move forward. I think Congress is the ankle weight.”

Allen referred again and again to his view that repealing President Barack Obama’s health care law would help get the economy moving, while Kaine said that while in the Senate, Allen “broke both sides of the balance sheet.”

Another recurring topic for Allen was “unleashing” America’s energy resources of oil and natural gas, which he said would create hundreds of thousands of jobs while “keeping money here in the United States of America.”

The issue of campaign contributions drew a sharp contrast between the candidates. Kaine said he would pursue a “no secret money” rule, while Allen said the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken on the matter.

On immigration, Allen said immigrants “can contribute a great deal to country,” adding “there ought to be a much better system” to allow immigrants to work legally.

Kaine said he also supports visa reform, adding that tourists should be able to more easily enter the country. “We want you to come here and spend money,” he said. He also voiced his support of the President’s Dream Act, which eases the path to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants. “Youngsters brought here … we should help them become over-achievers,” he said.

Returning to sequestration, Allen said that defense should not be cut.

“What needs to be done is (to) make cuts elsewhere … and grow the economy,” he said.

Accusing Allen of not answering the question, Kaine said that sequestration would “put us right back into the mix of a partisan battle we’ve been having for the past three years.”

In his closing remarks, Allen said, “There’s a lot at stake in this election … I think that anybody that pays taxes should be on our side unless they want to pay higher taxes.”

Kaine claimed the country is “ready for a breakthrough,” but “Congress is the shackle … We’ve got to fix the economy by investing in infrastructure and expanding education opportunities for small business.”