Former Virginia Senator George Allen is discovering that his road back to Capitol Hill will be difficult.
Allen squared off against his three foes for the Republican nomination in the first of three debates Saturday in Roanoke.
Prince William Delegate Robert Marshall, Bishop E.W. Jackson and former Virginia Tea Party Patriots head Jamie Radtke joined Allen in the debate.
Allen served as a senator for Virginia from 2001 to 2007.
Allen, who’s the front-runner in the race, faced tough criticism from the other candidates, who challenged his record when he served in the Senate, including his support for earmarks and increased spending.
Marshall said during the debate “I have never voted for deficit spending. I can stand on my record. I do not have to run from it.”
Radtke agreed, saying “If we do not deal with spending, then nothing else matters.”
Meanwhile, Allen focused his attacks on the Democratic nominee, former governor Tim Kaine.
Allen aligned Kaine with President Obama, saying both were in favor of what he called “reckless debt.”
However, the four candidates did agree on a few things.
They all defended a state’s right to not recognize same-sex marriage, and refused to support Mitt Romney for president until he officially wins the nomination.
The contenders will debate two more times – May 11 in Virginia Beach and May 25 in Falls Church.
The Republican nominee and Kaine are vying to fill the seat left by James Webb, who’s retiring.