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Democrats' Debate for Virginia Governor a Study in Nuance

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Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam responds to a moderator during a Democratic debate with former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at WHRO-TV in Norfolk, Va. (Stephen M. Katz / The Virginian-Pilot via AP) Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam responds to a moderator during a Democratic debate with former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at WHRO-TV in Norfolk, Va. (Stephen M. Katz / The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

By BEN FINLEY
Associated Press

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Democratic hopefuls for governor of Virginia clashed over proposed gas pipelines and each other's past positions on gun rights and abortion in their penultimate debate in Norfolk.

The event Tuesday was mostly a study in nuance.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former congressman Tom Perriello leaned toward decriminalizing marijuana, and agreed on expanding Medicaid and fighting sea-level rise. They also blasted Republican Attorney General Jeff Sessions' new policy to pursue stronger charges against drug suspects, saying it would disproportionately hurt minorities.

The clearest moment of disagreement emerged over proposed natural gas pipelines. Perriello opposes them. Northam says they need oversight and transparency.

Virginia's governor's race this year is being closely watched as a possible early referendum on President Donald Trump's presidency. Both parties are holding primary elections June 13.

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