Gubernatorial candidates spar in debate over monuments, Medicaid

Published: Sep. 19, 2017 at 10:26 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2017 at 10:52 PM EDT
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MCLEAN, VA (WWBT) - At times, it was a feisty debate, where the candidates couldn't stop sparring with each other over the issues. Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Lt. Governor Ralph North faced off in the second of three debates before the November election, when voters will choose who will be their next governor. Libertarian candidate Cliff Hyra was not invited to participate.

The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and George Mason University hosted the debate at the Capital One headquarters in McLean, Virginia.

Moderater Chuck Todd, NBC's host of "Meet the Press," opened the debate with a question about the violence heard around the world, the murder of a protestor over the Confederate monuments in Charlottesville.

Gillespie said he supports keeping the monuments and adding educational context to them.

"I believe the cities and counties should, you know, better spend their money on improving our schools, law enforcement teachers," said Gillespie.

Northam favors removing the statues but would let localities make their own decision about monuments in their jurisdictions.

"If these statues give individuals, white supremacists like that, an excuse to do what they did, then we need to have a discussion about the statues," Northam responded.

Another hot topic was their differing responses to the Graham-Cassidy bill, the last-ditch effort to replace the Affordable Care Act. In fact, moderator Chuck Todd couldn't stop them from sparring.

"In Virginia, you see what's happening with insurers leaving the exchanges. You see what's happening with the skyrocketing premiums," said Gillespie.

"Ed, the reason why these health care providers are pulling out of the exchanges is because of the uncertainty," Northam responded.

But most of the debate was very civil. They both support building the proposed gas pipelines. Northam underscored the need for oversight to ensure it doesn't harm the environment or property rights. Both candidates called for SOL reform.

After the debate, the candidates separately took reporters' questions. Gillespie responded to whether he'd work with President Trump.

"I will work with the Trump administration on policies and programs that are good for Virginia, and I will oppose them when they are things that are not," Gillespie said.

Northam reacted to a Gillespie ad saying he missed 40 percent of Virginia Economic Development Partnership meetings.

"As for calling me a no-show, let me tell you what I've showed up for. I showed up for the United States Army to protect this country, to protect our freedoms, I fought during Desert Storm taking care of wounded soldiers. I've taken care of children and their families," Northam said.

Their debate comes as a new University of Mary Washington poll shows a tight race with 44 percent of likely voters favoring Northam with 39 percent backing Gillespie. Libertarian candidate Cliff Hyra, who will not be at the debate, has 3 percent of support from Virginians.

The 5-point difference between Northam and Gillespie is within the margin of error for the survey.

According to reports released recently, Northam's campaign is leading in fundraising. He has a cash balance of about $5.6 million, compared to $2.6 million for Gillespie's campaign.

The two will face off in one more debate next month in Southwest Virginia before voters head to the polls in November.

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