Virginia Gubernatorial Candidates Gillespie, Northam Spar Over Taxes, Trump, Confederate Monuments - NBC4 Washington
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Virginia Gubernatorial Candidates Gillespie, Northam Spar Over Taxes, Trump, Confederate Monuments

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    The two major party candidates in Virginia's closely watched race for governor argued in mostly cordial tones Tuesday over taxes, President Donald Trump and what Virginia should do with its numerous monuments to the Confederacy. News4's David Culver reports.

    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017)

    The two major party candidates in Virginia's closely watched race for governor argued in mostly cordial tones Tuesday over taxes, President Donald Trump and what Virginia should do with its numerous monuments to the Confederacy.

    Republican Ed Gillespie said at the candidate debate, held in voter-rich Northern Virginia and televised across the state, that he's the only candidate with a sense of urgency and the right policies to improve a floundering economy. Virginia's economic growth has sputtered with a slowdown in federal spending, especially in defense.

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    Republican candidate Ed Gillespie says Virginia needs to do better with the economy and jobs, while Democrat Ralph Northam praised job creation.

    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017)

    "We used to always lead and now we are lagging," Gillespie said, peppering his remarks throughout the hour-long debate with statistics about Virginia's slow economic growth. He's made cutting the state income tax rate a key campaign platform, which he said would spur more economic growth.

    Democrat Ralph Northam presented a far different picture of the economy, saying it had made strong progress under current Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat who is barred from seeking a consecutive term. Northam said he would take Virginia to the "next level," with a focus on improving the economy in rural areas. He also chided Gillespie for painting a bleak picture of the state, saying that's counterproductive to the state's efforts to lure new businesses like Amazon's proposed second headquarters.

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    Republican candidate Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam differ over what should be done with Confederate monuments. Gillespie would keep them with historical context while Northam thinks they should be in museums but would leave it up to localities.

    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017)

    "Amazon doesn't want to hear people like you saying -- especially if you want to be the next governor -- that we're doing poorly in Virginia," Northam said.

    Virginia is one of only two states electing governors in 2017, and the contest is getting national attention as a potential early referendum on the president's first year. Most polls have shown a close race in the swing state, where Democrats have won every statewide election since 2009.

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    Republican Ed Gillespie says a tax break would increase spending. Democrat Ralph Northam says Virginia needs to invest in the commonwealth.

    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017)

    The debate lacked the kind of sharp-elbowed jabs and name-calling often seen in last year's presidential debates.

    Moderator Chuck Todd of "Meet the Press" said on Facebook Live after the debate he was surprised at how often the Republican Gillespie and the Democrat Northam found agreement. Asked about $500 million in funding for Metro, for example, they agreed the transit agency is very important for northern Virginia but neither would commit to the money without getting further information about how it will meet its challenges. 

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    Gillespie is a seasoned communicator who was a senior White House adviser to former President George W. Bush, and a high-paid lobbyist and consultant to Fortune 500 companies. Northam is pediatric neurologist, Army veteran and the state's current lieutenant governor.

    Gillespie called Northam a "good man" at one point and the two found agreement on some issues, like the need to increase technical and vocational training. During a commercial break, the pair shared a laugh.

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    But there were some sharp disagreements. Northam said Gillespie's tax plan was a "tax cut for the rich at the expense of the working class" and the state should instead increase investments in education and transportation spending. Gillespie accused Northam of supporting so-called "sanctuary cities" that would shield unlawful immigrants who commit violent crimes from deportation. Both candidates denied the accusations.

    The two also clashed over the state's numerous Confederate statues, a hot-button issue in the state after a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville this summer. Both candidates said local governments should have the final say in what to do with their monuments, but Gillespie said he favors keeping them in place, while Northam said he thinks they should move to museums.

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    Democrat Ralph Northam said he would be able to work President Donald Trump on some things but not all if elected governor of Virginia. Republican Ed Gillespie said he accepts the support of Trump and anyone else during the campaign.

    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017)

    Northam also accused Gillespie of being in lock-step with Trump, and said such support would hurt Virginia's economy if Gillespie won the election. Northam was especially critical of Republican efforts in Congress to overhaul health care, efforts that Gillespie has been noncommittal on.

    Gillespie has kept Trump at arm's length and deflected a question about the president at Tuesday's debate to instead talk about the number of policy proposals he's introduced, criticize Northam for not having a detailed tax plan and mention that former U.S. Sen. John Warner had endorsed Gillespie earlier Tuesday.

    Asked during the debate whether he would campaign with Trump, Gillespie said he would take help from all corners. When a reporter asked after the debate whether Gillespie would invite Trump to campaign with him, Gillespie said he was comfortable with the answer he gave during the debate.

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    Ralph Northam called sanctuary cities "a solution looking for a problem that we don't have," while Ed Gillespie expressed his outright opposition to them.

    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017)

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    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017)

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    Asked about $500 million in funding for Metro, Ralph Northam and Ed Gillespie agreed the transit agency is very important for northern Virginia but wouldn't commit to the money without getting further information about how it will meet its challenges.

    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017)

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    Virginia gubernatorial candidates Ed Gillespie and Ralph Northam deliver their closing statements.

    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017)