McAuliffe, Youngkin clash over abortion, COVID in 1st debate | Wire

McAuliffe, Youngkin clash over abortion, COVID in 1st debate | Wire

GRUNDY, Va. (AP) — Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin clashed over abortion and vaccination policies Thursday in Virginia’s first gubernatorial debate of the general election season, as each sought to cast the other as extreme.

The candidates in the closely watched race met at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, a small town in southwest Virginia, where the debate got off to a relatively heated start, with cross-talk and occasional snide remarks.

The first questions of the night dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left more than 12,000 Virginians dead and hospitalized tens of thousands more. The candidates’ answers highlighted the already clear differences about how they would approach attempting to manage the virus.

Asked his position on President Joe Biden’s sweeping new vaccine mandates issued earlier this month, Youngkin called himself a “strong advocate” for the COVID-19 vaccines but said he thought the president lacked the authority to “dictate” that workers receive one.

“I have been a strong, strong advocate for everyone to get the vaccine. I do believe that individuals should be allowed to make that decision on their own,” said Youngkin, a former business executive and political newcomer.