The two candidates for lieutenant governor debated issues including gun control and abortion on Thursday in a forum that grew tense after Republican Jill Holtzman Vogel said Democrat Justin Fairfax was not informed enough "to talk intelligently" about issues in the campaign.
Fairfax responded that Vogel's style is "the politics of destruction" and said voters would reject it.
The exchange during a debate at the University of Richmond School of Law came after one of the debate moderators, Bob Holsworth, asked about a 2012 bill filed by Vogel, a state senator from Fauquier County, that would have required women getting abortions to submit to an ultrasound.
The bill was controversial and Vogel pulled it; Fairfax said it would have required an "invasive, transvaginal ultrasound" and was an example of Vogel "consistently" trying to take away women's rights "and shame women for exercising their constitutional rights."
He said he wasn't attacking Vogel personally but was stating facts.
Vogel replied: "The only person that has been making personal attacks in this race is Justin Fairfax. I have been nothing but gracious and polite and talked only about the issues."
Of her 2012 bill, she said, "He brings this up every chance he gets because there are other issues that he could talk about but I clearly think he is not informed enough on those issues to talk intelligently about them. I just have to put that out there."
She said Fairfax was trying to score political points "at the expense of women" and said, "I fundamentally believe that he misunderstands the subject matter."
Fairfax then largely ignored a question about why he opposes the two proposed natural gas pipelines that would cross Virginia and will not accept donations from Dominion Energy.
"You just saw a perfect example of the way Senator Vogel engages in elections." he said. "She said that I am not intelligent enough to understand this piece of legislation. ... This is exactly what people reject. She just hired her second Trump adviser of her campaign this week. And so what we can expect is for Senator Vogel to keep going in the gutter."
He noted that Vogel emerged from a GOP primary with her main competitor threatening to sue her for defamation.
"I have never questioned her intelligence. My professors at Duke University and Columbia Law School, when I was on the Columbia Law Review, would be shocked to hear that I'm not intelligent enough to read a piece of legislation. They gave me all those great degrees."
Fairfax is a white collar defense attorney at the law firm Venable in Northern Virginia and a former federal prosecutor who has never held public office. Vogel, a state senator for 10 years, is the managing partner of a law firm that specializes in campaign finance and voting laws and whose family owns a real estate and oil business.
The two are vying for a part-time office, the duties are which are mainly to preside over the state Senate and break tie votes on most issues. The post of lieutenant governor is considered a launching pad for a run for governor.
Vogel later in the debate said: "I did not question his intelligence. I questioned how informed he is. I have no doubt Justin Fairfax is very intelligent. In fact he's an incredibly nice person. I enjoy actually being on the trail with him. But I will question how informed he is on many of these issues and that is why I take the position that he has taken very extreme positions that are incredibly hard for him to defend."
Among those, she said, was Fairfax's support for a single-payer health care system and his opposition to natural gas pipelines that would bring jobs to Virginia, she said.
Said Fairfax: "Unfortunately Senator Vogel, who is a strong supporter of President Donald Trump … represents a vision that would take us backwards."
They were asked about the massacre in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and hundreds injured.
Fairfax said: "We do not need to have these military grade assault weapons on our streets in the hands of people like the shooter in Las Vegas."
Vogel said not enough facts about the shooting are known.
"I'm not running for lieutenant governor to take anybody's rights," she said. "If you restrict people’s gun rights, it does violate the Constitution."