U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine and GOP challenger Corey Stewart traded insults in a testy debate Wednesday over whose style would best represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate.
Kaine and Stewart met in Northern Virginia in a debate broadcast on NBC4.
Kaine, a folksy former governor who was once dubbed"America's Dad'' when he was Hillary Clinton's running mate in 2016, said Virginians want a forward-looking leader who doesn't stoke divisions for political gain like he said Stewart does.
"It's angry and it's divisive and what we need is leaders, especially in this moment, who are upbeat and positive and inclusive,'' Kaine said.
The more aggressive Stewart accused Kaine of being a knee-jerk opponent of President Donald Trump, who would rather oppose the president than help Virginia, suggesting Kaine is still bitter over losing his vice presidential bid in 2016.
"You're bitter about 2016, you're voting against every single thing that President Trump does," said Stewart, a one-time state chairman of Trump's presidential campaign.
Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors and a one-time state chairman of Trump's presidential campaign, also made unsubstantiated attacks that Kaine discriminates against Asians and has sought to cover up sexual harassment by members of Congress, even suggesting we wouldn’t know if Kaine was one of those members of Congress because their names are undisclosed.
Kaine denied everything Stewart said about him. After the debate he said he has not been accused of sexual harassment.
Kaine said Stewart is running an angry campaign that belittles women and demonizes immigrants.
Wednesday was the second of three planned debates and the sparring and quarrelsome tone largely mirrored the pair's first meeting in July.
Stewart mocked Kaine's record as Virginia governor and the Senate, saying Kaine had no substantive accomplishments. Stewart also made unsubstantiated attacks that Kaine discriminates against Asians and has sought to cover up sexual harassment by members of Congress.
Kaine returned plenty of fire, accusing Stewart of belittling women, demonizing immigrants and being out-of-touch with the state's coal workers.
Once considered a key swing state, Virginia has become a reliable win for Democrats. Clinton defeated Trump here comfortably and Democrats have won every statewide office since 2009.
Kaine has a huge cash advantage over Stewart and is favored to win Virginia's contest, which has received relatively little national attention compared to more competitive states that could determine partisan control of the Senate.
But Trump has warned on Twitter not to "underestimate" Stewart, who the president said has a "major chance of winning."
Kaine and Stewart differed on several issues Wednesday, including whether a congressional office building should be renamed in honor of Sen. John McCain and whether nearly 700,000 young "Dreamer'' immigrants brought here as children stay in the country. Kaine said yes to both, Stewart said no.
They also sharply diverged on how the Senate should handle the allegations of sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Stewart has dismissed the allegations as specious and mocked one of Kavanaugh's accusers. He said the Senate is behaving like a "circus" and has no moral authority to question Kavanaugh's character because lawmakers have covered up their own sexual misdeeds.
"Who are they to judge,'' Stewart said.
Kaine, who opposes Kavanaugh's nomination, said Stewart had minimizing the seriousness of the allegations made against Kavanaugh and demeaned victims of sexual abuse.
"You're going after the accusers, as you always do," Kaine said.
Kaine is a favorite to win and Virginia's Senate race has received relatively little national attention compared to more competitive states.
A survey conducted Sept. 4-9 for the University of Mary Washington by the national research firm SSRS found Kaine had a 51 percent to 33 percent margin among registered voters and a 52 percent to 36 percent margin among likely voters. Libertarian candidate Matt Waters received 5 percent support in both subsets.
NBC News political director and "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd moderated the debate, and News4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey and anchor Aaron Gilchrist were on the panel along with George Mason University Dean Dr. Mark J. Rozell.