BY WESLEY P. HESTER
In a highly contentious face-off, former governors Timothy M. Kaine and George Allen clashed this morning at The Homestead in the first general election debate in the state’s U.S. Senate race, each relentlessly attacking the other’s record.
Allen painted Kaine as an advocate of tax increases and blasted him for his former role as Democratic National Committee chairman and support for “failed policies in Washington” under President Barack Obama’s administration.
Kaine attacked Allen’s record as a U.S. senator, claiming it was one of fiscal recklessness.
“You talk like a fiscal conservative, but you never governed like one,” Kaine said.
Both candidates attempted to strike a bipartisan tone, each accusing the other of divisive politics that would only contribute to the current gridlock in Washington.
Kaine repeatedly indicted Allen for employing what he called “smash-mouth politics,” while Allen called Kaine’s position as DNC chairman as “the most partisan job in the country.”
The liveliest moment came when Allen called Kaine Obama’s “hand-picked” DNC chairman and said he was also be the president’s “hand-picked senator.”
“I’m highly offended at that,” Kaine interrupted, calling it “completely out of line.”
The moment came on the heels of an exchange about the need for compromise and bipartisanship.
Allen spent a fair amount of time attacking Kaine for supporting last year’s debt reduction deal, which has left the U.S. facing the possibility of steep defense spending cuts that could cost Virginia more than 200,000 jobs.
“The deal was the right thing to do,” Kaine said, noting that Republicans also supported the deal, including Gov. Bob McDonnell and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th.
He criticized Allen for opposing the deal as “leverage to get more cuts out of congress.”
Allen said he refused to back the deal because he knew the so-called super-committee tasked with finding further debt reductions to avoid the defense cuts would fail.
“National defense should never be used as a bargaining chip to raise taxes,” Allen said.