The major party candidates for governor met for a televised debate Tuesday night. They sparred over taxes, healthcare and Confederate monuments, among other topics.
The centerpiece of Republican Ed Gillespie’s campaign for governor is a rock-solid issue for the GOP: A tax cut plan that would cut the individual income tax rate by 10 percent. Democrat Ralph Northam has criticized the proposal as an irresponsible plan that would blow a one billion dollar hole in the budget. During the debate, Gillespie criticized Northam for not having a plan.
“Ralph, you’ve got an ad running that says go to my web site. Look at my bipartisan tax reform plan," Gillespie said.
“Have you gone yet,” Northam asked?
“I did, and I can’t find it," Gillespie replied. "I’m encouraging everybody. I think I found it. I think this is it right here. If you go and you look there’s no bipartisan tax reform plan. I’ve got specific policies.”
When Gillespie said he think he found it, he held up a blank piece of paper — an accusation that Northam's plans don't go much farther than lower grocery taxes for low-income people and a promise to create a bipartisan tax panel in the future.
Northam shot back that Gillespie’s plan is designed to benefit people who make more than $200,000 a year. “This plan, ladies and gentlemen, that you just heard is a tax cut for the rich at the expense of the working class,” Northam charged.
Both candidates appeared to dodge some issues. Northam's apparent support for two proposed controversial natural gas pipelines was an issue that dogged him during the primary, when Tom Perriello offered clear opposition to the plan. Tuesday night, moderator Chuck Todd pressed Northam for a clear answer.“I have been as clear as I can be, Chuck," Northam responded, "and that’s that the pipelines, if they move forward, if they are done environmentally responsibly, if they are done with transparency, if they are done with people’s property rights in mind then I do support them.”
Gillespie also struggled with a question about the healthcare proposal now under consideration in Congress. During the debate, he said any law being considered in Congress should not punish Virginia for declining to expand Medicaid. After the debate he explained his position this way. “I’m not endorsing or opposing any specific legislation that is being talked about right now. I haven’t had a chance to read it. But as a principle I’ve been consistent in this regard, and that is where I am today,” Gillespie told reporters.
There was clear disagreement between the candidates over the issue of Confederate statues. Gillespie said they should stay with some added context. Northam said local governments should be given authority to remove them if that’s what their constituents want.