Front-runner George Allen did not have to dodge many arrows Saturday when he shared a stage with the three Republicans who are competing with him for the party's U.S. Senate nomination.
There was nothing dramatic about Allen's performance during an hour-long debate at the Sheraton Roanoke Airport Hotel and Conference Center — the first of three debates that the state Republican Party will stage before the June 12 primary.
The former governor and U.S. senator didn't quarrel with his Republican rivals and aimed much of his fire at the Democrat he hopes to face this fall, former Gov. Tim Kaine.
"This election coming up in six months is going to determine the trajectory of our country, whether we're going to continue declining or whether we're going to be ascending," said Allen, who is running to regain the Senate seat he lost to Democrat Jim Webb in 2006. Webb is not seeking re-election.
The only candidate who directly challenged Allen was Jamie Radtke, the former head of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots, who criticized him for supporting spending and debt increases during his previous Senate term.
Kaine made one argument in favor of Dulles rail that carried a veiled partisan tone, arguing that the current tendency of politicians to neglect infrastructure investment is a big mistake.
“I see an anti-investment, anti-infrastructure mentality that has crept into politics,” he said. Kaine also weighed in on the sticking point for Loudoun County’s support of the project’s second phase, which is a labor agreement that opponents say is more pro-labor than the language of the Phase One agreement. Kaine said Friday that he thinks the language of the Phase One contract appears to be working — putting himself at odds with at least one member of the Metropolitan Airports Authority, Dennis Martire, whom Kaine appointed while governor. MWAA is the governing body overseeing the rail project.
That fact was not lost on Republicans, who issued a statement Friday about Kaine’s appearance accusing the candidate of bearing responsibility for the project’s cost overruns and “mismanagement.”
“Will Tim Kaine call upon his appointee and other board members to comply with Virginia law, which requires that Virginia workers get to compete for jobs on a level playing field?” asked state Del. Barbara Comstock (R-Fairfax) in a statement issued by the state Republican Party. “Or will he stick with his union cronies and biggest fundraisers, who want to leave Virginians with higher taxes and higher tolls while sending more of our jobs to Maryland and D.C.?”
Kaine said he would consider it a huge priority if elected to the Senate to see the rail project through.