Sen. Kaine and Candidate Stewart talk abortion, crime and in-school weapons

Sen. Tim Kaine (D) and candidate Corey Stewart (R) spoke to constituents on issues like immigration, the student debt crisis, MS-13 violence and weapons in school at a U.S. Senate Town Hall Sept. 21 in Liberty University’s Center for Music and the Worship Arts’ Concert Hall. 

Former U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, who is also the executive director of the Center for Law & Government at Liberty, opened the town hall by saying that college students and those in their 20s have the most at stake in elections. 

The commonwealth’s town hall came at a pause in the turbulent Supreme Court hearings. Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s time in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee had elapsed and a date to vote him in as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court was on the horizon when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of attempting to sexually assault her when they were in high school. 

If the Kavanaugh vote comes after the mid-term election when Congress seats are exchanged, the vote may swing unfavorably for the Trump SCOTUS pick. 

Corey Stewart told the Richmond Times-Dispatch the sexual allegations concerning Brett Kavanaugh and Ford were “a bunch of crap.” 

“I find the timing highly suspect,” Stewart said at the town hall. 

The sexual assault scandal is not the only issue Democrats have with Kavanaugh’s nomination. Kaine said he was concerned what a bench with Kavanaugh would imply for Roe v. Wade and other precedent. 

Kaine laid out what he thought overturning Roe v. Wade would mean for the American people. 

Sen. Kaine talked about how his faith impacts his public service. (Photo by Ryan Klinker)

“It would mean we would go back to what the law was before,” Kaine said. “The state could use the criminal law to criminalize, prosecute and jail women for making their own reproduction health care decisions.” 

Kaine, who claimed to be a part of an anti-abortion Catholic church, was later asked by a Liberty student why Virginians who are pro-life should vote for him in November. 

“I don’t think the job of an elected official is to legislate my Catholic church’s doctrine for everybody to follow, even those who aren’t Catholic or have different points of view,” Kaine said. “So, you live your faith, and I’ve certainly lived mine.” 

Stewart claimed that Kaine supported the idea of late-term abortion with his vote against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would criminalize abortions after 20-weeks with some exceptions. 

“I find that morally reprehensible,” Stewart said. “The most important job that we have … is to protect the lives and the rights of the citizens we serve.” 

Kaine said the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, also known as Micah’s Law, is unconstitutional, as it violates Roe v. Wade. 

“I take an oath. … I swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States,” Kaine said. “I don’t swear to a president. I don’t swear to a flag. I uphold the Constitution of the United States.” 

Micah’s Law has passed in the House of Representatives multiple times and has yet to be passed in the Senate. 

“I think using the criminal law to criminalize, prosecute and even jail women and doctors for making this decision is exactly the wrong thing to do,” said Kaine. 

Stewart and Kaine briefly spoke on protecting those who are already born through school safety.

“We are protecting our money with guns and our kids with signs,” Stewart said. 

Stewart called for putting retired police offices in schools and discouraged the use of gun-free zone signs. 

“Not all communities can afford it, and that’s where the federal government should come in and make sure all of our kids are safe, regardless of the community that they live in,” Stewart said.  

Kaine, who was the governor of the Commonwealth during the Virginia Tech massacre, called for universal background checks.  He called the day of the shooting the worst day of his life. 

“Because of weaknesses in the background check system, (the Virginia Tech shooter) was able to buy a weapon he was prohibited from having, and 32 beautiful people — students, faculty (and) grad students — lost their lives,” Kaine said. 

Stewart and the Liberty students lean in intently to the moderator, Mark Spain. (Photo by Ryan Klinker)

Kaine was also asked about his merit-based immigration system. He said earlier this year, he drafted a bill with Lindsey Graham that protected Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program recipients and provided $25 billion for boarder security. Kaine said President Donald Trump opposed the bill, which discouraged Republican support. 

“The answer is comprehension immigration reform,” Kaine said. 

He said he hopes to put another bill on the floor after November and get it to the president’s desk. 

Stewart has a different approach to immigration by editing the immigration system.

“We need to base our immigration system on merit once again,” Stewart said. 

Stewart said those who come to the U.S. need to be able to support themselves and become naturalized citizens. 

Stewart is concerned about immigrants with undocumented criminal pasts.

“We have no way of making sure that they don’t have a criminal past,” Stewart said. “And they usually do, and they come across the border illegally. They already have in the past, and they come into our communities and they murder and they assault. Right here in Virginia, there are many examples
of that.” 

Stewart and Kaine both agreed there is a distinction between targeting criminals and targeting immigrants. 

“We should always go after bad guys,” Kaine said. 

Kaine and Stewart also agreed that the key to getting anything done in Washington is to talk with others who think differently.

Stewart credited his career’s success to his willingness to work with others across political
party lines. 

“I had to stir things up, but I got something done,” Stewart said. 

Stewart said the way to fix the partisan division in the U.S. is not to think the same, but to talk

Kaine said he wants a Virginia that works for all Virginians. 

Stewart and Kaine will speak at Hampton University Oct. 3 about their foreign and military affairs platform. 

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