HOT SPRINGS, Va. – In a debate for the Virginia Senate race marked by pointed accusations and personal attacks, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Republican Corey Stewart clashed over immigration, reproductive rights and trade and economic policy.
Stewart repeatedly called Kaine liberal, weak and ineffective, while Kaine, in response to Stewart’s remarks, repeated a phrase: “Make it nasty, make it personal or make it up.”
The first debate for the Virginia Senate race was held before a rowdy audience who laughed when Stewart said, “We have a president who is standing up to the Russians,” booed when Kaine called Stewart a liar and broke out in applause when Kaine praised his father-in-law as a model Virginian for supporting a “nation and Commonwealth for all.”
The debate, moderated by PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff, took place Saturday at a Virginia Bar Association forum in Hot Springs, Va.
Kaine, the Democratic Party’s 2016 vice-presidential nominee and former Virginia governor, is seeking his second Senate term. Stewart chairs the Board of Supervisors for Prince William County and served as the Virginia chairman for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Stewart was especially tough in his language, and accused Kaine of accomplishing nothing for the citizens of Virginia. Kaine in response defended the state’s low unemployment, high median income and his fight for pediatric cancer research. They also made competing claims about Kaine’s political record dating back to his days as governor.
Stewart, who in the past has been accused of associating with individuals who are anti-Semitic and white supremacist, said Saturday that he dissociates with “any kind of racism, bigotry or anti-Semitism.”
At one point, Kaine called Stewart out for attending a campaign event for former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore instead of a Board of Supervisors meeting. Moore was accused of sexual misconduct against multiple women, some of whom were teenagers at the time. After the debate, when pointedly asked in an interview by Woodruff if he supported Moore, Stewart said “I thought he was treated unfairly” since the accusations were 40 years old, and then said, “He didn’t do it.”
The two also sparred over the extent to which their own records align with or oppose Trump’s policies. Stewart repeatedly asserted that Kaine only disagrees with Trump. Kaine acknowledged that Trump’s tax cut initially boosted the economy, but added that he expects it will lead to rising gas prices and health care costs in the long term.
Stewart and Kaine traded attacks in the weeks leading up to the debate, criticizing each other’s records and positions on immigration and the economy, among other issues.
Trump’s conflicting statements this week on Russia’s role in the 2016 election have also become a divisive issue in the Senate race. Kaine, a vocal Trump critic, criticized the president’s statements on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Stewart has defended Trump’s performance Monday at the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Trump endorsed Stewart last month, after Stewart won the state’s GOP Senate primary.
Editor’s Note: The video in this story has been replaced to correct glitches that caused a few seconds of the debate to be omitted. The video above is a complete recording of the debate.