It was a battle.
The two candidates for governor met this morning for their first debate and as it expected the forum led to a feisty - and contentious 90 minutes. It is a race that is already been characterized as ugly and negative. So it is no surprise that the first debate gubernatorial debate took that exact tone.
"Ken you can buy a lot of turkey with 100 bucks," poked former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe (D), tying his opponent Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to the Star-Scientific scandal. McAuliffe is calling on a $100 limit on gifts to elected officials. Cuccinelli received an expensive catered Thanksgiving dinner paid for by the company CEO Jonnie Williams.
In turn Cuccinelli attacked McAuliffe as someone who talks a lot, but doesn't get much done. He referred specifically to McAuliffe's claim that he helped shepherded this year's transportation funding plan to passage.
"This is a classic example of Terry McAuliffe taking credit for other people's work," said Cuccinelli
Both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli spent most of their time attempting to define their opponent instead of themselves. The Democrat worked to paint Cuccinelli as a rigid hard line conservative working to roll back rights for women and homosexuals.
"It is difficult to grow an economy when you call gay Virginians soulless and self destructive human beings," he said.
Cuccinelli returned fire by describing McAuliffe as a slick operative with a history of poor business deals designed to line his own pockets.
"This isn't Washington Terry," Cuccinelli scolded. "We have to pay for things we want to put into the budget."
The two sparred over taxes- transportation and the federal healthcare reform plan.
But the issue that was expected to dominate the conversation- Star Scientific was only lightly touched on, as McAuliffe tried to find a way to tie Cuccinelli to the growing scandal.
"We know what Jonnie (Williams) was doing, what know what the Attorney General was doing for Jonnie Williams. Quid pro quo," McAuliffe said.
An attack Cuccinelli attempted to swat away.
"A democrat prosecutor found that I had not broken the law that I did exactly what I said I had done," The Attorney General responded.
The first of what could be a total of four debates and even more fireworks to come.
Governor Bob McDonnell's role in star- scientific was also a topic today- both candidates said it is appropriate for the governor to consider his resignation- but they both stop short of asking for him to do so.
You can watch a full replay of the debate and see more on today's event at DecisionVirginia.com.