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Candidates for Governor meet in first debate

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 3:27 AM EDT
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GRUNDY, Va. (WDBJ) - The governor’s race brought Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin to southwestern Virginia for their first debate.

They faced off Thursday night at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy. During an hour-long exchange, they sparred on a variety of issues, including vaccine mandates.

“I have been very strong on this from day one,” McAuliffe said. “And Glenn and I differ on this issue. His anti-vax rec, what he’s said, he’s had rhetoric out there. He told college students, you don’t want to get the vaccine, just fill out an exemption. You know I think that’s life-threatening, and I think that’s disqualifying as governor.”

“My position on the vaccine has been very clear,” Youngkin countered. “I absolutely encourage all Virginians to get the vaccine, and will go to work together to make sure that you have all of the information that you need to feel good about it. My opponent has said he wants to make life difficult for people who don’t get the vaccine. I think Virginians have suffered enough not to have a governor make their life difficult.”

The candidates met in the law school’s moot courtroom. Because of COVID restrictions, organizers were expecting to seat fewer than 100 people in the room, but the debate reached a statewide television audience, and many others who watched online.

Other issues that brought a sharp exchange included abortion rights.

“Friends, my opponent wants to be the abortion governor. And I want to be the jobs governor,” Youngkin said.

“I was a brick wall while I was governor,” McAuliffe said about his defense of abortion rights. “I vetoed all of the bills that he would have proposed, to ban abortion and defund Planned Parenthood.”

The candidates also differed on tax policy, and Youngkin’s plan for major tax relief.

“His plan would take $10 billion out of education,” McAuliffe said. “His plan would cut 43,000 teachers. "

“You know God made me with a big nose, but Terry McAuliffe has racked up so many Pinocchios, I’m afraid you can’t fit in the building,” Youngkin said. “Everything he just said is categorically false.”

And that’s the way it went on issue after issue, with the moderator and panelists struggling to keep the candidates in line.

There was no spin room after the debate, but the campaigns didn’t need one.

Political leaders from across the state weighed in with email and on social media.

Both sides were claiming victory Thursday night.

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