By ALAN SUDERMAN
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine and GOP challenger Corey Stewart traded insults in a testy debate Wednesday over whose style would best represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate.
Kaine, a folksy former governor who was once dubbed “America’s Dad” when he was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016, said Virginians want a forward-looking leader who doesn’t stoke divisions for political gain like he said Stewart does.
“It’s angry and it’s divisive and what we need is leaders, especially in this moment, who are upbeat and positive and inclusive,” Kaine said.
Stewart, a deliberately provocative politician well known for his outspoken defense of Confederate imagery, said the state needs someone willing to twist or even breaks arms to get things done. Stewart said Virginians want a senator who supports President Donald Trump’s agenda.
“You’re bitter about 2016, you’re voting against every single thing that President Trump does,” said Stewart, a one-time state chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign.
Wednesday was the second of three planned debates and the sparring and quarrelsome tone largely mirrored the pair’s first meeting in July.
Stewart mocked Kaine’s record as Virginia governor and the Senate, saying Kaine had no substantive accomplishments. Stewart also made unsubstantiated attacks that Kaine discriminates against Asians and has sought to cover up sexual harassment by members of Congress.
Kaine returned plenty of fire, accusing Stewart of belittling women, demonizing immigrants and being out-of-touch with the state’s coal workers.
Once considered a key swing state, Virginia has become a reliable win for Democrats. Clinton defeated Trump here comfortably and Democrats have won most statewide offices since 2009.
Kaine has a huge cash advantage over Stewart and is favored to win Virginia’s contest, which has received relatively little national attention compared to more competitive states that could determine partisan control of the Senate.
But Trump has warned on Twitter not to “underestimate” Stewart, who the president said has a “major chance of winning.”
Kaine and Stewart differed on several issues Wednesday, including whether a congressional office building should be renamed in honor of Sen. John McCain and whether nearly 700,000 young “Dreamer” immigrants brought here as children stay in the country. Kaine said yes to both, Stewart said no.
They also sharply diverged on how the Senate should handle the allegations of sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Stewart has dismissed the allegations as specious and mocked one of Kavanaugh’s accusers. He said the Senate is behaving like a “circus” and has no moral authority to question Kavanaugh’s character because lawmakers have covered up their own sexual misdeeds.
“Who are they to judge,” Stewart said.
Kaine, who opposes Kavanaugh’s nomination, said Stewart had minimized the seriousness of the allegations made against Kavanaugh and demeaned victims of sexual abuse.
“You’re going after the accusers, as you always do,” Kaine said.