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Herring, Obenshain AG Debate Centers on Ethics

The candidates distinguish visions from each other, Cuccinelli

Sen. Mark Herring (left) and Sen. Mark Obershain faced off at a Loudoun chamber debate Wednesday.
Sen. Mark Herring (left) and Sen. Mark Obershain faced off at a Loudoun chamber debate Wednesday.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s ears must have been burning today as his name surface time and again during a debate Wednesday morning between the men who hope to replace him next year.

Democrat Mark Herring attempted to paint Republican Obenshain as a Cuccinelli clone bent on imposing conservative social issues, while Obenshain described Herring as a shill for unions who would over-regulate businesses. Herring constantly raised Cuccinelli’s involvement with Star Scientific, the company whose ties to Gov. Bob McDonnell have raised ethical questions. Obenshain said Herring’s campaign consisted more of attacks than ideas.

“Sen. Obenshain would be a continuation of what we have right now with Ken Cuccinelli,” Herring said, saying such policies would “dictate to women what they can and can’t do with their bodies” and that “gays and lesbians would be treated like second-class citizens.”

Obenshain said Herring’s policies while supervisor of Loudoun County “thwarted development and economic development” and that the Democrat’s campaign has launched “false negative ads focusing on social issues” when important issues face the state.

“It is about keeping Virginia safe and making sure Virginia is a great place to do business,” Obenshain said. “I’m going to bring my own style to that office.”

Obenshain then referenced the work of past attorneys general, including Gerald Baliles, Jim Gilmore, Jerry Kilgore and McDonnell, whose work he admired.

Both men agreed, in light of a series of investigations that Virginia should take on serious ethics reform. Besides the Star Scientific investigation’s reach into McDonnell’s and Cuccinelli’s offices, gubernatorial candidates Cuccinelli and opponent Democrat Terry McAuliffe have each had other investigations reach their doorstep this election year.

“We need more transparency in the attorney general’s office,” Obenshain said. He called for a gift cap of $100 for all elected officials.

“We do need serious ethics reform,” Herring said, pointing out that Obenshain had previously voted against a similar $100 gift ban in committee. “As a state, we have been tarnished with what Gov. McDonnell and what Mr. Cuccinelli have done with Star Scientific.”

As for what Obenshain called “false negative attacks,” Herring responded: “You can’t just say it’s a negative campaign because I’m pointing to your record. If I had your record, I wouldn’t want to talk about it either.”

Obenshain focused on the positive aspects of his record including winning the support of many sheriffs and prosecutors across the state, his work on life sentences for child rape and his work on the sex offender registry. He said his second priority behind ethics reform would be a fight against human trafficking.

Herring pointed to his own work to ban synthetic forms of marijuana, sometimes called spice.

The two took different approaches on Medicaid. Herring said the expansion of the program under the Affordable Healthcare Act should move forward, while Obenshain said reform should be the first order.

“Medicaid expansion will provide healthcare to hundreds of thousands of Virginians who currently cannot afford it and don’t have access to health care,” Herring said. “It is critically important that we move forward.”

But Obenshain that could prove a boon for those skimming money.

“Medicaid fraud has become big business for organized crime and others,” Obenshain said. “Those dollars are depriving people of important access to healthcare.”

Both men said they would act to uphold Virginia laws deemed constitutional and vowed to fight federal regulations that violate state or federal law.

Both men also said the attorney general’s office should be involved with the State Corporation Commission’s investigation of tolls on the Dulles Greenway, and that such proceeding should be more transparent.

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