WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was the principal point of contention in the first debate in the Virginia Senate race which featured Senate Democrat Tim Kaine defending his seat from Republican challenger Corey Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.
“This guy is a 100 percent for President Trump … he’s a 100 percent pro-Trumper,” said Senator Kaine about Stewart’s support for Trump.
Stewart counter-charged that Democrat Kaine tries to block the president at every turn.
“He opposes everything that President Trump does. He’s an automatic no, whether it’s good for Virginia or bad for Virginia,” Stewart said.
But Stewart drew guffah’s when he suggested that the president is tough on Russia.
“We have a president who is standing up to the Russians,” Stewart said.
“Ha,” Kaine retorted, as the audience laughed.
While Kaine called attention to Stewart’s support for Trump, he was also careful to walk a fine line.
“I have a record of working with President Trump and his team on all kinds of things,” Kaine said, while adding that he would oppose the president when he believes it’s necessary.
Stewart sought to paint Kaine as an ineffective leader.
“He’s too weak, he’s too liberal and he’s gotten nothing done, not only in the United States Senate but as governor he accomplished nothing,” Stewart said.
Kaine appeared prepared for Stewart’s aggressive style.
“Corey, when he got into the race, said it was going to be ruthless and vicious and what that means, if I can translate, is — make it nasty, make it personal or make it up,” Kaine said.
The two differed sharply on the issues.
On health care, Kaine highlighted his support for the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion in Virginia, saying the federal law has benefitted people with pre-existing conditions and reduced the uninsured rate by allowing children to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26.
Stewart charged that health care costs more and has not improved under Obamacare.
Stewart also defended Trump’s trade policies saying the tariffs imposed by the president are meant to open foreign markets to U.S. goods which are unfairly treated by America’s trading partners.
Kaine countered that the president’s trade’s policies constitute a “trade war against Ameircans” which could cost the U.S. economy 430,000 jobs.
The 90-minute debate before the Virginia Bar Association was moderated by Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of “PBS NewsHour” and conducted at the Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia.