Although the two men are vying for the U.S. Senate seat held by Warner, the Virginia General Assembly and ethics questions surrounding the resignation of former state Senator Phillip Puckett were drawn into the debate.
Federal investigators have been looking into allegations that some Republicans may have offered Puckett a job on the Virginia Tobacco Commission in exchange for his resignation, which switched control of the state Senate to the GOP. Gillespie brought up a recent Washington Post story reporting that Warner had called Puckett’s son and discussed job possibilities for Puckett’s daughter.
Warner explained that he has been a friend of Puckett and his family for nearly 20 years: He added that he spoke with Puckett himself the next day and it was clear that he had made up his mind. Warner later told reporters that he was asked to call Puckett’s son by Democratic state Senator Dick Saslaw and Governor McAuliffe’s chief-of-staff, Paul Reagan.
The “People’s Debate” in Richmond was televised statewide and sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Virginia, AARP of Virginia, WTVR-TV, and WCVE-Public Television. The Libertarian candidate, Robert Sarvis, was not invited to participate in the debate.