Leahy: The Virginia Democratic Gubernatorial Debate Showed There Is No Inevitable Candidate

Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial contenders held a televised debate Tuesday night, and, for once, voters got something different from the usual litany of talking points and uncomfortable body language.

They got useful information. Better still, they began to see that the default front-runner, Terry McAuliffe, isn’t inevitable.

Let’s get the worst section of the debate out of the way up front: The exchange on marijuana legalization was dispiriting and pedantic. That Virginia is poised to end prohibition is an enormous achievement. It will be the first Southern state to do so, and it will become one of the few states to do so through the legislature rather than the initiative process.

But viewers wouldn’t know this if they listened only to the candidates. What they got instead were overlapping lectures on the social justice, equity and economic effects of legalization. It’s a sad sign that doing the right, moral and long-overdue thing is no longer enough.

Then there was the jaw dropping segment of the debate: Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax’s response to a question about the death of George Floyd. Fairfax put himself in the frame, saying that “African American men are presumed to be guilty, are treated inhumanely, are given no due process and have their lives impacted ? in some cases, taken away in an instant.”

“Due process” was the tell. Fairfax was about to do something big. He went into his windup: “Everyone here on this stage called for my immediate resignation, including Terry McAuliffe” of sexual assault allegations made against Fairfax in 2019.

And then the pitch, high and inside: McAuliffe, Fairfax said, “treated me like George Floyd. He treated me like Emmett Till. No due process. Immediately assumed my guilt.”

It was a dangerous move that could as easily backfire on Fairfax as it could raise serious doubts about McAuliffe. But here’s the one thing that’s certain: Fairfax will look for a way to throw the same pitch at McAuliffe in future debates.

Another notable section came when the candidates were asked about the controversy surrounding the Virginia Parole Board.

Continue reading at The Washington Post.

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