Virginia Democrats running for governor hold final debate before primary

Democratic gubernatorial candidates, from left, Virginia state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond; former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, and former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy participate in the last primary debate in Newport News, Va., Tuesday, June 1, 2021. Carter is shown speaking on the screen.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, gestures during the last primary debate in Newport News, Va., Tuesday, June 1, 2021.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, gestures during the last primary debate in Newport News, Va., Tuesday, June 1, 2021. The primary is held on June 8.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, gestures during the last primary debate in Newport News, Va., Tuesday, June 1, 2021. The primary is held on June 8.
Democratic gubernatorial candidates, from left, Virginia State Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, and former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy during the last primary debate in Newport News, Va., Tuesday, June 1, 2021.
Democratic gubernatorial candidates, from left, Virginia state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond; former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas; and former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy participate in the last primary debate in Newport News, Va., Tuesday, June 1, 2021.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Virginia State Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, speaks during the last primary debate in Newport News, Va., Tuesday, June 1, 2021. The primary is on June 8.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, gestures during the last primary debate in Newport News, Va., Tuesday, June 1, 2021. The primary is held on June 8.
Terry McAuliffe Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, gestures during the last primary debate in Newport News, Va., Tuesday, June 1, 2021. The primary is on June 8.
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With Virginia’s June 8 primary under a week away, Democrats running for governor held their fourth and final debate Tuesday night.

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, leading recent polls and considered the front-runner, spent much of his time attacking Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin, whom he called an “extreme, right-wing Republican” and “a loyalist to Donald Trump.”

McAuliffe was criticized by his opponents for focusing on Youngkin.

“We can’t just be a party that is opposed to the other guys,” said Del. Lee Carter. “We have to fight for something.”

State Sen. Jennifer McClellan agreed: “It’s not enough to give someone something to vote against … we’ve got to give people something to vote for.”

Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy offered McAuliffe sharp criticism.

“Why does he deserve a second chance?” Foy asked. “He had his chance and he failed the people of Virginia.”

Foy went on to call both McAuliffe and Youngkin “out-of-touch millionaire politicians.”

During a question about institutional racism, McAuliffe said it was a topic impossible to address in the 30 allotted seconds, though he gave several examples from his policy platforms, including improving access to capital and reducing education disparities.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax disagreed that the question required a lengthy answer. He went on to address the fact that McAuliffe faces three Black opponents in the race — Carroll Foy and McClellan, in addition to himself — saying: “When African Americans are shut out of opportunities repeatedly it sends a signal to people about what our system truly values and who truly has the opportunity to succeed in our society.”

McAuliffe, who is seeking another term after holding the office from 2014 to 2018, spoke about his accomplishments as governor, including his record on job creation.

Youngkin shared his take on the debate on Twitter, highlighting points of agreement with each opponent’s attacks against McAuliffe.

He said the former governor was “clearly struggling to earn the confidence of his party or demonstrate that he has a firm grasp of the facts.”

Republicans, who will be looking to break a losing streak that’s lasted more than a decade in statewide elections, picked Youngkin as their nominee during a party convention in May.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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