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The candidates did not field questions, but they criticized each other after in news conferences.
Virginia gubernatorial candidates Ken Cuccinelli (left) and Terry McAuliffe appear Thursday at a sponsored lunch in Richmond.
Friday, May 31, 2013
RICHMOND — Virginia’s candidates for governor sought to exploit each other’s weaknesses during an edgy joint appearance before a politically influential luncheon crowd Thursday, barely five months ahead of November’s bellwether election in this swing state.
Republican Ken Cuccinelli goaded Democratic rival Terry McAuliffe to release his full income tax returns — something Cuccinelli did two months ago — and to accept a hectic slate of 15 debates, at least three times the average number of general election debates.
McAuliffe tried to focus on job creation and economic development, but finished by accusing Cuccinelli and a GOP ticket hostile to gay rights and abortion rights of fostering a “divisive social agenda” that discourages business growth.
The little known, sparsely appreciated major-party gubernatorial adversaries made a rare joint appearance before an A-list crowd of several hundred top lobbyists, corporate and nonprofit leaders, and journalists at the annual fundraising lunch for Virginia’s nonpartisan, independent tracker of cash in state politics, the Virginia Public Access Project.
A mid-May poll by Quinnipiac University found that fewer than one-third of its 1,286 respondents had a favorable opinion of either man. Sixty percent knew too little of McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman with ties to former President Bill Clinton, to decide; 42 percent knew too little of Cuccinelli, a conservative who has been state attorney general for the past three and a half years.
Neither candidate fielded questions from his adversary or from the crowd.
But in impromptu news conferences afterward, each accused the other of tactics that cloak widely reported ethical lapses and political liabilities in a campaign of sharp contrasts and increasingly sharp elbows.
McAuliffe said Cuccinelli’s bid to bait him into debates and opening up details of his income taxes was “another gimmick” the Republican employs when he’s feeling pressure.
“We came out and agreed to the five debates that are traditional,” McAuliffe said.
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