Senatorial candidates Tim Kaine and George Allen debated Friday about how to avoid the looming, automatic "sequestration" cuts.
The debate was held at the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce in Northern Virginia, and was moderated by host of Meet the Press, David Gregory.
State and district elections are often overshadowed by the upcoming presidential election, though many of the issues debated, such as healthcare and higher education expansion, would deeply affect Virginia Tech students.
Kaine, the Democratic candidate and former Virginia governor, presented a main goal of ending gridlock in Congress and fostering compromise and action. Prior to his election as governor, Kaine served as Virginia's lieutenant governor.
"Today we're here because we have a Senate to be fixed. We've got to fix Congress, to end gridlock that's blocking progress toward important goals," Kaine said during his opening statement.
Allen, the Republican candidate and former Virginia governor and senator, debated on the platform of job creation and fostering businesses. Allen was one of Virginia's senators from 2001 to 2007, when he was unseated by the current retiring senator, Democrat Jim Webb.
"The best social program of all is a job," Allen said, citing his experience in welfare reform during his period as governor.
With Webb stepping down, there is no incumbent running, leading to a close race. Recent polls show Kaine with 51 percent of voter support leading Allen, who has 43 percent.
Spending was the main issue argued by the two candidates, particularly plans to avoid the sequestration budget cuts that are looming. Should Congress fail to compromise a budget approach, this plan would result in $1 trillion in budget cuts, $500 billion in defense spending, effective at the beginning of the year.
These cuts would result in the estimated loss of 200,000 defense jobs in Virginia, and would be a significant blow to both the strength of the US military and companies that rely on the military for contracts, many located in the state.
Kaine proposed that to reduce the deficit and avoid these cuts, Congress should allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for those who make more $500,000 a year.
"That would produce $500 billion in revenue. Fix Medicare, allow negotiation for prescription drug pricing. That will save $240 million dollars over 10 years. And finally, take away subsidies for the big 5 oil companies. That will save $24 billion over 10 years," Kaine said.
Allen laid out a plan based on reforming our tax code to close loopholes.
“The proposal I have will create more than 500,000 jobs a year,” Allen said.
He suggested the country bring its corporate income tax down from 35 to 20 percent, giving companies more money to hire new workers as opposed to paying taxes.
"Lower taxes, create more jobs, greater opportunity, makes our country more competitive," Allen said.
Virginia Tech came up briefly as the candidates discussed foreign policy.
Kaine said the attack in Libya that resulted in the death of American Ambassador Chris Stevens could have been handled better, citing his experience with the April 16, 2007, campus shootings at Tech as an example for what could be done.
"What I said from day one (after the shootings) is we're going to put in place a panel of people with a broad expertise who had no connection to Tech and we're going to have them turn it upside to determine everything that could have been done different," Kaine said.
Allen commended Kaine on his handling of the shooting.
Matthew Hurt, a senior in political science and the President of College Republicans, watched the debate.
"One of the things that stood out to me was when Kaine mentioned that he would be open to a proposal that would create a minimum federal income tax for every American. I think it’s important that as college students, he is open to raising taxes on people for a variety of reasons," Hurt said.
Many more students are not following the senatorial race, concentrating instead on the presidential election.
"I plan on researching the candidates a little bit before I vote, but so far I haven't looked into it," said Brandon Toma, a senior in music performance.
Kaine and Allen are scheduled to debate again at Tech on Oct. 18.
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