Kaine, Allen spar on taxes in Virginia Senate race debate

By Matt Dean

Senate candidates Tim Kaine and George Allen squared off Thursday in the one of three remaining debates leading up to the Senate election in Virginia.

The issue of taxes took center stage in McLean when Kaine, a Democrat and former Virginia governor, was asked if every Virginian should pay something in federal income tax. "I would be open to a proposal that would have some minimum tax level for everyone,” he said.

Kaine took the opportunity to jab Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for his comments about the nearly 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income tax. “Many of the 47 percent that Governor Romney was going after pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than he does,” Kaine said, alluding to payroll taxes and state and local taxes.

Allen, a former Virginia senator, pounced on Kaine’s remarks in a gaggle held after the debate.

“Tell, it’s typical Tim Kaine," the Republican said. "As I mentioned, his record is always looking to raise taxes.”

But Kaine defended his comments, saying, “a colleague might ask me sometime, would you be open to consider this? I do not believe you start with ‘I pledge allegiance to Grover Norquist,’ no tax never.” Norquist's group has pressured Republican leaders not to give any ground in holding the line on taxes.

The debate comes over a month before the Nov. 6 elections, in which both parties are desperately trying to capitalize. The latest Fox News poll shows the Kaine four percentage points ahead in the Virginia race.

Professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia suggests that the party that wins the presidential race in Virginia will also win the race for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Jim Webb.

“It’s very, very likely to be a coattail race," Sabato said.