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Warner, Gilmore Debate in Hot Springs

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Democrat Mark Warner and Republican Jim Gilmore faced off Saturday for their first debate in this year's U.S. Senate race.

Character issues took center stage, as both men said they have the stronger record as Virginia's governor.

When pressed on policy issues, Gilmore said Congress needs to learn to control spending so it can cut taxes. But Warner said Gilmore's irresponsible spending policies left Virginia in financial turmoil when he succeeded him as governor.
 
But the main policy debate centered on the environment, namely offshore drilling and whether it should be allowed in the United States.

"America has three percent of the world's oil--we use 25 percent.  Drilling alone--the drill here, drill now, pay less sound bite--isn't going to solve the whole problem," said Warner.

Gilmore countered: "I guess he hopes people will go away today with a mischaracterization like the silver bullet...when he has heard repeatedly--and so have you--that we know we have to have a long-term comprehensive plan."

After policy discussion it was back to the finger pointing, which will likely be the central issue of this campaign.
    
"And the question is--are they just going to be a typical Washington politician, and do whatever they have to say to get elected, and then break their word, as Mark Warner has done repeatedly, said Gilmore.

"What you see time and again from Jim Gilmore is rigid ideological positions--no willingness to work with folks he disagrees with, and when he's got somebody he disagrees with he resorts to the sort of 90s-style name-calling," said Warner.

Gilmore needed the debate to help launch his lagging campaign, but initial analysis doesn't show a clear victory for either candidate.

Reported by Loretta Boniti
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