VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP/WAVY) — U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and Republican rival Ed Gillespie made their final joint appearance Thursday, rehashing familiar talking points that largely focused on issues relevant to Hampton Roads.
The forum was hosted by the Central Business District Association, with each candidate answering questions on stage separately. The candidates received the questions in advance. Topics included sea level rise and military spending cuts.
Warner touted endorsements from Republicans, including Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms. Meanwhile, Gillespie noted Warner usually sides with President Barack Obama.
“He’s been a partisan operative. He views every problem through the lens of Republican versus Democrat,” Warner said.
“We can continue with the Obama-Warner policies or we can take a new and better direction,” Gillespie said.
Before the election, Warner and Gillespie agreed to eight joint public forums throughout the state. Two included recent debates that were televised statewide. Their first debate was held in July in West Virginia.
Gillespie is the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and is considered an underdog in his bid to unseat Warner.
The Hampton Roads economy depends heavily on military spending, and Gillespie faulted Warner for allowing automatic spending cuts known as sequestration to take place. Warner said the only other option was for the nation to go into default. He noted that Republican leaders also voted for sequestration.
Warner said sequestration still is a bad policy, calling it “stupidity on steroids.”
“The Navy gave me their highest civilian award, public service award, for my efforts to blunt and get rid of sequestration,” he said.
To strike a budget deal and end sequestration, Warner said the country needs to take on entitlement spending and revisit the tax code.
Gillespie said that sequestration should be replaced and that the only way it can happen is for Republicans to take control of the Senate.
“The first thing I will do after being sworn in, should I be elected, is to go seek a seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the first thing I will do there is work to replace these random arbitrary and deep cuts to our military in the form of sequestration,” Gillespie said.
SEA LEVEL RISE
The Hampton Roads region routinely floods during even minor storms, and flooding is expected to worsen because of sea level rise. Warner said that sea level rise and man-made climate change are clearly linked. He said Gillespie doesn’t believe climate change is caused by humans.
Gillespie denied that characterization. He said in two debates that he’s had with Warner that he believes there’s ample evidence of climate change and that man contributes to it. Gillespie said sea level rise is a major concern and that he believes the federal government has a role to address it, including seeking funding.
Warner repeatedly cast himself as someone who works well with Republicans and reaches across the aisle anytime he develops legislation. He said he starts from the center and works his way out, rather than working from the extremes. He called Gillespie a partisan.
Gillespie said that while Warner talks a lot about bipartisanship, his votes are routinely in alignment with Obama. Gillespie said that if he’s elected, his view on partisanship would be to support anything that will “ease the squeeze” on Virginians, regardless of the sponsor’s party.
“If it doesn’t, I will fight against it. I don’t care what any president says of either party, any Senate leader says of either party,” he said. “If the bill doesn’t ease the squeeze on hard working Virginians and make it easier for the unemployed to find work, I will fight it.”
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