7:00pm at Germanna Community College’s Daniel Technology Center, yours truly will be liveblogging and crossposting at Bearing Drift the Virginia Attorney General debate!
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6:50pm: Foster signs are here out in force. Cuccinelli comes in second, Brownlee in a distant third.
6:56pm: Brownlee and Cuccinelli working the floor.
7:04pm: Still milling around… no debate yet, but it’s coming together. Lots of old friends here from the Susan Allen Republican Women’s Unit, Orange County GOP, and Delegate Ed Scott.
7:07pm: KICKOFF! Delegate Ed Scott is moderating in place of Orange GOP Chairman tonight. Understand Doug had a bit of an emergency and needs some quick prayers. All is well, but the good folks in Richmond are making double sure.
7:09pm: Invocation and pledge.
7:10pm : Introduction of local elected officials — standing and being recognized. Delegate Scott thanks them for their teamwork and quality. Delegate Scott is now introducing Kilgore, serving with great distinction as Attorney General himself.
7:11pm: Kilgore is mentioning the work of being an Attorney General, the stakes, and how we have three great candidates running for Attorney General. Kilgore goes over some of the rules: each will have 3 minutes for an opening statement, followed by questions in rotating order. Hope to get to 8 or 9 questions tonight; two minute responses for each question. If there is a need for rebuttals, we will keep them quick. 3 min closing statement.
Brownlee: Thank all of you for coming out so much, for attending the debate and hearing your AG candidates. Sends prayers to the Rogers family and hopes for a speedy recovery. Good news for the RPV, and that news is that regardless of who you nominate, you will nominate a conservative. Travelled around the Commonwealth with these two gentlemen for the last two months, and we are solid on life, marriage, taxes, and spending. On the 2nd Amendment. But it takes more than being a conservative to be AG. Imperative you must be a prosecutor. Last six terms, five were filled with former prosecutors. When Virginia had a choice, they picked a prosecutor. Dems know this, they have picked a prosecutor — Steve Shannon. So party must nominate a conservative and a prosecutor. Served as a prosecutor for a decade, as a U.S. Attorney as well. So when we nominate, there is only one prosecutor who sits at this stage tonight. That distinction will be the difference bewteen winning and losing this year. I am the only veteran running on either side of the aisle. The motto of victory is that of McDonnell and Kilgore: conservative, prosecutor, veteran.
Cuccinelli: Thank you Kilgore, thank you for moderating tonight. Having a former AG keeps us focused on the subject matter in the office, and since the best expert in the room is asking the question, that tends to do that. I am Ken Cuccinelli, I am the only Republican Senator in NOVA, and I do not have the luxury of having precincts from Loudoun and Prince William. Only Republican out of 10 State Senators. I am a conservative, and I have the track record to prove it. Only person who can point to a track record and voting record to show you where he’s been. Only one here who has taken all of these issues and gone back to Fairfax and defended that agenda, and not only voting right but leading on these issues. There aren’t many conservatives in the Virginia Senate, but I’m one of them. Life begins at conception, protected it at that point on. One of two senators who came out of NOVA who campaigned for the marriage amendment. Marriage amendment will have to be defended. If you want someone who is going to roll back the marriage amendment, that’s Steve Shannon. I am the leader on the 2nd Amendment in the Virginia Senate, endorsed by VCDL, fought off the Democrats attack on the individual right to bear arms, and defended that in Fairfax where they are 4:1 in favor of gun control. Leader on property rights, before the SCOTUS undid them in Kelo. I was ahead of that curve, defending your rights before it was fashionable. Appreciate your vote.
Foster: I’m Dave Foster, been elected countywide in Fairfax, but I’m a Republican (laughter), despite what you might hear about elected officials from Arlington. We need to win, it’s important to win, and when I say win I want a top priority to elect McDonnell governor and Bolling lt. governor, and I am the candidate to do that. Most of my colleagues have lost NOVA, even McDonnell. Arlington hasn’t elected a Republican in 25 years, but I won with over 62% of the vote, made me chairman because of that mandate. But I didn’t get there by sacrificing my common sense or prinicples. We’re not going to regain the Commonwealth by sacrificing those. We have to articulate those. One problem is going to override all others: the economy. 51,000 Virginians lost their jobs this month. Virginians want an AG that cuts red tape and reduces regulation in our state. I have represented businesses, Fortune 100 companies, and start ups. I know how AGs think, I know what businesses need that grows business and creates job. Look forward to your questions.
Q1. You’ve spent the last several months attracting people to the convention. What is the best advice you’ve received so far?
Cuccinelli: Best advice is that the AGs office does many things, and the AGs office means many things to different people across Virginia. Local circumstances dictate in Albemarle for example that property rights are very important — working with Del. Bell and Del. Scott working on bills to protect property rights. Any campaign must take in local advice. Being someone who comes from the grassroots for 18 years, very sensitive to the suggestions from activists like you.
Foster: Call your wife tonight. (laughter) Best advice he’s ever received. Introduces wife. (applause) Second best advice was “remember 1992.” What was it Jim Carville kept telling us? It’s the economy, stupid! And we didn’t get it until it was too late. It is the economy, and we’re stupid if we don’t get it. McAuliffe is already talking economy, about bringing jobs in Virginia. But we’re the party that knows how to bring real jobs to Virginia, restoring localities and wealth. If you come to Virginia, you won’t be looking at long lines and paperwork, and strong competition. If we convince voters that knows how to make Virginia how to make this a business-friendly state, they’ll come back to us.
Brownlee: Well, I’ve never run for public office before, and before I annoucned I’d go to my church and talk to my pastor. He said two things: remember who you are, and speak from your heart. I’ve done that every step of the way throughout the Commonwealth. Everyone has to be good at something in life; I’m good at chasing down bad guys (laughter). That’s why over 100 elected members of law enforcement, and what I’m running for is to be Virginia’s top law enforcement officer. When I sat down with Ashcroft, he told me one thing: “go make that place safer” and that’s what I and other members of law enforcement have done. If I am nominated, I will have one mission, and that is to make you, your children, and your family safer. And I will make certain it is done.
Q2. Convention or primary?
Foster: Both have their virtues, both have their drawbacks. In a primary, we have no way of enforcing party loyalty. In a convention, honestly, we’re disenfranchising people — particularly those in uniform. We are ironically not inviting them in when we hold conventions. We need to find ways to expand the base, and we’ll start that in the convention.
Brownlee: No system is perfect, but I like the convention format because it requires the candidate to get out there and meet the folks in person. I know it’s an imposition, I know it’s a challenge. But the 8,000 folks will have the chance to test these candidates in a way that no other voters could. Primaries cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and no one wants that. Instead, we talk in restaurants about why our values are important, one on one. I think that’s a powerful thing. As a first-time candidate, I think that’s remarkable. So I support this convention process, it’s important, and I do believe when the ballots are tallied, you will select a candidate that is qualified, prepared to win, and will serve our party well.
Cuccinelli: I certainly support the process we have going this year, and we will double or triple last years attendance based on the enthusiasm because of the grassroots, retail politics stretching across Virginia. Great way for parties to vet our candidates, and the Republican Party’s candidate should be the Republican Party’s nomination. I believe that the raising and spending of money that takes place in a primary precludes the contact with the people who make up the activists in the party. If we could have party registration, the primary would be much more attractive an option. Reagan brought Democrats over, not because they were invading, but because they were switching. Party registration would be the ideal.
Q3. Next AG will deal with redistricting. What reforms would you support?
Brownlee: First the census, then we will redraw the lines. So how those lines are drawn are incredibly important to the future of the Republican Party and our Commonwealth. Important that the process be done in a fair manner. First, go out and win these elections. We have to control the Senate after 2009, and the house and the governor’s mansion. However, if it doesn’t work out that way, then we have to make sure it’s done as fair as possible. One of the things we will have to look at is who has the experience to go into a courtroom and look out for the interests of the voters in Virginia, and that’s precisely what I did as a prosecutor. So that experience is critical in trying to address this important. In terms of reforms, it has to be more fair, and less partisan. Won’t happen until after the 2009 elections.
Cuccinelli: I speak to you as an attorney who has invovled himself in such law, and I know what is at statke. I had supported reforms, supported trying to insulate the process from politics. The Founding Fathers designed the process to be political. But the gamesmanship, the gerrymandering has done more harm than good, and has undermined trust in the system and competitivness. When you eliminate competitiveness, that’s what the politicians want. It’s not good for Virginia, it’s not good for America. I’ve supported redistricting packages for an up-or-down vote that is by and large unamendable except for technical changes. That’s better for the grassroots, and I will continue to support those efforts. Look forward to defending the work product in court.
Foster: Great to be in Fairfax and Arlington, Ken, where there is no shortage of competition? (laughter) Supporter reform, and it’s time to get past the Voting Rights Act of ’63 (1964?). We have to get past race, we’re in a new era, and we need a new system without the shackles of the Voting Rights Act in Virginia. This is an area where the AG’s race should serve you. We need someone with a statewide ability to investigate ACORN and all areas of voter fraud. With all due respect to Brownlee, what the AG does is run the third largest law firm in Virginia. That’s where my experience comes in.
Q4. Early voting for any reason whatsoever? Support?
Cuccinelli: I am not in support of an idea that opens the polls up before a particular day. I have expanded early voting, and do believe there is value to everyone voting on a similar schedule. When you start to extend election day, you lose the opportunity to have a full discussion on a time period where people are paying attention to that discussion after Labor Day. You all (the crowd) are an anomoly! We are different than 99% of Virginia. If voting were extended to September, we would lose the opportunity to give those voters full information. Not entirely opposed, but thinks its a step back. Supportive of making sure our voters have as much information as possible. Not there now, could be convinced in the future.
Foster: As much damage as ACORN did without early voting, I’d be afraid of what they’d do with an extra month (laughter). Not entirely in favor. Expand by too much the period of time when people can vote, you may get to the point where people may not be able to arrive at the point in time when voting is concluded. What if a candidate is indicted midway? Do voters have the chance to change their votes? We should make it easy to vote, but somebody should be watching the farm and allegations where voter fraud exists. The Virginia AG should be able to go after any criminal allegations of voter fraud.
Brownlee: I think I’m in agreement with this. There are sufficient methods to vote early if you wanted to. I like having one moment, it gives the opportunity to give the most information to the voters. I want to address one thing about what Foster mentioned about the role of the AG. It has been mentioned several times that the role of the AG is not that of a prosecutor, and boy oh boy I want to be very careful of that. The largest single division of the office of the AG is the criminal division, building cases against violent criminals, on and on. So yes, it’s a big job. Yes it has many duties. But it always has a primary duty: public safety. If they nominate with all due respect a patent lawyer or a business lawyer, we do ourselves a grave disservice.
Q5. Smoking ban — what are your thoughts?
Foster: I think this should be a matter of individual choice. Businesses should decide. Kaine staged his announcement in Arlington, ironically in a place called Liberty Tavern. But with all due respect, it has a decibel level that would kill you. Would they regulate that too? More and more restaurants are smoke free, and the free market is determining this. Let the free market establish the equilibrium. This is an odd time to be discouraging job creation and harming one of our key industries. 6.4% unemployment, as high as 15% in certain localities. This is a difficult time to inhibit the economy.
Brownlee: Does it enhance or reduce freedom? In my judgment, this is a law that need not be passed. If someone wants to open up a restaurant that allows smoking, that is their choice. Government ought not to be getting involved in these freedom issues, including smoking. You can’t afford the regulations if you are a mom-and-pop regulation. Businesses and consumers ought to have the right to decide. You’re all smart folks, you ought to have the right do decide. 80% of the businesses in the Commonwealth have already made that decision. Foster is right, what’s next? French Fries? (laughter) Can’t support this.
Cuccinelli: It’s relatively safe to tell a conservative audience that you are for freedom and against smoking bans. It’s much more difficult to defend those positions to go back to Fairfax and defend those positions. Tell an ancedote about Senator Whipple… the Democrats overreach. There was a bill to ban smoking in cars, banning smoking everywhere — including your house — all at the option of your local government. It behooves a state like Virginia to not burden its own industries in the part of the state that is having the most trouble right now. I agree with these gentlemen’s comments about leaving the free market, free.
Q6. As someone seeking a statewide office, you will have a role in leadership. McDonnell has called for Frederick to resign. Where do you stand?
Brownlee: I look at this question from the perspective of a U.S. Attorney. First thing you do is look at the evidence. No one has shown me the evidence against Frederick. I’ve seen the allegations, and they are very serious. It would be inappropriate for me, particularly as a former U.S. Attorney, to sit here this evening to make a judgement about someone and make a judgement about someone else. Cuccinelli has seen the evidence, so I will let him. As a prosecutor, I have a great respect for jury verdicts, and a great respect for elections. The SSC will review this evidence. It should be open and transparent, and the leaders of the party will make that judgement based on the evidence, and evidence alone. That’s my advice as a former prosecutor.
Cuccinelli: This is an issue that will be decided by the SSC, and there are 77 people who have that vote, and I am staying out of it. It is in the interest of the party that our candidates stay out of it. I have a job to do this year, and that is to keep the AGs office in Republican hands. We’ve been a bit busy for a little while (AG candidates), and I have not viewed both sides arguments in this discussion. We had a convention choose Jeff as chairman, and it’s a very serious thing to have 77 people remove Jeff Frederick as chairman. Two outcomes. If Jeff is still chairman, everyone on SSC have to circle the wagons and march towards victory in 2009. If Jeff is removed as chairman, there should have been a discussion about who is coming next after that vote, and I hope the grassroots leadership in the party will focus on that answer in the coming weeks.
Foster: I view this more broadly. I want to keep the Governor’s mansion in Republican hands, keep the Lt. Gov. seat in Bolling’s hands, then the AGs seat. I want to work with whomever comes out of the SSC meeting on April 4th. I will abide by their decision and will support whomever wins. There are a lot of people who think he needs to go, but I will work with that chairman and win these elections in 2009. Let the SSC do it’s work, and let’s focus on winning in 2009.
Q7. Given the SCOTUS ruling, and the 4th Circuit ruling, are there additional restrictions on abortion that you feel are necessary/jeopardy?
Cuccinelli: The 4th District is getting worse, and if the nominees are any indication, we’re in real trouble. We are in a tough spot with appointing conservatives to the SCOTUS as well. The PBA ban was ruled to be unconstitutional by a 2-1 vote, and that was the wrong one. McDonnell has appealed that decision, but that’s not something that a Democratic AG would appeal. There is acutally a fairly long list where we have a lot of room to maneuver, not only with Roe v. Wade but with Griswold v. Connecticut. There’s a lot of room to work, pro-lifers should continue to be aggressive in that respect.
Foster: Roe v. Wade was a wrong decision, and we should continue to look at futher restrictions. When I was on School Board, we could not prescribe asprin much less abortion. But let’s not look past Roe v. Wade. One day, we need to find a way to return the decision to the popular will. This is where a prosecutor or a legislator will not be of much help. This will be a decision where a civil attorney comes in handy. If we want an AG that will challenge abortion bans, how much experience does he have? Has he done civil as well as criminal issues?
Brownlee: If you look out the lay of the land where we play today, the AG is going to be playing strong defense on our values. I believe life begins at conception. As AG, I will speak out on values concerning life. I was taught that way at home, I will talk that way as AG. We also need to make sure we have an AG who can go into a courtroom and protect these values. What you’re hiring is an attorney who has that experience to go into court. With all due respect to my colleagues, there is only one candidate here who has the experience to do this. I stood on my last day arguing a case in front of that 4th District court. We need a lawyer that shares your values, but has the experience to defend those values. The PBA ban, Cuccinelli is absolutely right. We may have to go as high as SCOTUS.
Q8. Bailout. What advice would you give to the governor in accepting bailout funds.
Foster: It’s a misnomer to call it a bailout bill, when it’s bailing out tattoo parlors to … (etc). I challenged our School Board to keep down our school construction bonds, and because of that we have the lowest debt burden of any locality. A bailout package that says a legislature cannot overrule the governor is wrong. We have a 9th Amendment (10th?) that says that what is not delegated to the federal government is reserved for the states. (applause) Virginia gave birth to our federal systems, we ought to be the last ones to give them up. The stimulus is not really a stimulus bill, but I do hope McDonnell and Bolling do something to revive the Virginia economy.
Brownlee: Governor McDonnell has called in the AG to advise him on the bailout. First, call some members of Congress who have a better sense of what is in that bill. Very glad to have the endorsement of Goodlatte and former congresswoman Drake. My advice is this: if accepting the money will damage the long-term interests of the Commonwealth, I would reject it. It’s tempting to take it, but this has long term ramifications. Any questions about this, look at California. Anyone can come, everything is paid, and California is going bankrupt. So I will look at the bill, look at the strings attached, and advise appropriately. McDonnell and I have worked together in the past, I am confident that between the two of us we will sort out the stimulus package.
Cuccinelli: I voted against the budget that resulted from the bailout. Two years from now, we will fall off about a $4 billion cliff when this stimulus money runs out. Only a fraction of this bill is for job creation. The Republican alternative cost half as much according to the CBO, and it’s stimulus was overwhelmingly with tax cuts. So government doesn’t do the creating, the private sector does the creating (applause). Included in this bill is a provision intended to go around governors who don’t want the money. There are significant legal points for the basis of legal and consitituional concerns. We have a legal system, and Virginia is sovereign in her constitution (applause). We have a constitutional system, and the Democrats in Washington are seeking to go around it. I will defend our constitution and advice the governor appropriate.
Q9. Free Choice Act revoking secret ballots. Is there a role for the AG to challenge this legislation?
Brownlee: In order to establish a union today, you have to have a secret ballot. 50% + 1 is union, then it’s a union. They want to change that. They don’t want a secret ballot. And if you don’t come to terms with the unions, it goes to arbitration in Washington. This poses several problems for a right-to-work state like Virginia, and this is a direct assault by it. The AG needs to be prepared to go to court to protect our right-to-work status. Both Webb and Warner have said they will vote for it. Think about the fact when your hospitals all become union? We need that experienced litigator who can go into our courtrooms and defend our values, particularly our right to work (applause).
Cuccinelli: I have fought in the Senate defending our right to work laws. Pleased to tell you that I have a 0% record with the unions, and a 100% record with the NFIB. Free Choice Act? Interesting how it means the opposite of what it says… we are going to see union issues, we will see labor issues and the right to work as major issues in this AG race. It is a critical issue, we are the northern-most right to work state on the eastern seaboard that gives Virginia a significant advantage over our neighbors. The AG will have plenty of opportunity to defend our right to work status, the critical issue in 2009. (applause)
Foster: This is going to be an issue at all levels of government; governor, lieutenant governor, and the AGs race. We have to fight at all levels. If I am AG, and if Warner and Webb vote they way they say they will, I will look for ways to challenge it. I will look to the 9th and 10th Amendments to see how we can challenge this. But we should challenge them as a team, and challenge McAuliffe and Moran and Shannon to defend their positions across Virginia.
Q10. As a parent who will see on of his children go to college, I am concerned about the ability of Virginia students being able to go to Virginia schools. What advice would you give to Virginia’s college presidents?
Cuccinelli: This has boiled for many years, even when I went to UVA it was even then a boiling issue. Virginia taxpayers have built one of the best college systems in the country, and it should be available first for Virginia’s students. Out of state students are a net benefit, and we could get more from out of state students than we currently do. We are not giving them as much as they want, but nonetheless there is room for flexibility, create a greater disparity between in state and out of state students. Coming from Fairfax, those are slots we should make more available to Virginia students. I will say I would rather see the colleges do this on their own without the legislature.
Foster: I doubt I could get into my alma mater, UVA, now with quota requirements. It would be a major culture shock if we altered the ratio, not only because of the demographic makeup, but also affect the reputation of the colleges who have a national presence. We do have an innovative system for including private schools who are partners in education with public schools, not our enemy. Finally, we need to honor and encourage and support vocational tech schools in Virginia. There’s a reason why Bolling and I have been talking about education, because it relates to the economic health of the Commonwealth.
Brownlee: We have some outstanding schools, and I have had the honor of being an adjunct professor at UVA Law. I encourage them to be prosecutors, I always encourage them to do that. We need to make recognize that the taxpayers of Virginia who pay for these schools. Clearly Fairfax County schools offer more than to rural areas. We want to make sure that students from rural areas have the same access as other Virginians, always picking the very best students for their schools.
KILGORE: Closing statements.
Foster: Thank you everyone for being here tonight. It is clear that you feel very deeply about the future of our Commonwealth, and I thank you. And I care about this party, because I believe we will lead the future. How are we going to do that? Well we have to win, and they way we are going to win is by convincing the voters of Virginia that we are the party that knows how to create jobs. The opposition is talking about it. We need to show how businesses will come to Virginia, that we are the party of lower taxes and less red tape; turning around this economy and creating jobs. Come to Richmond, even if you’re not going to vote for Dave Foster, come and help rebuild this party. If we are pro-Virginia, we will get the reins of government back.
As a professional, I am a litigator most of the time. I was recognized as one of Virginia’s top litigators, but first and foremost you’ve got to get elected. And there is one person who has stood in NOVA who has stood up on our principles and won. Life, 2nd Amendment, marriage, I have stood up on all those principles have won. McDonnell, Bolling, Kilgore, and McCain have all lost my district — I have won it three times. And only one candidate has done that in NOVA and proven they can win. We won with good grassroots campaigns, who share the values I represent such as defending the constitution as written, to re-establish property right — all things I have already lead on. We are in the minority, not because of Democrats, but because we have failed to do what we said we were going to do, and the voters have abandoned us. Everyone says they are a conservative when they are seeking the nomination; I am the only one who has proven it. We all send our prayers out to Mrs. Rogers and your husband tonight. (strong applause).
Brownlee: In 75 days, you all will gather at a convention hall in Richmond, and in a secret ballot you will have to make your choice for the next AG. Two questions: Who is prepared to serve on day one? And who has the best chance to win? With all due respect for my two colleagues, we’re not running for Senate, we’re not running for School Board. If we were, I’d support you. The Virginia voters will demand that our next AG be a prosecutor. The math tells us, every time they’ve had a choice, they’ve chosen a prosecutor. It makes no sense to say they aren’t going to change their mind. The largest division is the criminal division. That’s why it’s imperative you understand that we need a prosecutor. There are only two veterans running statewide: that’s Bob McDonnell and myself. But at the end of the day, Cuccinelli is a patent lawyer and a politician (oo’s from the crowd — not good) and at the end of the day is a politician. Vote for me, I’ll carry us to victory. (mild applause)
Kilgore: Introduces Ed Scott. (strong applause)
Scott: Understand that the 9th District had its most successful even when it hosted Jerry Kilgore. Bit upset that Kilgore isn’t sporting that VT tie that Scott gave him (laughter). Thanks the candidates, no matter who wins we will have a strong candidate. Thanks the GOP units, College Republicans, Women’s Units, and thanks the crowd for being here. Refreshing to see how many people are here in March to learn about our candidates for nomination. And here tonight, I am formally announcing that I will stand for re-election to House of Delegates. (standing ovation) Critical to take back the Governor’s Mansion and will need your help to get it done.
In 2004 we worked to close a $1bil revenue gap. This year, we closed a $3bil gap. We have much to do to ensure that Virginia remains the best place to do business, send children to school, etc. If we don’t do everything we can to improve our economy, we will face serious consequences in 2010 and 2011. When I first ran for office six years ago, it was a given that Virginia was a right to work state. Today, those laws have been weakened where Democatic candidates for governor are walking picket lines in Northern Virginia. We need a governor and a legislature that encourages businesses to check into Virginia, not check out.
We need to continue to look for innovative ways to meet out transportation needs. Revenue sharing program is the way we’ll build roads in the future. We can get roads moving, state and local governments working together, get rail moving from Lynchburg through Culpeper. Natural resources will be important over the next few years, deal with wastewater treatmennt, agricultural best management practices, and look forward to working with my colleagues on these issues.
Health care needs in Madison, Culpeper, and Orange are evolving. It’s critical we continue to grow our health care infrastructure with dentists, doctors, nursing homes, and other facilities.
We will look for answers wherever we can find them, whether they are in Richmond or Washington D.C. In the 30th District, we have much to look forward too, including this campus here at Germanna Community College. We need to engage the business community, so that it’s future needs are addressed by our educational community today.
I want to continue to be a voice for the needs of public safety in our region. I look forward to collaborating with our AG nominee in this effort.
Look forward to your continued support, and your vote. (applause)
8:54pm: Debate is winding down… Scott is thanking the candidates, asking people to sign up to be a delegate after the debate, and is encouraging folks to participate. Debate over, FIN.
8.58pm: Word is starting to get around about the robocalls into the 5th District against Tucker Watkins. Widely negative response here… and I mean really negative. Ouch.