The race for one of Virginia’s seats in the United States Senate made stop at Virginia Tech Friday. Tim Kaine and Corey Stewart took questions from an audience of hundreds.
Kaine and Stewart were never on the stage at the same time, and the crowd was generally civil and quiet, until Stewart answered a question about illegal immigration by referencing a recent murder case.
"That is why Molly Tibbets is dead today," the Republican challenger said before boos began to fill the ballroom inside Squires Student Center. Stewart's supporters then chimed in with applause.
When the audience settled, Stewart argued that immigration enforcement reduces crime. "When we simply release and we won’t stand behind police and we won’t allow them to do their jobs including federal law enforcement. And we have brave men and women in Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE that Senator Kaine supports abolishing. This is the only institution that stands between criminal illegal aliens and our families," Stewart said.
Kaine wasn’t asked the same question during his time on stage. But speaking to reporters afterward, he said reducing crime and immigration reform are not incompatible. "Do we need to have laws that are better? Sure. Do we need to enforce the laws that we have? Absolutely. And does that include border security? Sure," Kaine said. "But I sometimes get the feeling on the Republican side they don’t want to fix it. They just want to use it as a political issue over and over again. Because if they wanted to fix it, we’ve been at the table for five years with a proposal."
Stewart and Kaine fielded questions texted from the audience for about 20 minutes each.
While they didn’t agree on many things, they both voiced opposition to two natural gas pipeline projects in Virginia.
Kaine, the incumbent Democratic Senator, touted bills he’s introduced to address the permit process from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. " At the federal level, the FERC process is bad and it needs to be fixed so that people who live in the route or nearby and their input will be respected," he told the crowd.
Corey Stewart said he wasn’t opposed to the concept of a pipeline, but wants private property rights respected. "I’m not against the pipeline," Stewart told reporters after the forum, "but I don’t believe a private corporation like Dominion or any other pipeline company should be able to use government eminent domain authority to seize somebody’s private property."
Both candidates praised the efforts of students to organize a forum that was open and respectful.