Former Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe and Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli exchanged charges of corruption at their gubernatorial debate earlier Saturday.
“The only person who’s abandoned or driven business out of Virginia is you, it’s you, Terry,” Cuccinelli charged. “It certainly isn’t me. Instead of putting Virginians first, you put Terry first. It’s a common theme for you.”
Cuccinelli scored points early on by invoking McAuliffe’s time with GreenTech, an electric car company that opened a manufacturing plant in Mississippi instead of Virginia and ultimately floundered.
“OK, so you picked Mississippi; so run for governor in Mississippi,” Cuccinelli cracked, to laughs.
McAuliffe explained the decision by repeatedly citing his “fiduciary duty” to “protect shareholders” in business, before swinging back at Cuccinelli by invoking a controversy that continues to swirl around the Republican McDonnell, touching Cuccinelli in the process.
Democrats have been stressing Cuccinelli’s initial failure to report thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts from the head of dietary supplement company Star Scientific. That’s the same company at the heart of troubles plaguing McDonnell, whose family received pricey gifts as well, triggering interest among state and federal investigators.
Both candidates declined to call for McDonnell to step down, though Cuccinelli said “that question is appropriate to ask Gov. McDonnell; it is appropriate to ask him to think about it.”
A business owner has “a fiduciary duty in business to protect shareholders, a duty, frankly, you forgot, Ken, when you were taking all of these gifts from Star Scientific,” McAuliffe said. “You had a fiduciary duty, sir.”
Cuccinelli didn’t break the law, according to a top Virginia prosecutor who studied the issue, but Democrats are eager to tie the GOP nominee to the company and its CEO, Jonnie Williams, Sr.
Democrats are working a dry hole with the Star Scientific scandal — especially compared to McAuliffe’s problems with the GreenTech boondoggle.
Cuccinelli stressed his experience in state government, saying he won’t need “on the job training,” while McAuliffe touted his “bi partisan” credentials. The latest polls show McAuliffe with an insignificant lead so it will be interesting to see if the needle moves at all as a result of this feisty debate.