At a business forum in Manassas, Va., Friday, gubernatorial candidates Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) and Terry McAuliffe (D) tackled economic and transportation issues like the proposed bi-county parkway, but the discussion also got personal.
Outside the forum, Cuccinelli answered questions about gifts given to him by controversial political donor Jonnie Williams, CEO of Star Scientific.
For the first time, Cuccinelli said he would consider writing a check to cover the costs of the gifts given to him by Williams. Democrats have pounded Cuccinelli about the roughly $18,000 in gifts, erecting a billboard depicting a turkey dinner, flights and vacation home stay.
More than $150,000 in gifts and loans from Williams to Gov. Bob McDonnell are at the center of state and federal investigations, and McDonnell recently repaid or returned his gifts.
Cuccinelli says he's been cleared of any wrongdoing and has no tangible gifts to return.
“You mean write a check?” he said when pressed about repaying the gifts. “If I could do that, I might just do that, but that’s just not something I can do from my family’s perspective.”
Cuccinelli’s campaign later added that as a father of seven, he has to manage his family budget.
During the main event the candidates spoke separately before a business-oriented group. Cuccinelli went out blazing, launching his fiercest attack yet against former DNC Chairman McAuliffe, while the Democrat candidate waged fewer personal attacks.
“He's the person who invented the scheme to rent out the Lincoln bedroom and proudly bragged about selling seats on Air Force One for political donations,” Cuccinelli said. “He’s an unindicted co-conspirator in a union election money-laundering case.”
“But if you really don't have much to talk about in a positive way on how you grow an economy, I think all he can do is use personal, misleading attacks,” McAuliffe said.
But the forum also spotlighted significant differences between the candidates on important regional issues like the controversial bi-county parkway proposal, a corridor linking western Prince William County with Loudoun County and Dulles International Airport. Cuccinelli backs it while McAuliffe says the facts aren't all in yet.
“I do not make decision nor will I make decision until I have all the facts in front of me,” McAuliffe said.
“I believe that a significant connector there must take place,” Cuccinelli said.
Cuccinelli also made it clear during a forum that he opposes Medicaid expansion without reform, claimed he repaired Virginia's transportation funding reforms rather than tried to kill it and called federal health care reforms "a rolling jalopy," the Associated Press reported.
Cuccinelli scored points with the pro-business crowd by attacking organized labor's role in a project stretching Metro's rail to Dulles International Airport and ridiculing the Affordable Care Act.
However, he wrongly accused McAuliffe of opposing Virginia's right-to-work law, the AP reported. McAuliffe unequivocally voiced support for it during a June joint forum.