“Children are our treasures,” Terry McAuliffe said.
“It takes a village to run for governor,” Brian Moran said soon after.
Statements like these left no doubt that a political debate took place Sunday afternoon in the Chesapeake Room at the College of William and Mary.
But behind the flowery rhetoric, sharp smiles and back-and-forth banter, the candidates running in the Virginia gubernatorial democratic primary engaged in a timely and vibrant discussion on topics ranging from unemployment to transportation and education.
Despite the debate’s location being on a college campus, the candidates did not face a question related specifically to higher education from MSNBC reporter Andrea Mitchell, who served as the debate’s moderator. Creigh Deeds, a current member of the Virginia Senate and the third gubernatorial candidate, discussed improving colleges as a way to attract more jobs to the state.
“I want to build the smartest workforce in the world by investing in higher education,” Deeds said. “The community colleges are the perfect tool for that work … The smartest workforce attracts the best paying jobs.”
Following the debate, McAuliffe, a former head of the Democratic National Committee, described a plan to help alleviate the increasing cost of higher education by capitalizing on patents from Virginia’s state universities.
“By going into the universities, taking a patent out and making it public, this is a huge opportunity to bring hundreds of millions of dollars here into Virginia,” McAuliffe said. “I would use half for the reduction in tuition, and the other half I would put into research and development. This is a huge opportunity we are missing.”
Throughout the 90-minute debate, all three candidates sought to align themselves with former Democratic Virginia Govs. Mark Warner and Timothy Kaine, and against Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell.
The trio was in agreement on many issues, including the need to pursue alternative sources of energy and to create green jobs as a way to combat Virginia’s high unemployment rate. During a question to the candidates, Mitchell said the unemployment rate has hit seven percent during the month of February, a 17-year high for the state.
The three candidates all expressed support for the death penalty and displeasure in the Virginia General Assembly’s rejection of $125 million in federal stimulus dollars. The funding, which would have gone to fight unemployment in the state, was voted down in the GA during a special session April 9. Moran, who resigned his seat in the GA to run for governor, said he would have supported the legislation.
“Those workers, they just want an opportunity to work,” Moran said. “That money would have been used to retrain our workers for jobs that are available, to put them back to work. The best social program of all is a job.”
All three candidates expressed their interest in closing the gun show “loophole,” which allows the sale of weapons between individuals at gun shows. The three were also in agreement on improving transportation in Virginia.
Following the debate, College of William and Mary Law School Dean Davison Douglass said he was happy that the College was able to host the event, especially after the College was unable to host a debate during Virginia’s 2008 Senate race.
“About a year ago we started trying to see if we could host a debate here,” Douglass said. “This is great for all these students who, over a year ago, wanted to bring the political process to William and Mary, succeeded and got to be up close and host this debate here. I’m happy we were able to have a significant event here at the College.”
McAuliffe, Moran and Deeds are battling for the right to face Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell. Sunday’s debate was the first of five scheduled between the three democratic candidates leading up to the June 9 primary. The general election will be held Nov. 3.