Personal attacks, passionate disagreement highlight Kaine-Stewart debate

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, Republican Corey Stewart spoke in Hot Springs

HOT SPRINGS, Va. – Sen. Tim Kaine and Corey Stewart lobbed personal attacks at each other and agreed on almost nothing Saturday in their first debate.

The event was held in front of more than 500 people at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs. There were both boos and cheers at times from the audience.

Kaine, the sitting Democratic senator, said his campaign is based on his life's work in Virginia. Stewart, the Republican challenger for the senate seat, said Kaine hasn’t done enough for the commonwealth.

The candidates disagreed over the effect of the President Donald Trump’s actions, Republican economic policies and immigration, among other topics.

The full debate is posted here.

The attacks started in the opening comments.

“Sen. Tim Kaine is a nice guy, but he's too liberal. He's too weak, and he's done too little for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Stewart said.

Stewart alleged that Kaine changed his positions on issues after joining Hillary Clinton's campaign. Kaine responded.

“Corey, when he got into the race, said it was going to be ruthless and vicious and what that means, if I can translate, is make it nasty, make it personal, or make it up, and sometimes do all three, and this is an example of one of those,” Kaine said.

When discussing Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Stewart said that Kaine opposes the president as a reflex and not based on the merit of the president’s actions.

“Sen. Kaine, he will vote against him. Why? Because he's against anything that President Trump does,” Stewart said.

Kaine responded by saying the Stewart is 100 percent aligned with President Trump.

“I stand for Virginia as an independent senator,” Kaine said. “When the president is right, I'll back him up. When the president is wrong for this country or commonwealth, I will stand up against him.”

Stewart said the U.S. needs to continue to work with Russia, even if the country is spying on America.

“We have a president who is standing up to the Russians,” he said.

That comment sparked laughter in the audience, which interrupted Stewart.

“President Trump is caving to the Russians,” Kaine said in response.

The two disagreed about immigration policy, as they largely stuck to the ideas of their political parties, and sparred over economic policy. Stewart touted the economic growth rate in northern Virginia as one of his successes, and applauded President Trump’s tax cuts.

“We're in the first seven months of this economic growth due to this tax cut that Sen. Kaine voted against, and which he wants to cut short this economic growth by repealing it and taking away your tax cut. That is not what we need in the United States Senate,” Stewart said.

Kaine argued that the president’s tax cuts are too kind to the richest Americans and to large companies. 

He said he's talked to a lot of workers in southside and southwest Virginia who aren't happy with the effects of the tariffs the president has imposed.

“I would not engage in the foolish trade war that this president is engaging in, which is ultimately a war against American workers and farmers,” Kaine said.