Warner and Gilmore square off at Virginia Bar Association

U.S. Senate Candidates from Virginia Debate at Virginia Bar Association’s 118th Annual Summer Meeting

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Bernard Niemeier

Former Virginia governors Jim Gilmore and Mark Warner traded charges of mischaracterization of positions on issues and critiques of their gubernatorial performance at a debate Saturday.

The two candidates vying for the seat of U.S. Sen. John Warner debated at the 118th Annual Summer Meeting of the Virginia Bar Association at The Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia.

Energy took center stage early in the debate with Republican candidate Gilmore calling for immediate offshore drilling and opening of the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling.  Warner, a Democrat, called for a lifting of the moratorium on offshore drilling, but stopped short of ANWR drilling, saying that a more comprehensive energy plan was needed that would focus on alternative fuels, conservation and new technologies.

The tax records of both governors were also put to the test. Gilmore refuted charges of deficit spending during his term as governor and characterized Warner as a governor who broke campaign pledges not to increase taxes.  Warner said Gilmore caused fiscal havoc with his elimination of car taxes, creating the need for a roll back of the car tax plan as well as other tax increases to protect Virginia’s Triple-A bond rating. Warner pointed out Virginia’s recognition as the best managed state in the nation during his term as governor.

At various times in the debate, both candidates claimed that their energy policies were in line with those of presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain.  Warner also invoked the record of retiring Republican John Warner as a consensus-building centrist that he would follow in building bridges across party lines.

Mischaracterization was the most repeated word in the debate. Both candidates had sharply divergent versions of their opponent’s claims about one another’s terms in office.  In closing remarks, Warner emphasized that he was a candidate that Virginians could trust to get things done in office, while Gilmore finished by simply saying that he was a candidate that Virginians could trust.

At the candidate’s reception following the debate the most frequently asked question by Virginia Bar members was “So, who do you think won?”  The answer, of course, depends on who you are willing to believe.

For other takes on the debate, see these links:

The Washington Post
The Virginian-Pilot
Richmond Times-Dispatch

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