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WATCH: US Senate candidates Mark Warner, Daniel Gade hold hour-long debate

Both men are running to fill Virginia’s U.S. Senate seat this November

Sen. Mark Warner and Republican challenger Daniel Gade held a debate on Tuesday.

Both men are running for Virginia’s Senate seat in the upcoming November election.

NBC News' Chuck Todd moderated the event.

Warner, a Democrat, was first elected to his Senate seat in 2008 and is now running for a third term.

Gade is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and professor, who during more than 20 years of military service was awarded the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts.

When Warner last ran for office, in 2014, he defeated Ed Gillespie by 0.8%, a difference of just 17,727 votes.

Below is a complete transcript of the debate:

ANNOUNCER:

This is a News Four special presentation. Decision 2020, the race for U.S. Senate in Virginia. Democratic Senator Mark Warner and Republican challenger, Daniel Gade. The candidates face off in a debate with Virginians already voting during a pandemic. Now from the Meet the Press studios in Washington, here’s NBC News political director and moderator of Meet the Press, Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Hello, there. I’m Chuck Todd. And welcome to the Virginia Senate debate between Democratic Senator Mark Warner and Republican candidate, Daniel Gade, made possible by the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and NBC Four and Telemundo 44.

This debate is airing on NBC stations across Virginia and streaming on NBCWashington.com. You’ll notice a few things are a bit different in this debate because of the pandemic. The candidates, panelists and myself are all in separate locations, as you can see here.

There’s no live audience. Instead, they’re joining us virtually via Zoom thanks to the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce. What hasn’t changed: this debate will provide an opportunity to find out where these candidates stand on issues that are important to Virginia voters.

So let’s begin by quickly covering the rules for today’s event. The debate will last one hour and will begin with one-and-a-half-minute opening statements from each candidate. Then our panelists and I will post questions directly the candidates. I should note, these questions are determined by NBC News and the panelists. And have not been reviewed by the candidates or any of the debate partners.

Each candidate will have one minute to respond and the candidate answering first will get an additional 30 second rebuttal. And as moderator, I will reserve the right to follow up as needed. Finally, we will conclude the debate with one-minute closing statements.

There is a time keeper who will notify both candidates of their remaining time and when time has expired. In the interest of trying to cover as much ground as possible, we ask the candidates to adhere to these time limits. And now let’s welcome our panelists, it’s News Four Today anchor, Aaron Gilchrist, News Four Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey and Telemundo 44 reporter, Alberto Pimienta.

All joining us from NBC Four studios in Washington. And now the candidates, both in Tysons Corner, Virginia. It’s Republican challenger Daniel Gade and Democratic incumbent Senator Mark Warner. Dr. Gade, your one-and-a-half-minute opening statement comes first.

DANIEL GADE:

Well, good morning and thank you. Or good afternoon, I guess. Thank you to the Chamber of Commerce for having us on. Thank you for moderating this-- Chuck. Throughout my life, I’ve faced many challenges and forks in the road. I’ve always tried to do the hard right thing instead of the easy wrong one.

I was an Army officer for many years and gave a leg in combat. But there’s much more. I have a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in public policy. And have used those skills in tough bipartisan policy areas like formulating Wounded Warrior policy at the White House during a time when Congress and the White House were in different hands.

And serving on the bipartisan National Council on Disability, shaping policies that help the most disadvantaged members of our society. These are not left versus right issues. They’re American issues. And as I’ve campaigned around the commonwealth for the past 15 months, I’ve consistently heard that the same, old stale ideas aren’t working for Virginians.

Because we face tough challenges right now. And it will take a true commitment to working across the aisle with people of the other side to solve them. Recovering the economy and fixing our health care after COVID shouldn’t be a partisan idea. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water.

And the veteran suicide crisis has gotten worse, not better, under the same old people with the same old ideas. And the contrast between me and Mark couldn’t be more clear. I’m a career servant with a mortgage and the every day worries of middle-class life.

Mark is a career partisan who made millions off of political handouts and who cynically talks about reducing insulin prices for diabetic children while taking three-quarters of $1 million from big pharma in campaign contributions. So if you’re sick of career politicians, let’s choose a different path.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Warner, your opening statement.

MARK WARNER:

Well, thank you, Chuck. And thank you to the-- the Virginia Chamber-- Northern Virginia Chamber. I also wanna start by giving a shout-out to all the frontline workers. Es-- especially our postal workers. I know today we’re going to be sharing our differences.

But I do wanna start by thanking Mr. Gade for his service and his sacrifice. I think we all know that Virginia and our country are in challenging times. I spent 25 years in business here in Virginia creating jobs. I then went into public service because I wanted to get stuff done.

And that means you gotta work together. As governor, Virginia was named the best managed state and the best state for business. As your senator, I’ve been proud to have 55 of my bills become law. Laws that cut small-- cut red tape for small businesses, laws that improved-- our ship building businesses and Hampton Roads, that improved the quality of Medicare.

And just last month, the president signed my legislation that made the largest investment in our national park service and helped create-- will help create 10,000 jobs here in Virginia. But right now, we know that what we’ve gotta do is save lives and get the economy started again.

And that means dealing with the Coronavirus. And that will require following the science. But the truth is, even before the pandemic, our economy was changing. We need leaders who understand that every Virginian ought to have a fair shot in our tech-driven economy. And that’s been my focus my entire career. It’s been the honor of my life to serve Virginia. And I hope to earn your vote again. Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, gentleman, thank you. I wanna begin now on the topic of the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and what happens to her seat and when. Dr. Gade, you do get the first question. Explaining his justification in pushing forward the replacement before the upcoming election, President Trump said, “When you have the Senate, when you have the votes you can sort of do what you want as long as you have it.” Dr. Gade, do you agree with that statement? And how do you think the Senate should proceed?

DANIEL GADE:

Well, I’ve been a servant of the constitution for the past 25 years in the Army and then later as a-- as a political appointee in the Trump administration. And here’s what I’d say about this, in 2016 I think the Senate erred in not bringing s-- Merrick Garland to an up or down vote because it’s the president’s authority and the Senate’s responsibility to appoint and then either confirm or refuse to confirm a Senate appointee.

And in that, I actually agree with 2016 Mark. Let’s call that-- let’s call that flip Mark because flip Mark said, “Hashtag, do your job. Give him an up or down vote.” And I think that they should’ve done that in 2016. And the president’s authority to appoint and the Supreme-- and the-- and the Senate’s responsibility to either confirm or not confirm an appointee does not expire around the time of an election.

And it’s time for the Senate to hashtag, do their job. It’s time for the-- if the president appoints somebody, it’s time for the Senate to take a vote. And let’s do our constitutional responsibility. And in this-- in this case, flop Mark says that’s a bad idea. So which is it? Is it gonna be flip-flop-- flip or flop? Excuse me.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Warner, which-- which precedent-- is incorrect by the Republicans? The one from ’16 or the one they’re doing now?

MARK WARNER:

Well, Chuck, let’s, first of all, take a moment and reflect on the legacy of Justice Ginsburg. She was a great jurist. I’ve got three daughters in their twenties. They live in a more open and-- and just America because of Justice Ginsburg. And I actually agree with Mr. Gade.

I wish the Senate had taken up Merrick Garland back in 2016. But the rules changed. Mitch McConnell said, “We won’t do that.” So now there’s a new precedent. And I think particularly now when Virginians are already voting we ought to wait and let Americans decide.

Let them have their votes counted before we decide who becomes the next Supreme Court justice. Because the next Supreme Court justice is gonna deal with incredibly important things. One of the first issues the court will take up, actually two weeks after the election, is the viability of the Ameri-- Affordable Care Act, something my opponent has criticized me for-- for out his whole campaign.

I think the ACA needs to stay in place because, the truth is, the only law that protects people with preexisting conditions is the ACA. Twenty million Americans that have got health care, ACA, 400,000 Virginians with-- Medicaid expansion, ACA. That is at stake along with a host of other issues.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, senator. Dr. Gade, you get 30 seconds.

DANIEL GADE:

Well, sure, I think what you separate here is a contrast. You know, th-- career politicians wanna have it both ways. And by the way, Republican career politicians wanna have it both ways. And that’s a gru-- that’s a good critique of the 2016 ver-- Senate versus the 2020 Senate. In that, I agree with Mark.

But what I don’t agree with Mark on is that the rules-- once they’ve-- once somebody’s bent the rules, that it’s okay to continue to bend the rules. In fact, we have a responsibility to fulfill our constitutional responsibilities. And that means we have to confirm or de-- or refuse to confirm whatever Supreme Court justice the-- the president puts up. And he’s right, the Supreme Court is critically important. And in the unlikely but dangerous event of a-- of a-- contested election where it goes to the Supreme Court as it did in 2000, we can’t-- we can’t afford to have a four to four Supreme Court.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, gentlemen, thank you. I wanna move to the next topic. I wanna turn to the topic of why we’re conducting this debate remotely and not in person. It’s the Coronavirus. As of today, the virus has killed more than 200,000 Americans, including more than 3,000 in the state of Virginia. The unemployment rate in the state has gone from 3.3% in March to s-- 6.1% today. What more should the federal government and the U.S. Senate be doing to fight the virus and help Virginia? Senator Warner, you get the first response.

MARK WARNER:

Well, Chuck-- the remarkable thing about Coronavirus is it didn’t have to be this way. I reached out to the Trump administration in January, before there was a single case in Virginia saying, “Do you need more resources?” Instead, I think we have seen an epic failure from this White House.

We’re seven months in, we still don’t have a national testing plan, we still don’t have a plan on PPE. And on this issue, my opponent and I could not be more different. My opponent has called wearing masks a sign of tyranny. I think it’s a sign of respect.

He says the Coronavirus is no more than the common flu. 200,000 Americans dead refute that. He says Donald Trump is doing a good job of managing the Coronavirus. I dramatically disagree. I was there with Secretary Mnuchin putting in place the first COVID relief package, help for small business, help for unemployment, additional assistance-- for our hospitals and health care systems.

Matter of fact, what we should be doing right now is not rushing a Supreme Court decision through the Congress. Mitch McConnell should bringing up the House-passed bill so that we can get additional assistance for small business, so that schools can reopen safely, so we can actually start making the kind of investments in broadband--

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you.

MARK WARNER:

--that we need to have so that we don’t have this kind of-- crazy Zoom-driven economy. (LAUGH)

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, senator. Dr. Gade, your one minute.

DANIEL GADE:

Thank you. You know, this is a-- this is a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. At least I hope it’s a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. 200,000 Americans are dead and our economy is totally disrupted. I agree with that. Tens of thousands of jobs right here in Virginia are gone forever.

And as a matter of fact-- you know, my opponent says I don’t wear a mask, as a matter of fact, he sent out a mailer saying I don’t wear a mask and that I call it tyranny. He’s-- he’s wrong about that. I’ve got my mask right here. It’s camouflage to honor my-- 25 years of military service.

But Americans have a right to be angry right now. The Chinese Communist Party hid the pandemic. Politicians who profited on the-- politicians profited on their knowledge of what was coming before citizens knew. And other politicians delayed needed relief.

In that, I’m pointing directly at you, Senator Warner because you voted against $105 billion to reopen schools, $258 billion for-- for a second round of protection for-- through the Paycheck Protection Plan. And $31 billion for a COVID vaccine and $16 billion for testing. So you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say this is important and then vote against the needs of Virginia s-- citizens.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Warner, 30 seconds.

MARK WARNER:

Well, I’m very proud of the record, I worked with Republicans back on the March COVID relief package. Most significant investment actually in-- in the-- our history of our country, $2.7. trillion. You’re right, I didn’t vote for a recent plan that would’ve-- allowed our cities and counties to go bankrupt.

I don’t think it makes any sense to go ahead and fire teachers, cops and firefighters in the middle of a debate. I think we actually g-- oughta go between where the Democrats are and the Trump administration. We should get a deal. We need relief.

And, again, one of the areas where my opponent and I dramatically disagree-- and he did say wearing masks is tyranny. He says Donald Trump has done a great job of managing Coronavirus. You talk about somebody who misled us, it was Donald Trump when he did not tell the American public the truth about the virus.

CHUCK TODD:

Very quickly to both of you, first to you, Senator Warner, what grade would you give the president and his handling of the virus? Just very quickly.

MARK WARNER:

I-- I would give the president a failing grade because we need additional relief. And we need to follow the science.

CHUCK TODD:

Dr. Gade, what would you give the president? (PHONE RING) What grade?

DANIEL GADE:

You know what, I-- I’d give our country overall about a B minus or a C plus. I think that’s-- a good grade-- or that’s-- about the right accurate grade.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. Aaron Gilchrist hast the next question. Aaron.

AARON GILCHRIST:

Dr. Gade, since the pandemic hit, Senator Warner has held socially-distanced, in-person events with mask-wearing while you’ve attended in-person campaign events with little social distancing or mask wearing in different parts of the state. W-- why do you consider your approach a safe way to gather and campaign?

DANIEL GADE:

Well, Aaron, what we’ve done in this campaign, and I’m-- I’m actually very proud of because what we’ve done is-- you know, look, I consider a campaign to be a job interview. And my responsibility, as I go around this-- around the commonwealth is to interview for this job.

And so I have to meet the folks where they are. And when we do events that are inside, we do masks. Sometimes we do temperature checks where it’s appropriate. And when we do events outside, we spread apart and we stay apart from each other and we-- and we do those things in a socially distanced way.

But at the end of the day, Coronavirus is gonna be with us for a very long time. And what we can’t do is give into-- fear. What we have to do though is protect people who are-- who are vulnerable. And by the way, we need to get our economy back to work which is why I would’ve absolutely voted for the most recent-- Coronavirus relief bill which would’ve gotten schools back to work, which would’ve provided money for testing, which would’ve-- given money for the Paycheck Protection Plan. And that’s something that Mark Warner voted against. And only in Washington D.C. is not getting everything you want justification for giving nothing to your constituents.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Warner, one minute.

MARK WARNER:

200,000 Americans are dead. The president has misled the American public in terms of the seriousness of the virus. My opponent is fairly re-- it’s all recorded called wearing mask tyranny, says Coronavirus was very little more than the flu.

He praised the president for his leadership. I think the only way we’re gonna get our economy reopened-- and I’d point out the president even selected me one of the few Democrats to be on his economy reopening task-force because he knew I brought that kinda business experience-- but the only way we’re gonna get the economy reopened is if we follow the science, follow Dr. Fauci.

And if-- and I actually believe wearing this mask is a sign of respect for the people I come in contact with. And yes, that is the way we’ve practiced as I’ve been out campaigning, following the science. And I very much believe we need another package.

Matter of fact, what my opponent is suggesting, the Republican plan didn’t even get all the Republican votes. It was 1/3 of what even the Trump proposed. Let’s get real, let’s do a real plan that will help get the assistance to reopen our schools, to make sure our state and local governments can succeed. But that’s gonna require bipartisan efforts the same way we did in March of the year when we put the CARES package together.

CHUCK TODD:

Dr. Gade, 30 seconds.

DANIEL GADE:

Yeah, you know, he keeps coming back to this idea that somehow-- paying state and local governments and-- and bailing them out is a good idea. And what I would say, if you’d studied any public policy at all, you know that Chicago and New York and cities up and down-- California have been failing for decades because they’ve made promises to their retirees and promises to their public sector union that they can’t possibly keep.

And so the idea of sending Virginia tax dollars to bail out failing state and local governments around the country because they’ve now made an excuse on this is a terrible mistake. It’s a failure of public policy that goes back 40 or 50 years. And the same old politicians are not gonna be able to solve it by giving them a bailout on our national credit card.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, Dr. Gade. Julie Carey has the next question. Julie?

JULIE CAREY:

Senator Warner, as an entrepreneur, you brought new technology into Americans' hands and later, as you began to build your political profile, you helped expand broadband to thousands of Virginians, many in rural areas. And that’s something you often highlight as part of your record.

But the pandemic has exposed just how many Virginia school kids and their families are still without broadband access. You estimate as many as 700,000 people. You’ve been in the Senate since 2009. Why, with your unique expertise, haven’t you been able to do more to close the digital divide?

MARK WARNER:

Well, Julie, thank you for that question. And I-- I do wanna just correct-- one thing about Mr. Gade, he needs to do a little more of his homework. In Virginia, we’re really proud of our Triple A bond rating. Something that I maintained when I was governor.

We’re really proud that our state and local governments actually are fiscally well-managed. And I think it is wrong to cut off assistance to them and have cops, firefighters and teachers laid off during the midst of a pandemic. It’s just a difference of-- a position on-- that issue.

And I’m very proud of the fact that we have, during my tenure as senator, put-- millions of dollars in a t-- into additional broadband deployment. A lot of that coming after the 2008 crisis. I think we should more though. I think we need to do go ahead and provide ubiquitous, high-speed broadband across the whole country, make the same commitment that Franklin Roosevelt made in the 1930s with (DISTORTS) rural (?) electrification, we can do that now.

I think there are things that we should be doing during the pandemic where we actually allow existing internet service providers to turn up the power so there’s additional relief provided. And, honestly, I think we ought to go ahead and be bold and say to our server-- our-- our social media companies, the Facebooks, Googles and, yes, Amazon, “Maybe you oughta be chipping in for those under-served Americans.” Broadband in 2020 is an economic necessity, not a nice to have.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, senator. Dr. Gade, one minute.

DANIEL GADE:

Well, Chuck, you guys might have to check Senator Warner’s earpiece because I clearly said-- I didn’t say anything about Virginia. I said something about Chicago and New York and-- and-- California. So-- you might wanna check his earpiece.

Here’s the thing, and the question was about 5G. The question is-- or sorry, about-- about broadband. The question is really about access. And the federal government does have a role here. I would s-- I would say not similar to the rural electrification of the 1930s, but instead to the highway system that was built during the Eisenhower administration, interstate highway system.

Very similar problem, very similar solution. We need to build information superhighways. But laying cable is not always and not even the only solution. As a matter of fact, there are a couple other ways that we can accomplish the same goal of getting internet access to folks who need it.

Things like using abandoned white space that’s-- that was gotten away from when TV went to digital. Things like using low-earth orbit satellites to beam down-- to beam down wireless access. That’s been something that’s been very positive, the tests are very-- are very encouraging.

And th-- and SpaceX thinks they can do that by next year. And then, finally, we need to get our hands around 5G. And this is an area in which-- you know, the Chinese are leaps and bounds ahead of us. And half measures aren’t gonna do it-- from the United States Congress.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, Dr. Gade. Thirty seconds, Senator Warner.

MARK WARNER:

Well, I wish, again (?), my opponent would do his-- his homework a little more. I’ve actually been working with Microsoft in Southside Virginia to do white space experimentation on that last mile problem. I’ve been a huge supporter of commercial satellite for years to make sure, again, we have a and alternative for delivery.

And over the last two and a half years I’ve led the bipartisan effort in the Senate to come up with plans the counter China. My opponent’s right, 5G, China has finally taken the lead. I’m leading from the intelligence community-- committee on how we counter that in 5G and, frankly, even into the next generation of wireless called ORAN. Bipartisan legislation that has already been put into the defense authorization bill that would make national commitments there.

CHUCK TODD:

Th-- thank you, Senator. Alberto Pimienta has our next question. Alberto?

(QUESTION NOT IN AUDIO)

DANIEL GADE:

Y-- yeah, you’re exactly right. It’s a huge problem, not just in the Latino community but also in the-- in the Black community around the commonwealth and around the country. There are a couple of underlying things that are-- that have been problems since before COVID. And that are-- that is that there are health disparities across the country in minority communities.

And we need to do everything we can to help folks get the health care they need, including preventative care so that their h-- that their overall quality of health comes up so that when there’s a-- a pandemic like what we’re experiencing right now, there’s room to-- that they can-- that they can survive through it.

And, again, I just wanna point back to the fact that my opponent says he wanted a whole loaf and so he didn’t w-- he-- he wanted a whole loaf and so he wasn’t willing to take the half a loaf that he says the Republicans offered him. But, by the way, that half a loaf would’ve offered over $30 billion for a vaccine and $16 billion for testing. And those are things that benefit not just the minority communities but the rest of the country at large. And we should’ve-- we should’ve passed that bill.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, Dr. Gade. Senator Warner, one minute.

DANIEL GADE:

Alberto, you’re right. The-- COVID has exposed long existing-- health care disparities with the Latino community, with the African-American community. And we need to do more. One of the things-- part of this is health care related, part of this is also economic related.

I was very supportive of the PPP small business program. But we didn’t do enough in terms of access to capital-- for minority-owned businesses. I’ve got a bill that actually working with the Trump administration, Secretary Mnuchin will make record investments in community development financial institutions so that we can have that kind of lending to Black-owned, Latino-owned, women-owned businesses who fell behind.

On health care, what we need to do, what we need to start with, at least, is protecting the ACA. ACA’s not perfect. But 20 million Americans got health care coverage. It protects 3.5 million Virginians, including my daughter, with preexisting conditions.

400,000 Virginians got health care coverage because of-- of Medicaid expansion. My opponent has criticized me constantly for support the ACA. He said I was the deciding vote. And if he rushes through a Trump appointee, the ACA will be dismantled-- by the-- by the Supreme Court in that case the second week of November.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, senator. Dr. Gade, 30 seconds.

DANIEL GADE:

Well, you’re right. I have criticized you as being the deciding vote because there were 60 votes that got it from cloture to the floor. And that-- that means that everybody who voted for it is the deciding vote. That’s what I meant when I said it, and I’ll say it again.

Here’s the facts, we absolutely-- there-- there are parts of the ACA that are fine. You know, the ACA has been law for ten years. And the people who say we should repeal it, root and branch, are not thinking in-- in terms of what is reality. So what we actually need to do is we need to, of course, protect people with preexisting conditions.

And then we need to expand access, increase quality of health care by doing things like expanding health savings accounts and by having price transparency and the-- and the administration, for all of its sometimes flaws, has done a good job on-- on heading in that direction.

CHUCK TODD:

For these next-- for this next question, we wanna squeeze in two more virus questions before a commercial break. We’re gonna ask that your answers be 30 seconds. Julie Carey with the next question.

JULIE CAREY:

Senator Warner, I’m gonna start with a direct quote, “We are not okay.” That was the conclusion of a (UNINTEL) parent recently as she begged the school board to return to some in-person instruction. As hard as we know teachers are working and parents are praising those efforts, parents also say their kids are depressed, stressed and simply not getting the education they deserve. So should more Virginia schools now be reopening their classrooms?

MARK WARNER:

Julie, I want schools to reopen. But I want 'em to reopen safely. And that-- decision oughta lay with the-- lie with the parents, the school boards, the teachers and not be dictated out of Washington. But Julie-- I also think it’s really important, we’ve gotta get health care under control.

My opponent can’t have it both ways. He can’t be against the ACA and say he’s still gonna protect people with preexisting conditions. Don’t take my word for it, take the Cancer Society, take the Diabetes Association, take the AARP. That has been litigated for years. The repeal and replace argument is a phony excuse. The ACA is the only law of the land that protects people with preexisting conditions.

CHUCK TODD:

Dr. Gade-- your 30 seconds.

DANIEL GADE:

Yeah, there were 25 states when the ACA was passed that had already protected people with preexisting conditions. And the idea that I would take away-- protections for people with preexisting conditions is offensive and it’s false and it’s defamatory. L-- you can’t see my body because I’m behind this podium.

But I have a preexisting condition myself because I got my leg blown off in Iraq. And since then, I’ve worked with people with disabilities. I’ve been on the National Council on Disability. There’s nobody who cares more about people with preexisting conditions in this country than I do. And the fact that he’s putting out these ridiculous mailers. Listen, 2014 called, Mark, it wants its campaign back. That’s not who I am, it’s a lie.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Warner, 15 seconds.

MARK WARNER:

Again, you can’t have it both ways. If my opponent wants to change his position and say he supported my decision along with John McCain to keep the ACA, he can make that change. But you can’t go out and criticize me for the ACA and then cherry pick which parts of the ACA you wanna preserve. It just doesn’t work that way. And, again, don’t believe me. Believe those who’ve been out there, protecting folks. The Cancer Society, Diabetes Association, the AEMA, the list goes on and on.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. This last question, before we go to break, 30 seconds to both of you. First to you, Dr. Gade, President Trump has talked about the possibility of a Coronavirus vaccine before the November election. If he makes an announcement that a vaccine has been approved between now and November, would you be comfortable personally taking that vaccine? Thirty seconds, Dr. Gade.

DANIEL GADE:

Well, look, I-- I’m-- my family and I vaccinate our children. If the science says the vaccine is safe, I’m happy to take it. But the truth is, it won’t be widely available for much longer than that. And I’m in a low-risk category. I’m only 45 years old, I’m in peak physical condition despite my preexisting condition.

And I-- I would just say that-- I would allow people with-- with-- more advanced conditions to be the first ones to take the vaccine. And so-- I think we need to prioritize the people who are most vulnerable as we look at rolling out the vaccine. But eventually, I’ll happily take the vaccine.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Warner, your 30 seconds.

MARK WARNER:

Yes, I’ll take it if Dr. Fauci says it’s okay. But one of the things, as we get past the vaccine, we really need to look at what has happened to the FDA and the CDC. They were the gold standards. And unfortunately-- they have not got this pandemic completely right. And unfortunately, I think a lot of that is due to political interference.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I wanna pause it right there. A very lively and spirited first half of this debate. Thank you both so far. We’re gonna take a quick commercial break. We’ll be (MUSIC) right back with many more questions for the candidates starting with race, racial justice and policing.

(BREAK IN TAPE)

(OFF-MIC CONVERSATION)

CHUCK TODD:

(MUSIC) And we are back with the two candidates for the United States Senator-- for Virginia. And I wanna turn to the other issue that has dominated national and state headlines over the past several months. I’m talking about race, racial justice and policing. The idea of systemic racism is the concept that our systems of government, businesses and justice were built to favor people who are white. Do you believe that systemic racism exists? And if so-- Senator Warner, what should the government do about it? Senator Warner, you get the first one-minute answer.

MARK WARNER:

I think the history of race in our country has been challenging since over 400 years ago. The first enslaved people were landed at Port (PH) Comfort right here in Virginia. So do I think syst-- syst-- systemic racism exists? I do. Black lives matter.

And I do think it’s time that we put in place major criminal justice reforms. And so I’m proud to be co-sponsor the Justice in Policing Act that would have a comprehensive approach to policing reform. I also believe that violence of any kind should be (UNINTEL).

And so whether you’re a vigilante on the street or about to throw a brick through the window, if you break the law, you should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I believe, as well, that we should not be defunding the police. Matter of fact, if we’re gonna give our police forces the tools they need, they will need additional training.

I don’t believe it’s appropriate at times to send a law enforcement officer without the appropriate training into a mental health circumstance. There are lessons we can learn from countries around the world that don’t have the-- the level of police violence that we do in America.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, senator. Dr. Gade, do you believe-- systemic racism exists? And if so, what should the government-- should the government do something about it?

DANIEL GADE:

There are absolutely still pockets of racism that exist in this country, Chuck. You’re a-- you’re actually right about that. And we need to find those and we need to stomp them out. And getting people-- updating their attitudes is the right way.

I’ve been to the Lee Memorial after the-- after the-- after it got painted, after it’s been decorated with Black Lives Matter-- art. And I will just say that everybody has a right to-- to practice the first amendment. I agree, yes, protest, that’s fine.

But you don’t start an important conversation with a rock in your hand. So what we need is fundamental police-- reform. We need criminal justice reform. We need increased penalties for gun crimes which the Virginia Democrats have voted down.

We need funding for body cameras with-- when-- when there’s federal funding involved. And we need training in recognizing mental health crises. I worked on the National Council on Disability. I understand what it’s like to experience that from the eyes of somebody else.

But defunding the police, as Mark’s par-- party has called for, is an evil idea because it puts the very same people at risk who are already at risk when police go rogue. And he’s called for-- what did he say? Reallocate police funding. That has one meaning and it means defund.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Warner, 30 seconds.

MARK WARNER:

My opponent has been fact-checked on his claim about defunding the police. And he’s been given a-- I don’t know how many-- Four Pinocchios, I believe it was, which means it’s a lie. I do not support defunding the police. Can we train our police officers better? Absolutely.

And this is an issue that I’ve worked on. One of the first laws that I helped become-- become law in-- when I was governor of Virginia was making sure we had racial profiling training for our state police. Trying to make sure in 2015 I said-- I called-- for body cameras. We can and must do better. But it can’t just be around criminal justice reform. We need economic equality as well. And I hope we get to that subject q-- Chuck, as well.

CHUCK TODD:

We do have a quick follow-up for the both of you. You will each get 30 seconds for this question. Senator Warner, you first. You called for Governor Ralph Northam to resign after a Black-face photo from a yearbook surfaced in early 2019 saying the governor lost the trust of Virginians. He did not resign. Did he ever regain your trust, senator?

MARK WARNER:

Listen, I was very disappointed with the governor-- when that story broke out. I think, frankly, the governor reacted too quickly. I do think he has regained in terms of-- ac-- accepting responsibility. He now says-- that-- he was not in the picture.

And I think he has worked extraordinarily hard to regain the trust of the people of Virginia. And-- I think he’s done a good job at that. And I think he’s moved forward-- this-- agenda of bringing more racial justice. I think he’s re-earned the support of-- the Black caucus in Virginia. And I think he’s doing a good job handling the Coronavirus. He is the only doctor in the country as a governor. He’s following the science.

CHUCK TODD:

Dr. Gade-- did Governor Northam make the right call by not resigning?

DANIEL GADE:

Well, what you just heard from Mark is another flip-flop. So there’s flip Mark that said he should resign and there’s flop Mark that says he’s regained the trust. But let’s go back to the police issue and talk about flip-flopping. Just now, you heard him say he’s never been for defunding the police.

But as governor, he signed a budget that defunded the police by $50 million. And what happened is crime rates in Richmond went up. Murders went up 10% year over year. And he said nothing about the millions in damage done in Richmond. And that’s why I’m proud to announce today that I have the support of the Police Benevolent Association of Virginia who endorsed Mark in 2008. Now they’ve seen that career politicians have failed and it’s time to try something new.

CHUCK TODD:

Aaron Gilchrist has the next question. Aaron.

AARON GILCHRIST:

Dr. Gade, in a recent campaign video, you decried, what you have called, “Violent left-wing extremists who are,” in your words, “Destroying American cities.” You criticized Senator Warner and other leaders for, “Caving to a woke mob.” Certainly, there’s been some violence in protests across the country. But there is now a massive movement across this nation that is calling for racial justice. What would you do to address those concerns around race-- racial justice?

DANIEL GADE:

Well, I was proud when I was in the Army to lead diverse teams including in the most difficult circumstances you can imagine, in combat. And when I was wounded for the second time, 25 sailors and marines I didn’t know gave me their blood. And it didn’t matter if they were Black or white or gay or straight or Hispanic or anything else.

So I think as Americans we can come together to solve some of these hard issues. But let’s be totally clear, th-- there-- there is a right to protest that is enshrined in the first amendment. A right to have peaceful assembly that’s enshrined in the-- in the constitution.

But there’s no place for organized left-wing violence. And what we see when-- when you trace back the roots of Antifa, you see an organized movement to overthrow our government and to damage our system of democracy. And that’s what I was talking about when I-- when I said a woke mob. That’s exactly what it is. And it’s-- and when-- when somebody’s throwing a rock through a window, that’s my definition of a mob.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Warner, one minute.

MARK WARNER:

I think there’s a lot we can do to-- try to bring about greater rash-- racial justice in this country. I’ve laid out on criminal justice reform and policing reform. But this is an issue I worked on long before I was an elected office. I used to sit on the Board of Virginia Union, one of our historically Black colleges, created a Virginia High Tech partnership that for about 15 years got students from our historically Black colleges into high-tech internships.

I was proud as governor-- to do more investing and business with minority-owned businesses, Black-owned businesses, Latino-owned businesses, women-owned businesses than anyone in prior Virginia history. It’s why I’ve worked actually with the Trump administration. Secretary Mnuchin and Republican chairman of the Banking Committee to put the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act up which will be in the next real COVID relief package which we should be working on now-- not rushing through a Supreme Court justice-- that will make record investments in community development and financial institutions that will in-- that will make the kind of lending and access to capital for minority-owned businesses that they didn’t receive during the PPP program. There are things we can do. But it takes a proven record of actually putting your--

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you.

MARK WARNER:

--put-- putting your actions where your words are.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, senator. Dr. Gade, 30 seconds.

DANIEL GADE:

Well, the work on the COVID relief bill, which you just called for, is over. Because you voted against it. And now it’s dead. But let’s be clear, you just talked about how you have the support of the police and you’ve worked with the police to help minority communities thrive and to reform policing.

The Police Benevolent Association doesn’t believe you which is why they’ve endorsed me. They’ve switched their endorsement from you to me. And the reason is because I’m better on this issue. Let’s point to one more thing, Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina put in a bill which would’ve ref-- had-- had a variety of police reforms.

But most importantly, it had a provision against lynching. And you voted against it because apparently it wasn’t good enough for you. And you and your party called it token legislation which is a coded dog whistle for-- for-- a racial slur, to be honest with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, Dr. Gade. Aaron Gilchrist, next question.

AARON GILCHRIST:

Senator, I wanna ask you again about defund the police. The term is understood to mean both actual dismantling of police departments and reducing police budgets and functions to divert money to social service programs. You’ve said it here today that you would not support defunding police. Rather you favor criminal justice reforms and the like. How do you respond to people who say that-- a lot of today’s law enforcement dollars would be better spent on intervention and crisis management?

MARK WARNER:

Well, I think we need to invest. And unfortunately in this country-- in-- in many communities, it can-- it only takes ten weeks to become a police officer. In many communities, in many countries, it takes two to three years. I think we need to make the kind of investments in our police force to give them the tools and the training.

We need to put the body cameras on police officers-- so that we don’t have-- the kind of tragedy that took place a couple years ago with the Park Police-- in the incident Bijan Ghaisar-- who you can go and watch that video now. And we still have not gotten a response from the Justice Department-- on-- on that issue.

We can and must stand by our police officers to give 'em the training they need. What I-- what-- what I think, again, my opponent can say things. But saying things doesn’t make 'em true. He’s right, the police unions have stood up for him because they don’t wanna make any change. But when I was governor, we made record investments in law enforcement. Don’t believe me, ask the sheriffs, ask law enforcement officers across the commonwealth. I’ve got the record to prove it.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, senator. Dr. Gade, your one minute.

DANIEL GADE:

Yeah, absolutely. Let’s talk about your record, Mark. You defunded the police by $50 million when you were governor. It was in your 2004 budget. And crime rates went up after that. You’ve done nothing on police body cameras. You’ve done nothing to push federal resources to state and local governments so they can have the money to do that.

And as a matter of fact, the bill that you’re advocating for-- along with your left-wing colleagues in the Senate, prohibits nonlethal methods like chokeholds. And that sounds fine for somebody who’s never been in a gun fight or somebody who’s never been in a physical fight.

But let me tell you what actually happens on the ground when police officers are struggling with a suspect. If they can’t use a chokehold sometimes, guess what they’re gonna reach for? They’re gonna reach for lethal means. They’re gonna reach for their pistol.

And that’s gonna be the next killing that-- that happens. And so if we take away tools from police, it’s no wonder when violence goes up. And that’s why I’m against that. That’s why we need to have fundamental police reform. I’ve talked about that with the Police Benevolent Association. I told them about body cameras. I told them about my position on reforming-- qualified immunity. And we need to do all of those things. But what we can’t do is have the same old failed ideas and expect a different result.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, Senator Warner, you get 30 seconds.

MARK WARNER:

You know-- I think that President Trump has been shown-- by The Washington Post to have-- committed almost 20,000 lies in his-- tenure. I-- it appears my opponent is actually trying to catch up-- with him today. Unfortunately, what my opponent just said just is not true.

Virginians know me. They know my record of support for law enforcement. They know my record of support for trying the bring about a more just and equitable Virginia. They know the kind of investments I’ve worked on, not only in terms of criminal justice reform but economic equality, equality in a technology-driven economy where we’ve gotta make sure no matter what zip code you come from you’ve got those chances.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you.

MARK WARNER:

And I’m gonna count on the people of Virginia who know my record.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, senator. Alberto Pimienta has the next question. Alberto.

(QUESTION NOT IN AUDIO)

MARK WARNER:

The Senate should block-- the deportations of folks who came here, some-- almost 30 years ago under TPS. We see Salvadoran community, (UNINTEL) community, Nicaraguan community. And many of these individuals are now, in the midst of pandemic, essential workers.

They work in our nursing homes, they work as aids in our hospitals. I think it is wrong, morally, ethically, to try to deport these people during the midst of a pandemic. But what we also need-- so I support continuation of the TPS program. On a going-forward basis, could there be n-- room for reform? Absolutely.

But to take people who came here, oftentimes in the early ’90s from Salvador and have made their families here, to deport 'em in the midst of a pandemic would be wrong. But we also need broad-based immigration reform. And I was proud to work with John McCain and others back-- and got 69 votes on a comprehensive immigration reform.

Wasn’t perfect. But, boy, to get 69 senators to agree on something that comprehensive. The problem was the then-Republican controlled House never took it up. I believe with a new administration we can take on immigration reform and give people the confidence they need to continue to (UNINTEL) in our country.

CHUCK TODD:

Dr. Gade, one minute. Would you block those deportations?

DANIEL GADE:

Yes, I believe so. I haven’t seen the actual legislation or the bill. But I-- I believe I would. And here’s why, because America is a generous country. And we’ve always welcomed people who are suffering. That allows me to swi-- switch over to immigration. Here’s what I’d say about immigration.

Our immigration policy should serve America. And, of course, we need to secure our border and, you know, the-- the president says build the wall, that’s shorthand for secure the border. Of course we need to welcome low-skill workers who do very important work, provided that we-- know who they are, where they are, they pay taxes and they go back when they’re done, we’re happy to have those folks.

But an area where I break with my party is on H-1B visas. We need to have H-1B visa workers, especially in Northern Virginia, especially in the technology sector. And the administration has-- has curtailed H-1B visas. And I think that’s a mistake.

And it’s an area in which I disagree with my party. But you know what you see here is you see career politicians constantly trying to use immigration as a-- as a cudgel for the next election instead of solving it right now. And Republicans do it too. But I’m not gonna. You can always count on me to tell you the truth and that’s what I’m doing right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Warner, 30 seconds.

MARK WARNER:

I’m glad to here Mr. Gade finally break with his party, at least on one item. But the truth is, it has been this Trump administration. Whether it’s banning people from Muslim countries, whether it’s being as anti-immigrant as any president in our history of our country-- and I-- I disagree with him.

I think we oughta secure our borders. I think there’re smarter ways than a wall. There’s a way s-- to use drones and technology, not a fourth century technology. And I do-- and, again, Mr. Gade should do his homework. I’ve worked with the Northern Virginia Chamber, the high-tech community here, to support H-1B visas.

I’ve worked on the issue of trying to raise the country cap on countries like India which support enormous amount of-- high-tech, knowledge-based workers. The Indian-American diaspora’s an important part of Virginia. I think Virginia is a richer and more diverse commonwealth now. And that--

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you.

MARK WARNER:

--that investment of immigrants, over 1/3 of the tech jobs and tech businesses in Northern Virginia--

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you.

MARK WARNER:

--are founded by immigrants. We need to welcome that.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank-- thank you, senator. You blew through our stop sign.

DANIEL GADE:

It’s-- it’s not enough, Mark.

(OVERTALK)

DANIEL GADE:

It’s not enough, Mark. You haven’t gotten it done.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. All right, guys. We’re moving to a new topic here. Julie Carey with the next question.

JULIE CAREY:

Dr. Gade, as you well know, for the first time, this November, Virginia voters will be able to cast mail-in ballots early without an absentee excuse. And those who choose, can return them through drop boxes. It’s estimated at least 60% of Virginians will cast their votes via mail this election. How confident are you in the security of Virginia’s vote?

DANIEL GADE:

Well, I’ve got some concerns. But let me start with a little story that I think is really, really awesome. When I was in Iraq in August-- I’m sorry, November of 2004, I, and all of my soldiers cast our absentee ballots around the country in the-- in the 2004 presidential and, you know, of course-- state and local elections.

And I was proud to cast an absentee ballot. And throughout my 25 years of military service, I cast an absentee ballot many, many times. The post office can handle the absentee ballot. They can keep the chain of custody intact. But what we’ve seen in Virginia this year is terrifying for three reasons.

Number one, the idea of unattended drop boxes is one step away from somebody squirting some lighter fluid and throwing in a road flare. And then those ballots are gone forever. 2) The fact that they’ve gotten away from the ability to have a signature associated with an actual person and an ID means that anybody can vote with your name.

And then when you go in, your name is already taken and you’ll have to cast a provisional ballot. And 3) they’ve recently put something in place where they think that ballots can come in until Friday after election day that will still affect the Tuesday, November 3rd election. And all three of those undermine the security of our elections which is one of the most critical things that Americans can do.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, Dr. Gade. Senator Warner, one minute.

MARK WARNER:

And this is, again, an area where I dramatically disagree-- with my opponent. He is taking the Donald Trump approach on voting. Let’s try to restrict it as much as possible. I’m glad we’ve got early voting. I’ve already voted. And I trust-- the post office to get the job done only because of the postal workers.

I think it’s been outrageous, President Trump’s political appointee, the postmaster general, trying to interrupt mail service. And the data is out there, the slow down during the middle of the pandemic, not only ballots but people who depend on a p-- during the pandemic on the mail to get their medicines and-- and the bills paid.

I think it was wrong. Thank goodness that postmaster general got called out. We have to vote. We need to vote in record numbers, whether you’re for me or for Mr. Gade. Get out and vote. But we’ve gotta also make sure we do it early. I trust the absentee process. I think we need to open up voting.

But we also have to guard-- and this is something, as you know, I’ve been working on for the last three ni-- half years about foreign interference-- election interference, disinformation-- information-- misinformation. And I hope we get a question on that as well.

CHUCK TODD:

Dr. Gade, 30 seconds.

DANIEL GADE:

Well, I-- I-- I saw a video of Mark voting and I couldn’t help but think that he might’ve gone in and voted for me. So if you did, Mark, I really appreciate that. Look, I encourage all of my supporters to go vote early as well. I’m gonna vote on November 3rd because my daughter, who’s 18, is coming home from college.

And she’s gonna cast her first Senate ballot. And I’m not even gonna ask her who she’s gonna vote for. But I bet I know. And here’s the thing-- I’m encouraging all my people to-- all my voters to vote early so that they can take others to the polls. Look, I-- I’m in favor of the maximum number of citizens voting. I think that’s a good idea. But what I’m not in favor of is insecure elections which undermine our democracy and continue to cause-- fear in our-- electoral system.

CHUCK TODD:

I wanna stick with this topic. It’s final question, 30 seconds to both of you. Are you confident that the result of this contest will be fair? And will you accept the results from the presidential election regardless of who’s declared the winner? First to Senator Warner.

MARK WARNER:

I will, of course, accept the results. But I think we all have a responsibility, those of us who are elected leaders, Chuck, those of you in the media, to make sure that we all take a deep breath. This is a COVID time. Things may be a little different. We may not know who’s the winner on election night.

And we already have a sitting president who’s trying to-- who’s saying that he might not accept the results. That is unprecedented in our history. That plays into the hands of folks like Vladimir Putin who wanna undermine our democracy. I will accept those results. But we need to make sure the votes are all counted.

CHUCK TODD:

Dr. Gade, do you expect this election to be fair? And will you accept the results of the presidential election?

DANIEL GADE:

I absolutely will accept the results of the presidential election. No question about it. I’ll accept the results of the Senate election. And I’ll accept the results up and down the ballot. What we need to do though is we need to make sure that going forward, our elections are secure because election security is national security.

And there are some people on left and right who’ve been talking about this for a long time. The fact that the Russians interfered in our 2016 election. Not to try to get Donald Trump elected necessarily. But instead, to try to undermine confidence in the el-- electoral system. And that’s a real problem. They have not undermined my confidence in America or in our electoral system.

CHUCK TODD:

Gentleman, that concludes our questions. And now, Dr. Gade, you have a one-minute closing statement. Go ahead.

DANIEL GADE:

Well, Chuck-- again, and to the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, and Senator Warner, thank you for this-- spirited exchange of ideas. It’s actually been a lotta fun. As a non-career politician, this is my first time being on the big debate stage. And I really appreciate you-- exchanging your ideas with me in-- in a forthright and exciting way.

But all you need to do is look at Washington D.C. and-- to realize that it’s a dysfunctional mess. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have made it worse, blown out budgets, endless wars that affect people just like me. Partisan bickering over the simplest tasks.

And grandstanding to win the next election. What you’ve seen today here is a perfect illustration of how career politicians want to have it both ways. I’ve introduced you to flip Mark and then his c-- alter ego flop Mark. But we agree on one thing, in 1996, right after promising not to run for a third term if he was elected to Senate, Mark said this, “The value of our system is that it’s constantly renewed by new ideas, fresh ideas and fresh people.” In this election, Virginians can choose a new, fresh face. Or they can choose a career politician. I humbly ask for your vote and I look forward to a spirited--

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you.

DANIEL GADE:

--exchange of ideas over the next 40 days.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, Dr. Gade. Now, Senator Warner, your final remarks.

MARK WARNER:

Well, thank you, Chuck. And thank you to the Virginia Chamber. And I thank-- Mr. Gade for-- his b-- willingness to be in the arena and-- run in politics and in challenging times. You know, I’m a real-- with all our challenges, I’m an-- real opt--

(BREAK IN TAPE)

(OFF-MIC CONVERSATION)

MARK WARNER:

--American dream. And I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. My first two businesses failed. But I had that third try. And I-- one of the things why I’m so interested in continuing in public service is to try to make sure everybody has the kinda-- same kinda fair shot that I’ve had.

We gotta realize the world is changing though. It’s technology-driven. We need people who understand that change so that, again, no matter what zip code you live in, you’re gonna have that fair shot that I had. We also know that we’ve gotta work together.

What-- whether it’s been governor or senator, whether it’s been my work on the Senate Intelligence Committee, I’ve had a bipartisan record of getting things done. That record I offer to the pr-- people of Virginia and respectfully I ask, and would hope to earn your vote again. Thank you all.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Mark Warner, Dr. Daniel Gade, thank you both for your participant. Thank you to the Northern Virginia Chamber, the Schar School and NBC Four for making tonight’s debate possible. And, of course, the two candidates. Be safe out there on the campaign trail.

And thank you also to our panel, NBC Four’s Aaron Gilchrist and Julie Carey, and Telemundo 44′s Alberto Pimienta. Stay with News Four and NBCWashington.com for continuing coverage of Decision 2020. And don’t forget not only to vote but plan how you’re gonna vote on or before November 3rd. (MUSIC)

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