Former State Del. Brian Moran put significant policy daylight between himself and rivals State Sen. Creigh Deeds and Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe during the three candidates’ final public debate Tuesday at the Northern Virginia Community College’s Annandale campus.
The three are vying for the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia which will be decided in a primary election on June 9.
In addition to adamantly opposing offshore drilling and a new coal plant in the Chesapeake, Moran, in a bold, new major focus for his campaign, reiterated his promise to “work tirelessly” if elected to repeal the controversial Marshall-Newman Amendment to the state constitution.
The amendment, passed in a statewide referendum in 2007, effectively bans not only gay marriage but also virtually all civil contracts among persons of the same sex.
Moran said his unsuccessful opposition to placing the measure on the ballot marked “dark days” in his legislative career, noting the constitutional amendment added “discrimination” to the state constitution, which, he said, “is supposed to protect the rights of Virginians.”
“I will not rest until the amendment is repealed,” he said, noting that nothing is more fundamental to governing than fighting for and protecting equality.
McAuliffe said he has always supported “civil unions,” but noted that 57 percent of Virginians voted for the Marshall-Newman amendment. He then shifted the subject to the economy and jobs, subject areas where there has been, effectively, total agreement among the three candidates.
But Moran challenged McAuliffe’s saying he would “not have time” if elected to repeal the amendment, noting that the amendment “prohibits civil unions” that McAuliffe says he supports.
McAuliffe said, “I’ve argued all my life for this (civil unions-ed.) and voters don’t want us fighting among ourselves about this.”
Deeds said on the subject that “there is no consensus to change current law,” although he said he had “no problem” with a gay couple jointly adopting a child. State Del. Adam Ebbin, who was providing real-time comments on the debate via Twitter Tuesday, noted that Deeds had voted in the state senate to place the amendment on the ballot 10 times.
Last Friday, Moran drew the largest applause among the three candidates at the Arlington Democratic Committee’s Jefferson-Jackson banquet, due in part for speaking out strongly on the same issue.
He has put the matter to the forefront of his efforts in recent weeks as a cascade of states has begun adopting pro-gay and gay marriage laws. With Nevada joining the list yesterday, 12 states plus Washington, D.C., now have laws providing at least some form of state-level relationship recognition for same-sex couples.
The hour-long debate was co-sponsored by the Washington Post and News Channel 8, but the Post‘s coverage in its edition yesterday claimed that there was “little daylight separating the three Democrats on most major issues,” calling it “more of a referendum on style.”
But in addition to the issues of the Chesapeake and Marshall-Newman amendment, sparks flew over claims by McAuliffe of “creating 100,000 jobs,” which Moran claimed he’d said, of McAuliffe’s offering more than he could deliver on, as claimed by Deeds, and of, as Deeds put it, “duplicitous and disingenuous” claims by McAuliffe about taking no money from the state’s giant utility, Dominion Virginia Power, or its political action committee.
McAuliffe did accept campaign contributions from individual high-level officials of the utility, Deeds contended, also contending that 80 percent of McAuliffe’s contributions have come from “out of state.”
At one point, responding to a claim by McAuliffe that he’d voted to uphold payday lending, Moran assailed McAuliffe’s lack of experience at lawmaking in Richmond, compared to himself and Deeds. “Terry, I don’t have time to teach you about the legislative process and the people of Virginia don’t have time for you to learn,” he jibed, drawing a loud reaction of astonishment from the live audience of 400.
But McAuliffe was equal to the challenge of defending his campaign and its promises, drawing the most positive response from the audience when he conceded he is “shooting for the moon” to bring commerce and jobs to Virginia. “Kennedy didn’t say we were taking a rocket halfway to the moon, he said all the way.”