RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and his Republican opponent, Daniel Gade, sparred over how best to respond to the coronavirus and other health care issues Tuesday in their third and final debate.
The televised event, sponsored by the AARP, focused heavily on the pandemic as well as issues important to seniors, like prescription drug prices and the Affordable Care Act. Warner, a former governor, cast himself as a trusted problem solver.
“The truth is, what I'm counting on most, is that Virginians knows me," Warner said.
Gade, a first-time candidate and retired Army officer who lost a leg when his Humvee was blown up in Iraq, offered himself up as an energetic fresh face unafraid of special interests.
“One you look at my personal history, you'll know this: I will never quit when things are hard,” Gade said.
Warner is considered the heavy favorite to win reelection for a third Senate term representing Virginia, which hasn't elected a Republican to statewide office in more than a decade. The race has been largely low key, especially compared to more competitive races in other states that could determine partisan control of the Senate.
Much of the debate Tuesday centered on the coronavirus and President Donald Trump's handling of the crisis, familiar topics from the previous two debates.
Warner blasted Gade for backing the president and being unrealistic about what's needed to defeat the virus and restart the economy.
“We can't say Donald Trump's done a great job managing COVID when he hasn't," Warner said.
Gade repeatedly attacked Warner for voting against GOP coronavirus relief legislation, which Gade said was desperately needed in Virginia.
“Even a flawed bill is better than nothing at all,” Gade said.
Warner said he wants another relief bill, but a bigger one than Republicans proposed.
On prescription drugs, Gade said Warner can't be trusted because he's taken significant donations from the pharmaceutical industry. Warner said he's working to lower drug prices and that he's backed a bill to allow the federal government to negotiate drug prices paid through Medicare, which he said the entire industry opposes.
Warner said Gade wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and end protections for people with preexisting conditions, something Gade strenuously denied. Gade said he wants to modernize and improve the health care law.
“I will always protect people with pre-existing conditions," Gade said.
A professor at American University in Washington, Gade was seriously injured in Iraq in 2005. He advised President George W. Bush on military and disability issues and was Trump’s appointee to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but withdrew his nomination after a lengthy delay in the Senate over his confirmation.
Warner, a businessman who co-founded the company that became Nextel, served as governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006. He was first elected in 2008 to the Senate, where he now serves as vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence.