McAuliffe attacked by fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidates in final debate before primary

Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 10:44 PM EDT
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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WVIR) - The five Democrats looking to win the Governor’s Mansion squared off Tuesday night in the final debate of the primary cycle. It comes just one week before voters make a final decision about who will face Republican Glenn Youngkin in November.

The debate held at Christopher Newport University and hosted by 13NewsNow started with opening statements and the beginning of a theme: former Gov. Terry McAuliffe attacking Youngkin.

“I worked with reasonable Republicans to get things done here in Hampton Roads,” McAuliffe said. “But let me be clear: Glenn Youngkin is not a reasonable Republican.”

That wasn’t the only jab the former governor took at the Republican nominee, but some of the other candidates on the stage attacking McAuliffe, who is polling as the frontrunner.

“In every single question-response from the former governor we’ve heard Glenn Youngkin’s name or Donald Trump’s name in every single one of them,” said candidate Lee Carter, a state delegate. “The debate that we’re supposed to be having on this stage is a debate about the future of this commonwealth.”

Jennifer Carroll Foy, a former delegate, said: “The former governor talks as if he wasn’t the former governor before, as if he didn’t have an opportunity to do all the things he said he would do. He had his chance and he failed the people of Virginia. So why does he deserve a second chance?”

Virginia Sen. Jennifer McClellan says it’s crucial Democratic voters go to the ballots excited for their candidate.

“It’s not enough to give someone something to vote against, we’ve got to give people something to vote for,” she said. “And they know I’ve been doing the work for 15 years.”

Justin Fairfax, Virginia’s current lieutenant governor, never attacked McAuliffe by name but did say he wants to take the commonwealth on a new path.

“We [can] rebuild a Virginia that is one that we can all be proud of and that sets a new tone for a new destiny here in our commonwealth,” he said.

The candidates discussed several of their policies and answered questions that included how they will respond to the pandemic.

Carroll Foy used it to talk about eviction and utility moratoriums.

“I can tell you I will build on the foundation I helped lay as a legislator in the general assembly by establishing an eviction moratorium and also a utility moratorium,” she said. “But I will go even further as governor. I will be sure to address the backlog in the unemployment insurance claims that we have by having automatic funding available once a certain amount of applications have been submitted.”

Carter answered by discussing his healthcare plan.

“Our healthcare system was cut to the bone because it is run by for-profit companies that make a buck off of overcharging you and cutting corners on your treatment,” he said. “I am the only candidate on this stage that is fighting for a universal healthcare system.”

Later in the debate, when discussing getting Virginians back to work, McClellan shared what she would prioritize.

“COVID has decimated the childcare industry. That is why the first plan I rolled out as a gubernatorial candidate was a universal childcare plan,” she said. “I have seen how hard it is to get access to affordable, quality childcare and we cannot get people back to work if they don’t have somewhere to send their children.”

The debate ended with a discussion of police reform. Here are how two of the candidates, Fairfax and McCauliffe, responded.

Fairfax said: “We need to build on the historic and record progress that we made with regard to police reform and criminal justice reform here in Virginia. We should have universal body cameras for every single law enforcement officer here in the commonwealth of Virginia, they should be mandated to be on... we also need to have more diverse police forces around Virginia.”

McCauliffe said: “We need full accountability, we need full transparency, we need to increase funding for community policing, we need to increase funding for training, it’s critical that we bring back the relationships so that we keep our citizens safe and no one lives in fear.”

You can watch the entire debate here.

Voters head to the polls to select a nominee on June 8.

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