Va. Beach 2nd District Candidates aim to keep it civil
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The two Virginia Beach men competing in the 2nd Congressional District election this year exchanged letters Monday urging each other to adopt civil rules to avoid personal attacks.
But they can't agree on where to draw the line.
U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, a Republican, asked Paul Hirschbiel, his Democratic challenger, to agree to refrain from personal attacks or mentioning each other's names in campaign ads - a practice Rigell did not follow when he first won election two years ago.
Within hours, Hirschbiel replied that the two should be able to contrast their views on issues but shouldn't allow "shady outside groups" funded by anonymous donors to run attack ads. If either candidate benefits from such ads, his campaign should donate cash to a charity, Hirschbiel said. He is not opposed to advertising by political groups that identify their source of funding.
Rigell wrote that the two should agree in advance that "we will not question each other's character, compassion or ethics.
"We will not engage in negative campaigning or run ads that mention the other candidate, but rather focus instead on highlighting our respective sets of solutions for America."
If the two candidates agree to those terms, they will not be able to run commercials similar to at least four ads that Rigell used against then-Rep. Glenn Nye in 2010.
Rigell, a car dealer making his first bid for elected office, told viewers in one ad in 2010 that Nye was helping then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "spend us into bankruptcy."
In another spot he said Nye was wrong to support the "wasteful stimulus," adding that "I think Glenn Nye is following the wrong people and voting the wrong way."
Rigell campaign spokesman Jason Miyares acknowledged that the standards this year would have to be higher than Rigell followed in his first election. Rigell defeated Nye, who - like Rigell this year - was seeking a second two-year term. The congressional district includes all of Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore and parts of Norfolk, Hampton and Newport News.
Hirschbiel, the owner of an investment company, said he wants a civil debate but pointing out the differences on issues between the two candidates is vital.
"We need to clearly and honestly state those difference," he said.
In his letter, Rigell said the agreement will work only if outside groups not directly connected to each campaign also honor the pledge.If outside groups use attack ads, the agreement falls apart, Miyares said.
Hirschbiel countered that if an anonymously funded outside group produces attack ads, the candidate who benefits should pay a penalty by donating half the cost of the ad to a charity chosen by the candidate who is attacked.
Miyares said any attack ads, including those by identified political groups, shouldn't be allowed.
Hirschbiel said he'll wait for Rigell to respond to his proposal.
Bill Bartel, 757-446-2398, firstname.lastname@example.org