No one expected it to be civil.
The first debate of the 2013 campaign lived up to expectations as two controversial candidates sparred in a 90 minute showdown filled with big punches and plenty of memorable moments.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) and former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe (D) started on the attack in their opening statements and never let up. Pushing each other on taxes, social issues, business and the Star-Scientific scandal.
The view was not seen by many from its remote location at the Homestead in Hot Springs. It was streamed live by the PBS NewsHour, but at its height the live stream maxed out at roughly 2500 viewers. Many of them undoubtedly journalists, politicos and many who have already probably decided who they will vote for.
What will be left will the lingering sound bites and attack lines already being prepared for upcoming web and TV ads.
Meanwhile most voters interested will have to rely on media reports for their impression of this first debate.
Here is our humble report for NBC12:
HOT SPRINGS, VA (WWBT)- It was a battle.
The two candidates for governor met this morning for their first debate and as it expected the forum led to a feisty- and contentious 90 minutes. It is a race that is already been characterized as ugly and negative. So it is no surprise that the first debate gubernatorial debate took that exact tone.
“Ken you can buy a lot of turkey with 100 bucks," poked former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe (D), tying his opponent Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to the Star-Scientific scandal. McAuliffe is calling on a $100 limit on gifts to elected officials. Cuccinelli received an expensive catered Thanksgiving dinner catered by the company CEO Jonnie Williams.
In turn Cuccinelli attacked McAuliffe as someone who talks a lot, but doesn’t get much done. He referred specifically to McAuliffe’s claim that he helped shepherded this year’s transportation funding plan to passage.
"This is a classic example of Terry McAuliffe taking credit for other people's work," said Cuccinelli
Both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli spent most of their time attempting to define their opponent instead of themselves. The Democrat worked to paint Cuccinelli as a rigid hard line conservative working to roll back rights for women and homosexuals.
"It is difficult to grow an economy when you call gay Virginians soulless and self destructive human beings," he said.
Cuccinelli returned fire by describing McAuliffe as a slick operative with a history of poor business deals designed to line his own pockets.
"This isn't Washington Terry,” Cuccinelli scolded. “We have to pay for things we want to put into the budget."
The two sparred over taxes- transportation and the federal healthcare reform plan.
But the issue that was expected to dominate the conversation- Star Scientific was only lightly touched on, as McAuliffe tried to find a way to tie Cuccinelli to the growing scandal.
"We know what Jonnie (Williams) was doing, what know what the Attorney General was doing for Jonnie Williams. Quid pro quo," McAuliffe said.
An attack Cuccinelli attempted to swat away.
"A democratic prosecutor found that I had not broken the law that I did exactly what I said I had done," The Attorney General responded.
McAuliffe took the line of attack a bit too far when he said that the report by Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring suggested that Cuccinelli "could've been prosecuted." The report did not make that assumption, a point we raised on twitter during the debate.
Afterwards, McAuliffe huddled with staffers before starting his post press debate gaggle by walking back that statement. He said his intention was to point out that with tougher ethics laws Cuccinelli could face prosecution.
The first of what could be a total of four debates and even more fireworks to come.
Governor Bob McDonnell's role in star- scientific was also a topic today- both candidates said it is appropriate for the governor to consider his resignation- but they both stop short of asking for him to do so.
You can read and see the full story on NBC12.
You can watch back the entire debate here: