Attacks on Federal Government Headline VA Attorney General Debate

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By: Travis N. Taylor

Candidates for Virginia Attorney General discussed the role of the AG in defending the Commonwealth from the Obama Administration.

Candidates for Virginia Attorney General discussed the role of the AG in defending the Commonwealth from the Obama Administration.

State Senator Mark Obenshain and Virginia Delegate Rob Bell met in a ­­­“he said, I agree” debate last night hosted by the George Mason Law School Republicans at the GMU law school in Arlington.

Both Obenshain and Bell spent the 80 minutes laying out their respective visions for the office of Attorney General which overlapped with one another more frequently than they departed.

Neither candidate wasted any time getting to their point: the federal government under President Barack Obama is oppressive and overreaching, a position both took in their three-minute opening statements.

“I believe our [U.S.] Constitution is in grave peril because Barack Obama doesn’t accept the limitations it puts on him,” Bell said in his opening, while Obenshain weighed in, “I believe we have to continue to fight for our freedom…we have that solemn obligation.”

Obenshain went on later in the debate to claim standing up to the feds is “the number one job” of the next Attorney General.

The debate, held in a crowded GMU classroom, was moderated by former Virginia Governor and Attorney General Jim Gilmore.

Gilmore asked only two questions – one of which was intended to move the candidates off of the federal government and onto state policy, but was unsuccessful – before moving to questions from the audience submitted prior to the debate.

The second question posed by Gilmore moved the discussion right back to the feds by asking about Medicaid expansion in Virginia under ObamaCare.

Obenshain said he opposed the expansion (and the commission established by the General Assembly) “as a matter of law” while Bell was more direct in calling it a “terrible idea.”  Neither candidate was particularly excited to defend the matter in court as the next AG.

On the issue of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, both Obenshain and Bell said Virginia should be freed from the “microscopic level of” oversight from the U.S. Department of Justice when changing even minute provisions of voting law.

And what debate this week would be complete without a question about same-sex marriage?

Obenshain was unwavering in his opposition to expanding marriage to include gay couples.  He said that while he would work to protect all Virginians from discrimination, “marriage is an institution to be entered into by one man and one woman.”  He went on to say that he “support[s] Virginia’s marriage amendment,” which he described as constitutional and above reproach.

Bell, on the other hand, didn’t seem to be so sure.  While he mentioned that as a Delegate, he voted for both the statute and constitutional amendment, but then said only that the matter doesn’t belong in the courts.  Bell said the debate needs to be handled in the political process.  Even when given the opportunity to clarify his position with a follow-up question from Gilmore, Bell spoke about the courts and not the issue.

Both Obenshain and Bell appear to be well-qualified and viable candidates.  Both made it clear that they would stand up to President Obama and his intrusion on the rights of states and freedom of citizens.  As such, either candidate is worthy of the support from Republicans across the Commonwealth.

The two candidates will continue to make their case to voters until the GOP Convention in Richmond on May 17 and 18.